Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter recently made a stop in Dallas as part of his national basketball camp for kids. He has planned over 50 camps in 30 states, all free of charge. When I asked him what his motivation was for doing this, he said “When I retire, I want to look back and see how many people I was able to inspire.”
Enes, a devout Muslim, has been a phenomenal role model for the Muslim youth. He has always portrayed Islam well in the media, and is a fan favorite for every team he has played for. Fans love him for his endless loyalty to his teammates and city he plays for.
This past Ramadan, Enes was with the Portland Trailblazers in a playoff run that saw them reach the conference finals. However, playing at such a high level did not stop Enes from fulfilling his duty to fast.
Enes recounted to me how he phoned his “biggest role model”, Hakeem Olajuwon, for advice prior to Ramadan. Hakeem was famous for fasting during the 1995 NBA finals and winning the Finals MVP.
Enes sought advice from Olajuwon on how to fuel his body enough to have the energy to play at his best while fasting. Hakeem gave Enes some advice on what to eat, when to wake up, and more.
However, Enes was not too worried about fasting while playing because he has done it before. “I fast one or two days a week so it’s not too hard for me, my body is used to it,” he says.
The story of Enes fasting while playing in the playoffs caught fire in the media. Many people were astounded that he was not eating or drinking all day and still running up and down the court for over 30 minutes each night. Enes used this opportunity to share the message of Islam.
His agent, Hank Fetic, explains to me that when Enes was playing in Oklahoma City, he requested the food the team served him to be halal. The team ended up changing the menu for the whole team to be halal. To this day, with Enes not having played for Oklahoma City in years, the team still serves halal food to their players.
Sitting down with Enes, I noticed how genuine his care for the youth was. He really believes in his mission of inspiring people and it shows in his work.
The number of Muslim athletes and entertainers is growing in America, and their influence can be used for great things. We would be lucky to have more people like Enes representing our religion.
Enes will be in Dallas again in a few weeks and he is planning to visit a local masjid while he’s here! Make sure to follow us on social media to see the details as they are confirmed.