For Muslim athletes, sacrifice is part of the job


I wrote a guest column for The Seattle Times about the sacrifices Muslim athletes make. Here’s an excerpt:

The biggest decision of Zaid Abdul-Aziz’s life nearly cost him his NBA career.

The former SuperSonics center, previously known as Don Smith, played 10 seasons in the league, including three with Seattle. During that time he converted to Islam and changed his name.

And so it was that as the 1974-75 season approached, while Abdul-Aziz was playing for the Houston Rockets, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with a brutal training camp of two-a-day practices in 105-degree East Texas heat. Fulfilling his religious obligation of fasting during daylight hours, the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder found himself in an anemic-like state, and his game suffered.

“I went in to the general manager and I told him, ‘I can’t play basketball anymore. I quit,’ ” recalls Abdul-Aziz, 67, who lives in the Seattle area. “But I didn’t really want to quit the team. I’d gotten sick and lost all my vital minerals. It was like a form of depression. What I really wanted him to do was give me a little time off because I was fasting for Ramadan, but if I would have told him that, he wouldn’t have understood. So I quit.”

Abdul-Aziz returned to the Rockets the next day, but the incident had a lasting impact.

“That was kind of my downfall,” he says. “I was playing great with Houston, then I took that one-day hiatus and I never got back to being a starting center in the league.”

Click HERE to read the rest of the piece at the Times.

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