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Muslims in the NBA: Between Religion & Career

NEW YORK – Joining the Knicks in September, Muslim basketballer Enes Kanter feels grateful for his new team, which furnished him with a prayer room and halal food.

“I have to pray five times a day, so the Knicks gave me a special room at the practice facility and at Madison Square Garden,” Kanter told The Undefeated on Tuesday, October 17.

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“We have to eat halal food, so they ordered me special food. It means a lot. This is not a Muslim country. But when you see a team do a respectful thing like that, it shows me how respectful people are in America.”

Kanter is not the only Muslim player in the American national basketball competition.

As the NBA season opens Tuesday night, at least 12 of its returning players are Muslim: Kanter, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng, Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters, Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jusuf Nurkic.

Other players include, New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik, Atlanta Hawks forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Dennis Schroder, Dallas Mavericks center Salah Mejri, Milwaukee Bucks forward Mirza Teletovic and Brooklyn Nets forward Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, according to the online magazine Muslim Matters.

Oklahoma Basketball Team Prefers Halal Food

Kanter was born in Switzerland to a Muslim-faith family originally from Turkey, where the majority of people are Muslim.

The 6-foot-11, 245-pounder played for the Utah Jazz and Thunder from 2010-17 and averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds last season.

Asked about challenges he faces in his career, Kanter said: “The NBA is like a family; people are respectful of my faith, and the faith of others. The NBA is inclusive, and you can be yourself. Most treat me just like everyone else.”

However, there are still some misconceptions he has to face, the biggest of which is that all Muslims are Arabs.

“Most people think Muslims are only Arabs. But in fact, there are Turks, Russians, Indonesians, Bosnians, and Americans, etc., that are Muslim. Many people around the world are Muslims,” he added.

Kanter’s interview is part of The Undefeated interview with three current NBA players and four former players.

For the complete interview, click here.