Top 10 Muslim NBA players of all time

10  MEMO OKUR

This Turkish inside/outside workforce missed a bunch of games in the last few years because of his injuries but his stock started to grow when he played a wonderful backup role to Ben and Rasheed Wallace in the Detroit Pistons’ championship run in 2004. And then he signed with the Utah Jazz where he averaged 18.0 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game in the 2005-06 NBA season.

9  HEDO TURKOGLU

Here’s another Turkish basketball juggernaut whose game resembles that of Toni Kukoc. Admittedly, I was a fan of Hedo when he played for the Sacramento Kings (his parents were born in Serbia) but it’s with the Orlando Magic that he became scoring threat – averaging 19.5 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Magic in the 2007-08 NBA season.

8  WALT HAZZARD

This two-time NBA All-Star also represented the United States in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (Filipinos know this as the Olympics where Anthony Villanueva won a silver medal in boxing). Hazzard had his best year while playing for the Seattle Supersonics (24.0 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 6.2 assist per game) in the inaugural season in 1967. His number was retired by UCLA in 1996 but gave permission to let a standout newcomer use it. Perhaps he thought Kevin Love would become a successful player eventually. He would later change his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman and it stayed that way until his death on November 18, 2011.

7  SHAREEF ABDUL-RAHIM

When he joined the Sacramento Kings in the 2005-06 season and the Kings scored a playoff spot, Reef ended a dubious record of playing the most number of NBA games without a playoff appearance. Originally drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1996 NBA Draft, Reef averaged 18.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game in a 12-year injury-plagued run. He also represented USA in the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he won a gold medal.

6 RASHEED WALLACE

One of the most popular and hated players of his time, Sheed was the fourth overall pick by the Washington Bullets in the 1995 NBA Draft. He was the leader of the terrorizing Portland Trail Blazers of the late 90’s but it is with the Detroit Pistons where he won a NBA title. The four-time NBA All-Star also had a dubious record of all-time technical fouls with 304. He never backs down when the going gets tough and can drain the rainmakers in awesome accuracy.

5  LARRY JOHNSON

If you’re not a New York Knicks fan back then, you’ll probably be annoyed the “L” gesture he does whenever he hits a trey. “Grandma” was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1991 and had an Alvin Patrimonio-type of career where he started out a ferocious power forward but ended his career as a deadshot outside shooter. He is a one-time All-NBA Second Team, a two-time NBA-All Star, a former Rookie of the Year, and played alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller on Dream Team 2. He also the only player to have his talent get crapped at by the Looney Tunes.

4  JAMAAL ABDUL-LATEEF WILKES

Alongside Bill Walton and Coach John Wooden, “Smooth as Silk” would stir UCLA to a lot of championships. In the NBA, his winning streak continued where he won a title with the Golden State Warriors and three plums with the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 17.7 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game in a 12-year career. A three-time All-Star and the 1975 Rookie of the Year, he received his highest citation by being inducted in the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2012. He is a valuable teammate to many and even if he got dethroned by James Worthy at his spot in his later years, he managed to do his best despite limited minutes.

3 SHAQUILLE O’NEAL

In some ways, I find it hard to believe that I’m writing this. This is the same jolly guy who cracks jokes, does a lot of wacky endorsements, and says things without thinking. I am a fan of Shaq but I was thinking on whether or not inserting Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and taking him off the list is a good idea. Fact is, Shaq’s dad is a Muslim. In an interview he told everyone that Hakeem Olajuwon is his brother and he’d like the idea of him and Hakeem going to Mecca together. And oh yeah – Shaq is a one-time MVP, multiple time All-NBA First, Second, and Third Team member, a 15-time All-Star, an Olympic Gold Medalist, a Rookie of the Year winner, and a future Hall of Famer.

2   KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR

Shocked? Oh do tell. The former Lew Alcindor was undoubtedly the best college player in time of the 1968 Mexico Olympics but he didn’t want to do anything with the United States as objection for the country’s participation to the Vietnam War. And then, he changed his name because he wanted to latch on his heritage and that he wants to educate the black people that they came from a positive culture. But then he also sued Miami Dolphins’ running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar after the former UCLA standout (same school as Kareem) twisted his name and used the number 33 (same number as Kareem) as sort of milking off his popularity. Nonetheless, Kareem is the most decorated NBA player ever with six MVPs, 10 First Teams, five Second Teams, two Finals MVPs, 19 All-Star citations, and a Hall of Fame ring.

1  HAKEEM OLAJUWON

Yes, I said it. This Hall of Famer is my top choice for my best. Kareem should have been here but then I thought that I wanted my Best Player to combine his skills with his devotion to his religion. I am not saying that most in the list aren’t devout Muslims but the climb to the NBA must be different for Olajuwon. As a kid growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, he was raised to follow the teachings of Islam ardently. That would have been trying especially when he made the trip to US where the sins of success are at its height. Because he didn’t understand the American ideals, he would go into fights with his teammates and this all changed with him becoming an even more devout Muslim. Even with the frustrating NBA schedule, The Dream remains unfazed in practicing the ideals of his religion. In 1995, he was named NBA Player of the Month even though Ramadan began on February 1 of that year. Olajuwon won a gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and finished his career as a 1-time MVP, a multiple-time All-NBA Team member, the only player to win the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in one season, and the all time leader in blocks.

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Yes, Miami actually got better

The transactions are still trickling in, but barring an unforeseen blockbuster, we can just about put a wrap on our offseason transactions. Using NBAPET, my system for projecting, evaluating and tracking the league, I’ve entered all transactions through the weekend and created a wins forecast for every team.

 

I’ve also compared the wins forecast to last season’s total of Pythagorean wins per 82 games for each team, which is the record each team should have had based on its point differential. This gives us an idea of how teams have moved up and down the NBA ladder since the Heat wrapped up the championship a couple of months ago.

 

With ESPN.com’s Summer Forecast upon us, let’s take a look at just how close these projections are to what our expert panel predicted. The first number for each team is projected wins, the second is how many games better (or worse) the team should be than it was in 2011-12.

 

1. Miami Heat: 60.5 | 2.6 
With the Bulls likely to take a big step back this season, the Heat should be able to land the East’s top seed with little difficulty, something it has gone without the last two years despite winning a pair of conference titles. Miami projects to be a top-five team on each end of the floor, displaying the most balance of any team in the league.

Lakers pushing OKC for top spot

The transactions are still trickling in, but barring an unforeseen blockbuster, we can just about put a wrap on our offseason transactions. Using NBAPET, my system for projecting, evaluating and tracking the league, I’ve entered all transactions through the weekend and created a wins forecast for every team.

 

I’ve also compared the wins forecast to last season’s total of Pythagorean wins per 82 games for each team, which is the record each team should have had based on its point differential. This gives us an idea how teams have moved up and down the NBA ladder since the Heat wrapped up the championship a couple of months ago.

 

1. Oklahoma City Thunder: 57.9 wins, 0.3 games worse
Oklahoma City’s projected age (weighted by game minutes) for this season is 25.8 years, which ranks 22nd in the league. To give some context, the teams just behind the Thunder are Sacramento, Toronto and Washington. In other words, OKC sports a collective age typical of a franchise in rebuilding mode, yet the Thunder are coming off a Finals appearance.

Thunder lock up Ibaka with reported four-year extension

The Oklahoma City Thunder took a big step toward sticking around as an NBA championship contender.

The Thunder and general manager Sam Presti still face difficult decisions in the team’s quest to remain a title threat for the long haul after reaching the NBA Finals last season, but reaching a contract extension with blocks leader Serge Ibaka is certainly a good start.

Ibaka came to terms on the deal on Saturday as the Thunder locked up another key member of their nucleus while also putting into question whether the small-market team can afford to keep Sixth Man of the Year James Harden beyond next season.

Ibaka posted on Twitter that he was happy for the chance to play for the Thunder for five more years. Presti didn’t provide details of the contract, citing team policy, but Yahoo! Sports first reported that the deal is for four additional years and $48 million.

“At 23 years old (by the time next season starts), we really do expect his best basketball to be in front of him,” Presti said in a conference call, hours before his wedding.

Presti dismissed the notion that Ibaka’s signing means that Harden’s departure is inevitable. But with more than $50 million committed per season to All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and starting center Kendrick Perkins, there is not much room left in the budget for Harden, who earned a spot on the US Olympic team that won gold in London.

Ibaka played for Spain’s silver-medal winning Olympic team. Both he and Harden were eligible for extensions to their rookie contracts for the first time this summer and were set to become free agents after next season.

“We’re going to continue our conversations with James. We very much value him,” Presti said. “We want him to be a part of our organization moving forward. We’re excited that he’s a member of the Thunder and we’re hopeful that he’ll be with us for years moving forward.”

To make that happen, Oklahoma City would likely have to go over the salary cap – set at about $58 million for next season – and pay a luxury tax or make other moves, such as using the amnesty clause to erase Perkins’ contract.

The Thunder have already let veteran free agents Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey sign elsewhere, and Derek Fisher remains unsigned. Backup point guard Eric Maynor, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury, also would become a free agent after next season.

“There’s still a commitment for us to try to find a way to make it work for everybody, but we know there’s going to be some difficult decisions that have to be made,” Presti said. “We’re looking forward to trying to figure those things out, and having Serge in place is certainly a benefit for our organization moving forward knowing that we have another core player that will be with us for the foreseeable future.”

Ibaka was the No. 24 pick in the draft in 2008, the same year Presti selected Westbrook. A native of the Republic of Congo, Ibaka remained overseas for a year before joining the Thunder and developing into a defensive stopper.

He led the NBA with 198 blocks in the 2010-11 season and finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year last season after recording a league-best 241 – a franchise record 3.65 per game.

“He’s come a long way in a short amount of time, but I’ve seen a lot of hard work that’s gone into that on his behalf, and that gives us confidence that he’s going to continue to work at it,” Presti said.

Ibaka has steadily improved his offensive game, adding a mid-range jumper while starting to develop effective post moves. But he’s best known for his defensive impact, particularly after blocking at least 10 shots in three games last season – once as part of a triple-double.

“I think with Serge, he does so many things,” Presti said. “Obviously, his shot-blocking is a statistic that’s most pointed to because it’s objective, because it’s measurable, but there’s a lot of things he does for us in terms of just, I would say, deterring shots.

“He really helps our pick-and-roll defense and bails us out a lot of times.”

The Big 3 has chosen at PBA pick draft

June Mar Fajardo, flanked by No. 3 pick Alex Mallari (left) and second pick overall Calvin Abueva, is only the third Cebuano to be made No. 1 pick overall after Apet Jao in 1990 and Kelly Williams in 2006.

JUNE Mar Fajardo’s PBA dream is now a reality.

Described by one veteran coach as a “man among boys,” Fajardo was as expected made the top pick overall by Petron in a rookie draft that witnessed its share of surprises at a jampacked Robinsons Midtown Mall in Ermita, Manila.

Fajardo became head of a 39-man draft class that was one of the most talented in years as he became the first player with Cebu roots to be named No. 1 pick since Kelly Williams in 2006 – and the first homegrown Cebuano to become the top pick since Apet Jao in 1990.

The youngest in the batch at 22, he was also the 21st big man to head a rookie class since the draft was instituted in 1985.

“Watching him during the tryouts is like watching a man going up against the boys,” B-Meg coach Tim Cone gushed in describing the 6’9” Fajardo. “Actually, I feel like watching Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) coming out of the draft.”

Alaska’s bid to rebuild its fabled team after a woeful season got a big boost when the Aces picked NCAA scoring and rebounding monster Calvin Abueva at second overall, but the drafting took a surprising turn from there when Petron took Alex Mallari instead of a more heralded Fil-American, Cliff Hodge, with its second pick in the first round.

Mallari starred for PBA D-League Foundations Cup runner-up Big Chill, averaging 12 points and 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals. His versatility easily makes the Boosters a tournament favorite in the 38th season opening on September 30.

Hodge instead fell on the lap of the Meralco Bolts, but another surprise pick emerged at No. 5 when the Barako Bull chose Far Eastern University product Aldriche Ramos, who barely 10 minutes would be packaged in a trade for Sean Anthony and B-Meg’s second-round pick and 12th overall.

On the other hand, Barangay Ginebra utilized the sixth and eighth pick by selecting two explosive Fil-Ams in Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen.

The biggest surprise involved longtime amateur star Chris Tiu, a consensus Top Four pick who was shunned by both Ginebra and Petron and ended up sliding all the way down to No. 7 when he was picked by Rain or Shine.

B-Meg traded its no. 9 pick and forward Val Acuna to newcomer Global Port, who in turn gave up forward Sean Anthony to the Llamados.

Batang Pier went on to make one-time D-League MVP Vic Manuel the no. 9 pick, while adding Fil-Am Jason Deuchman for its 10th pick to close the first round.

Air21 opened the second round by selecting former Mapua slotman Yousi Taha, while Barako Bull used the 12th pick it got from the B-Meg trade to draft former San Beda standout Dave Marcelo.

B-Meg selected former NU Bulldog banger Jewel Ponferada as the no. 13 pick, while Global Port got for its 14th pick, 5’11” playmaker Alfred Mandani, who saw action for Blackwater in the D-League.

Barako Bull continued to shore up its backcourt by tapping former Adamson point guard Lester Alvarez along with ex-Ateneo guard Emman Monfort with the 15th and 16th pick.

Meralco got to pick Fil-Am Kelly Nabong at No. 17 after trading its 2015 second-round right to Rain or Shine.

Rounding out the second-round draftees were Woody Co (Barako Bull), former UE guard Raphy Reyes (Alaska) and Jaypee Belencion (Talk ‘N Text).

Rookie hopefuls selected in the third round were Simon Atkins (Air21), Karl Dehesa (Alaska), Ryan Boado (Barako Bull), Janus Lozada (Meralco), Mark Sarangay (Petron), Mark Acosta (Global Port), Raymund Austria (Rain or Shine), Jerick Canada (Barangay Ginebra), Gian Chiu (B-Meg) and Jason Escueta (Talk ‘N Text).

In the fourth round, Alaska, Air21, Petron and Talk ‘N Text decided to pass, while Barako Bull chose Joseph Hermosisima, Meralco tapped Eric Suguitan, Rain or Shine selected Jewel Palomique, Barangay Ginebra chose Paul Zamar and B-Meg took in Ramon Mabayo.

The fifth round only had two picks – Virgilio Serios went to Global Port, while Virgil Buensuceso was drafted by Barangay Ginebra. The draft proceedings ended in the sixth round with Elliot Tan going to the Gin Kings as well.

British forward set to join the ranks of the NBA next season

Freeland will play for Portland next season once he has finalised the buyout of his contract, according to his Spanish club Unicaja Malaga.

A deal must now be worked out between the two clubs and Freeland regarding the 1.5million euro buyout of his Unicaja contract, which has two years left to run.

“Unicaja player Joel Freeland has informed the club of his decision to end his contract and move to the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA,” said a statement on the Unicaja website.

“After receiving this statement from the British player, Unicaja is now waiting to formalise a definitive agreement between the three parties involved; the player, the Portland Trail Blazers and Unicaja.”

Freeland will also need to travel to Portland for a medical, which could affect his availability for Britain’s final warm-up games for the Olympics, with the team scheduled to face Portugal in Sheffield on Saturday and Sunday and then the United States in Manchester on Thursday.

He was drafted by Portland in 2006 when aged 19, but the NBA team encouraged him to continue his development in Europe and he first broke through with Gran Canaria in Spain’s tough ACB league.

The 6ft 10in 25-year-old made his GB debut in 2006 and established himself as one of the team’s leading players with some outstanding displays in the 2011 European Championship.

English Premier League Matchweek 1: City leave it late again

The newly promoted side looked set to spring a shock at the Etihad Stadium when Steven Davis put them 2-1 up in the second half, but, as they did on the last day of the season when Sergio Aguero won City the match and the title in stoppage time, Roberto Mancini’s side came back to win, albeit not as late as three months ago.

In Sunday’s first match, Chelsea beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 with both goals coming in the first seven minutes at the DW Stadium.

The 2012/13 Barclays Premier League started on Saturday how it finished last season with 19 goals in the seven matches and players making their debuts dominating the scene.

Swansea City and Fulham enjoyed a free-scoring start to the new season, winning 5-0 against Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City respectively, while Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool reign got off to a losing start at West Bromwich Albion, his side going down 3-0.

West Ham United returned to the Barclays Premier League with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa, while fellow promoted side Reading were held 1-1 at home to Stoke City. In the late kick-off Newcastle United opened with a win, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1.

The only match without a goal was at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal drew 0-0 with Sunderland.

A good start of season in L. Messi together with Barca

FC Barcelona 5 – Real Sociedad 1

An electric opening to the game, with four goals in the first quarter of an hour, set the tone at the Camp Nou, where the Culé faithful were treated to the first victory of the season and Messi’s first goals.

But it was somebody who is not a specialist in these questions, Carles Puyol, who opened the scoring. The captain was, it is true, faithful to his style, when he thumped home a corner with his head, after rising above Agirretxe.

Real Sociedad replied quickly. A good pass by Illarramendi into the area left Chory Castro on his own in front of Víctor Valdés, and the Uruguayan made no mistake.

And then Messi made his appearance, with two goals in five minutes, the 11th and the 16th, which rained on the donostiarras’ parade. Pedro put it beyond any doubt shortly before the break.

The second half had the air of a friendly game about it, although it did provide a good news story: the return of David Villa, who made his first appearance in an official match for nine months, which is when he fell injured during the FIFA Club World Cup. Six minutes from time, Iniesta crept in from the left side of the area and found the Asturian ready to shoot. He beat Bravo with a well-placed, angled shot, and put an end to his own particular ordeal.

HIS FUTURE IN DENVER ASIDE, IGUODALA SHOULD HELP NUGGETS THRIVE

A day after Andrew Bynum talked about staying long-term in Philadelphia, the other All-Star in the Dwight Howard trade did the same in Denver.

“We aren’t coming in to this thinking this is just a one year deal,” Andre Iguodala said at his introductory news conference on Thursday. “We are looking to the future and definitely looking ahead looking to see how we can go forward so this isn’t a quick stop for me.

“This would be a great place for me to have some great years ahead of me and possibly ending my career here.”

Iguodala is under contract for the next two years, but with an early termination option that can make him a free agent next summer. Contract extension talks don’t need to take place for a while, but there’s reason for Denver to be excited about some continuity with a young and talented core, asBenjamin Hochman of the Denver Post writes

Ujiri already has said he wants to sign point guard Ty Lawson to a long-term deal, and Lawson told The Denver Post last May that he was excited about that possibility. If Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke can re-sign their backcourt, that will give Denver a thrilling nucleus going forward, knowing small forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler and center JaVale McGee are already signed for years to come. Meanwhile, power forward Kenneth Faried is entering the second season of his rookie contract.

“My focus,” Iguodala said, “is to help our team, not only to go out there and to play at the best of our abilities, but to believe that we’re going to make ourselves in contention to be at the top of the West. No matter what anybody else says, we are going to go out there and play for one thing and that is a championship.”

Come November, we’ll see just how well Iguodala fits with his new team. But given his strengths and the Nuggets’ weaknesses, he’ll clearly help.

The Nuggets were a poor defensive team last season, ranking 19th by allowing 103.4 points per 100 possessions. Iguodala, of course, is maybe the best perimeter defender in the league. Over the last two seasons, the Sixers were much better defensively when he was on the floor…

PBA draft trivia

SUNDAY, August 19, is D-Day for the 57 prospective rookies in the PBA annual draft to be held at the Robinsons Midtown Mall in Manila.

This is the 28th edition of the PBA draft which was first held in 1985, 10 years after the league was born, with Shell naming Sonny Cabatu as the first-ever No. 1 overall pick.

Since 1985, 20 of the previous 27 No. 1 picks were all big men. The only seven (7) exceptions were JVee Casio (2010), Mike Cortez (2003), Willie Miller (2001), Paolo Mendoza (2000), Vergel Meneses (1992), Apet Jao (1990) and Allan Caidic (1988). Noli Locsin, the 1994 top overall pick, stood probably just 6-2 or 6-3 but was considered a big man during his time while 2008 No. 1 selection Gabe Norwood now plays mostly as a guard even at 6-4.

If Petron Blaze names 6-10 June Mar Fajardo as this year’s top draft pick, he will be the tallest No. 1 pick since 6-10 1/2 Andy Seigle of Mobiline in 1997.

Only nine of the 27 previous No. 1 picks went on to win Rookie of the Year honors at season’s end – Norwood (2008), Kelly Williams (2006), Rich Alvarez (2004), Danny Ildefonso (1998), Andy Seigle (1997), Marlou Aquino (1996), Jun Limpot (1993), Benjie Paras (1989) and Caidic (1987), with Paras becoming the only rookie in league history to win Most Valuable Player honors at the same time.

At 5-9 3/4, Casio was the shortest ever No. 1 pick when Powerade selected him last year.

This year’s 57 is the most number of prospective rookies since the 59 two years ago when Nonoy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini were selected Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, by Air21.

This is the first time Petron Blaze is picking first in the draft, a pick which it acquired from Air21 in a previous trade. The Boosters’ previous highest pick in the draft was second overall which happened twice — in 2007 (when it selected Sam Eman, behind Welcoat’s Devance) and in 1998 (when it selected Noy Castillo then traded him for No. 1 pick Ildefonso of Shell).

In the draft’s history, Air21 and defunct Sta. Lucia have the most number of No. 1 picks with four each. The Express have Baclao (2010), Japeth Aguilar (2009), Jay Washington (2005) and Yancy de Ocampo (2002) while the Realtors had Williams (2006), Mendoza (2000), Dennis Espino (1995) and Limpot (1993).

Air21 always went on to trade all its four previous No. 1 picks and even its two previous No. 2 overall selections —  Al-Hussaini (2010) and Arwind Santos (2006).

The Express and Talk ‘N Text are the only two teams without a first-round selection in this year’s draft.

For the second straight year, the draft will have no limit as far as the number of rounds for the teams to make selections. From 2005 up to 2010, the draft was limited to just two rounds.