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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf knew what was coming next.

He just didn’t know when or how fast.

Originally Chris Jackson, Abdul-Rauf publicly re-examines his nuanced legacy in the new Showtime documentary “Stand Up,” debuting Feb. 3. Now 53, he also explores deeper elements of his story that have not been as well known. .

“For the longest time I felt like I had something to say, but the older I get, the more I’ve read, the more I’ve felt and seen, I think the conditions are right,” Abdul-Rauf told The Post. before the premiere of the film. “I feel good about the film and I just want to know how other people will see it. The goal is always to make people think, and someone benefits from it.”

Most importantly, and while similar debates continue in contemporary discourse, Abdul-Rauf wants people to think about his message, perhaps a little more closely than at first.

One of the smartest ball handlers and best shooters in the NBA, Phil Jackson once compared him to Stephen Curry of the Nuggets, he converted to Islam in 1991 and changed his name in 1993. In 1996, he caused widespread controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem, claiming that as a Muslim he could not stand up to injustice in the country.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf feels the time is right to revisit his legacy.
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Unlike other complaints from athletes (Colin Kaepernick, with whom he has a personal and professional relationship), Abdul-Rauf did not draw attention to himself or necessarily intend to see it. As the national anthem played, Abdul-Rauf either sat on the bench or continued to stretch and warm up on the sidelines. He did it for four months without attracting public attention, and it wasn’t until a sports radio host saw it happen and asked him about it that he took notice. Normally soft-spoken, Abdul-Rauf explained his objection to the anthem and labeled the flag as a symbol of oppression amid many questions.

Immediately, his actions and words became national history. He was promptly suspended by the NBA. Two years later, he was out of the league, unable to find a team willing to sign him.

“It started as a personal complaint because of the things I started to come across in terms of my reading and talking to people,” Abdul-Rauf said. “What I thought would happen eventually happened. Because when you do something like that, the more I read, the more my behavior started to change towards certain things. And so I eventually went from a guy who was quiet, didn’t want to get involved and get into conflict and debate, to a guy who was willing to put information out there and see how it felt.

“I think especially black people, but a lot of people, we’ve learned to go through life apologizing. apologizing for being black, apologizing for being rich, apologizing for being smart. I said, you know what? I’m not going to live my life as an apology.” I had a feeling it was going to happen at some point [his not standing being noticed]. And when it did, I’m going to address it. And it just came sooner than I thought it would, and I did what I thought I was going to do, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Mahmoud Abdulk-Rauf talks in his new Showtime documentary "Stop."
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf speaks in his new Showtime documentary, Stand.

Born into poverty in Gulfport, Mississippi and raised by a single mother, Abdul-Rauf overcame Tourette syndrome to become one of the best scorers and shooters in college basketball and then one of the most polarizing figures in the sports world during his time in the NBA.

He averaged 29 points per game over two seasons at LSU and played alongside freshman Shaquille O’Neal as a sophomore. Still Chris Jackson led the SEC at the time and was second in the nation in scoring as a freshman and then led the SEC as a sophomore. The 30.2 points per game he averaged in his freshman season is the 10th highest of any single season in NCAA history. He was named the SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American two seasons ago before leaving for the NBA.

After convincing teams that his Tourette syndrome would not hinder his ability on the court, he was drafted No. 3 overall by the Nuggets in 1990. He made the All-Rookie second team his first season and broke out in his third season in 1992. 93, scoring 19.2 points per game and earning the league’s MVP award.

Steph Curry speaks "Stand up"

Steph Curry speaks on the Stand

Jalen Rose speaks "Stand up"

Jalen Rose speaks in “Stand Up.”


Steve Kerr speaks "Stand up"

Steve Kerr speaks in Stand Up


Abdul-Rauf led the league in free throws twice, in 1993-94 and 1995-96, but it was his deep and off-the-dribble shot that caught the eye. Steph Curry, who appeared in the documentary along with O’Neal, Steve Carey, Jalen Rose, Ice Cube, Mahershala Ali and many others, was heavily influenced by Abdul-Rauf’s style and willingness to shoot from anywhere. O’Neill claims that playing with Abdul-Rauf “was like watching God play basketball.”

None of that mattered after his comments about the anthem, though. Abdul-Rauf found himself in isolation.

Unlike some athlete-activist predecessors before him, such as Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others, as well as contemporary athlete-activists who find strength in numbers, Abdul-Rauf has found little, if any, support. other players in the league. In the film, Rose, who played with Abdul-Rauf on the Nuggets, claimed that “we should have had a back, but we didn’t.”

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s shooting prowess has influenced a large number of modern players.
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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, then Chris Jackson, was one of the top scorers in the country with LSU.
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“When you take certain positions that you think are fair, you hope that people will get it,” Abdul-Rauf said. “That they will support it because it’s right. But you won’t be surprised when it doesn’t, because there are many social conditions that occur throughout life. ‘Oh, shut up!’ Protect your work. don’t say anything.’ And so you become the kind of person that, no matter how much money you have, there is this idea, the fear of losing something. Unlike acquiring something, it can benefit everyone. And you begin to become a person that you begin to survive, instead of living. And so it’s disappointing, but I’m not surprised because of the social conditions.

“And another thing that’s frustrating is that a lot of these conversations are people having on the bus. They practically have. They get on the plane. They are in barbershops. But when it’s time to go public, there’s this fear. It’s very disappointing, very disappointing.”

After he was suspended, Abdul-Rauf worked out a compromise with the league where he would have to stand but pray during the national anthem. After the season, however, the Nuggets traded Abdul-Rauf to the Kings, and his playing time immediately decreased significantly. He was constantly heckled and threatened by fans, and then-Nuggets coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff called him a “distraction” before trading him, even though Abdul-Rauf led the team in points and assists. After his contract expired two seasons later, he failed to find another NBA suitor. Abdul-Rauf then played overseas in Europe before briefly returning to the Grizzlies for part of the 2000-01 season.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf prays during the national anthem
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf reached a compromise with the NBA where he would have to stand but pray during the national anthem.
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Yes, he was able to return to the court after his appeal, but Abdul-Rauf feels he’s been blackballed by the NBA and cheated for most of his career, a feeling that lingers.

“Am I getting peace?” For the most part, as an individual, yes. But I am not at peace either, because there is no peace without justice,” said Abdul-Rauf. “So it fluctuates all the time. Do I have a complaint? Yeah, as long as things stay the way they are and people do pretty much the same things, I’m going to be upset about those things. I still have bitterness, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that by and large I’m still at peace, there’s a lot I’m thankful for. But the NBA presents itself as progressive. Compared to the NFL, a lot more. But they’re smart, they’re smart about how they approach it.”

“And another thing that’s frustrating is that a lot of these conversations are people having on the bus. They practically have. They get on the plane. They are in barbershops. But when it’s time to go public, there’s this fear. It’s very disappointing, very disappointing.”

In many ways, Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy follow a similar trajectory to that of other activists. Like Ali, Tommy Smith and other civil rights activists, he was subjected to ridicule and vitriol in his time. But also, like his predecessors, Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy and how others view him change more positively over time. After he retired and tried to return to his native Mississippi, Abdul-Rauf’s newly built home was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. Now, he says he’s constantly being stopped by individuals to thank him for what he’s done.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Kings after his complaint.
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“What is said about activists, you often hear the phrase ‘they were ahead of their time.’ But what it says about us and the system is that the system is so smart that they can continue to fool us and make someone into someone we should embrace, make them an enemy,” Abdul said. – Rauf.

But Abdul-Rauf isn’t necessarily apologizing for how things turned out. Still, he hopes his efforts help prevent the same mistakes. He’s seen strides through the power of social media as athletes come together to make their voices heard and hold collective power. He’s also frustrated, as in the aftermath of Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem, that the same conversations are repeated over and over again about how the messenger is treated.

Abdul-Rauf currently lives in Atlanta. He coaches many NBA players, is a public speaker, and even competes in the Big3 basketball tournament.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy change over time.

And if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t hesitate.

“I’m not perfect, but if people can say, ‘You know what, this guy, he was raw.’ And he was relentless in trying to live the most truthful, God-pleasing, justice-inspiring life that he could, until his death,” Abdul-Rauf said. “And it came from a place of love, because it’s like the old saying: “Justice is what love looks like.” If they can remember that, then I’m good. If they don’t, then God knows best.”



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