Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf could only nod his head and smiled when asked about the recent NBA season lockout. It was something Abdul-Rauf had gone through after the 1998-1999 shortened season. He was always the ever reliable point guard who is destined to greatness but came out stumbling on his way out. He had always hoped for a graceful exit, but it was a luxury that he could never get.
No regrets… everything happened with a purpose. His refusal to stand for the “Star-Spangled banner” before games was a choice—standing to the flag, conflicts his Ismalic beliefs.
The league was able to make a compromising agreement with Rauf, but it shortly backfired. People don’t seem to understand such an act, especially when he was born and raised in America. Everybody knows who Chris Wayne Jackson is. He was the two-time consensus All-American first team.
He had an illustrious college career in Louisiana State University that landed him as Denver Nuggets third pick in the 1990 draft. Chris Jackson in 1991 converted to Islam and changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Mahmoud continued to play in the NBA until 1998. And after his contract ended with Sacramento going to a lockout season, he was one of the first few players who went to play overseas. It wasn’t what he really wanted, but he waited for offers to other NBA teams, but it never came.
He played in Turkey, Russia, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and had a short stint in the expansion NBA team, the Vancouver Grizzlies. It was tough, but he knew he had to be tough. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome back then, and yet he still came out athletic. Because it’s his choice, no one can tell him to stop basketball or he is not good enough to land minutes in the NBA.
Choices… and somehow it became the word that best explains this lockout.
As the situation (lockout) continues, Mahmoud wants everyone to carefully study their options. Not everyone gets to play in the NBA, and not everyone gets to stay there forever. It is always a privilege and players, coaches, commissioners and owners should know that.
At 42, Mahmoud still plays competitive and professional basketball. His recent stint was with the Kyoto Hannaryz team of Japan. He will still play even if he goes in the golden age of 50.
Every now and then, he thinks about the NBA. He thinks about what could have been a great career.
Everything happens with a purpose, and slowly it becomes a powerful phrase that put him back into reality.
A lockout seems to become a crossroad—you got to pick your road of destination. The only catch is there is no turning back.
We cannot choose our exits, but at least we are given choices.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf still plays with passion and plays with the same intensity. This is what he wants everyone to remember. It’s been quite a journey so far but for some instance, it was worthwhile.