Portland trail-blazer Enes Kanter will be playing NBA playoffs while observing the holy month of Ramadan during which he will abstain from eating or drinking from dawn to sunset for 30 days.
“I actually work harder during Ramadan because my body’s used to it,” Kanter said in an interview with the New York Times.
Kanter will not be the first NBA player to play through the holiday. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played through Ramadan and so did Hakeem Olajuwon, who had some of his best games during that month-long period.
“Before I go to those teams, I say, ‘Hey, I’m a Muslim and I have to pray five times a day,’” Kanter said.
“And they respect it so much that they give me a prayer room. So before the game, after the game, before practice, before I fly out, I can go to that room whenever I want and pray.”
While Kanter has played basketball through Ramadan before, he has never done so during the playoffs.
This is because Ramadan moves back 11 days each year due to Muslims observing a lunar calendar which is 11 days shorter than the traditional Gregorian calendar.
“I was going against players who were 30, 35 years old, and I was the only one fasting,” he said, referring to the first time he played basketball while observing Ramadan at the age of 16.
“When I would break my fast, I was drinking so much water, like ‘Man, there’s no room left for food.’”
Many of Kanter’s teams have provided him with a prayer room for him to visit freely.
“So before the game, after the game, before practice, before I fly out, I can go to that room whenever I want and pray,” Kanter said.
Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint, and good deeds.
Dismissing fears and worries associated with Ramadan with regard to sportsmen, a FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) study has established that young male national football players who observed Ramadan fasting in a controlled environment showed no compromise in their physical and physiological performance or reduction in their subjective well-being.
The study is replicated to investigate a wider range of elite level players.
Another study published in May 2012 in the journal of sports science showed that, generally, Ramadan fasting has minor effects on health and physical fitness.
The same conclusion was drawn from another research published in June 2012, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The researchers stated: “in most of the situations studied to date, Ramadan observance has had only limited adverse consequences for either training or competitive performance”.