Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf averaged 19.2 points and 6.8 assists during the 1995-96 season for the Denver Nuggets, but he’s most remembered for refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” before games, which he felt conflicted with his Islamic beliefs1.

These days, Abdul-Rauf is the point guard for the Kyoto Hannaryz in Japan. He last played in the NBA for the Vancouver Grizzlies in 2001, and has since made stops in Russia, Italy, Greece and Saudi Arabia.

At age 41, Abdul-Rauf is a mentor to the younger players on the team while still averaging 16 points a game. The head coach of the Kyoto team is another forgotten NBA name from the ’90s, David Benoit, who speaks highly of his veteran point guard: “His experience is the most important thing. He wants to go out and play ball like he did a few years back, and it’s exciting to see a guy his age still do it. Like any other player, he has lapses, but his experience is the main thing, not only for the younger Americans coming here to play but for the younger Japanese, too.”

As for Abdul-Rauf, he seems comfortable where he is: "I feel like I could live anywhere, not necessarily in the States. I love Kyoto, the people are wonderful, and I’m not just saying that."

His NBA career may have been partially derailed based on his beliefs, but basketball is still an important part of Abdul-Rauf’s life.


1 Abdul-Rauf was suspended one game by the NBA in ‘96 and reached a compromise in which he would stand during the anthem, but with his eyes closed and looking downward.

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