Muhammad Ali paved the way for Black Muslims in sports

Photo credit: Tinseltown /
Photo credit: Tinseltown /

As we all look back on the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, it is easy to overlook the impact he had on sports and religion. Prior to Ali becoming the world heavyweight boxing champion after the defeat of Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, the vast majority of athletes identified with the Christian and Jewish faith. However, when Ali announced his conversion to Islam and membership in the Nation of Islam, things changed dramatically. The first of course being his name change from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. But he also paved the way for other Black athletes and celebrities to embrace and proclaim their Muslim faith. Find just a few below.

Kareem-Abdul Jabbar

Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (Photo Credit: Twitter/ @kaj33)
Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (Photo Credit: Twitter/ @kaj33)

Sport: Basketball

Kareem converted to Islam and decided to change his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, the offseason prior to Milwaukee’s first and only NBA title. Once he went to L.A., he cemented his legacy by winning five MVP awards, five NBA titles, and gave Bruce Lee some work in The Game of Death.

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