In March 1996, Abdul-Rauf did the unthinkable before a basketball game.
He refused to stand for the national anthem and that would change his life and career. Hitherto, Abdul-Rauf was on his way to a long and successful career in the NBA.
Abdul-Rauf first shot to the limelight as a Louisiana State University freshman sensation named Chris Jackson.
At just 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, he averaged 30 points per game with a hair-trigger jumper and acrobatic layups, wrote Jesse Washington in 2016 for The Undefeated. Abdul-Rauf went pro after his sophomore year and was picked third in 1990 by the Denver Nuggets. He converted to Islam the same year.
He was by 1995-96 NBA campaign (season) doing unguardable Stephen Curry things, such as giving Utah 51 points and dropping 32 on Michael Jordan when dealing the Chicago Bulls a rare loss in their 72-win season.
That season Abdul-Rauf’s conscience pricked him to stop standing for the anthem. He did that by deliberately staying inside the locker room until a reporter noticed and asked about it…and boom! It exploded.
Abdul-Rauf viewed the American flag as an oppressive and racist symbol and standing for the anthem would conflict with his Muslim faith. “You can’t be for God and oppression. It’s clear in the Quran, Islam is the only way,” he said at the time. “I don’t criticize those who stand, so don’t criticize me for sitting.”