It’s an intrinsic fact that people change throughout their life. The same is true of NBA athletes. Many reach the league at a young age and then slowly shift and find themselves as they grow. That’s true of unknown players, and it’s also true of Kyrie Irving.
In this guide, I will look at how he’s shifted in his career through the lens of religion. Not only will the following guide break down his current views and beliefs, but it will analyze his reason for those views as well.
A Western God
As with many people in high-profile positions, NBA athletes tend to be spiritual. Not everyone in the league believes in a higher power, but many of them do. What that higher power is does differ, but there’s definitely an emphasis on a more traditional Christian God.
Almost all popular NBA players who are religious lean towards different versions of Catholicism and Christianity. That’s typically because most such players are American, and Christianity is the most popular religion in the country.
However, not everyone sways that way. There are plenty of top athletes who are not spiritual, and there are also a few who belong to a completely different religion. The latter is much more rare, but it’s becoming more and more common as time goes on.
Islam is far from the most popular religion in the NBA. Despite that, there are many different big name players who converted to it for one reason or another. That includes Kyrie Irving, who is now fully immersed within the faith and its different teachings.
While not born or raised Muslim, Kyrie fully converted in early 2021. That change made him one of the biggest all stars to join up. He did not take the decision lightly, but he felt like it was the right move to make during that current point in his life.
Many times, players will make a move with a lot of press or fanfare. Irving did neither. In fact, the only clue he gave to his decision was kneeling before tip off (an Islamic prayer custom) and crediting a lot of his success and choices to Allah on social media.
He eventually confirmed his switch, but he only did so in a news conference after rumors had been swirling around for a couple weeks. As with everything else he does, Irving made the entire ordeal occur in his own way rather than playing into the media or fans.
A Personal Choice
Everyone has their own reasons for choosing one specific religion or another. While Irving will never directly say what event or thoughts led him to Islam, he did open up about his conversion by sharing that God plays a big part in his life.
The Nets point guard states that Islam lines up with a lot of his beliefs about internal peace and community. He also states it’s about respect and loving others. That put him at the forefront of Muslim athletes and gave a lot of people within the religion a role model.
For Irving, it’s not so much about Islam itself as it is a way to get closer to God. He’s been deeply religious for some time, and his new conversion is what he believes is the best way to express that spirituality.
A Muslim Legacy
The U.S. is not the most welcoming place to Muslims, which is why so few athletes have followed in Irving’s footsteps. Still, there have been a few high profile athletes and NBA players who fully embraced Islam despite public perception.
Perhaps the two most famous examples were Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both big men were some of the greatest athletes during their time, and they both fully practiced Islam. That included fasting, which some fans thought might hurt their play. However, as Irving has shown, skipping meals during the day has little effect on how well someone performs.
He’s not alone in that, either. Omer Yurtseven, Gorgui Dieng, Jaylen Brown, and Enes Kanter all follow the faith as well. They might not be as outspoken about it, nor are they in the public eye as much as Irving, but they show that Irving is not as much of an outlier as he might seem.
Irving is one of the most outspoken and unpredictable players in the NBA. It’s hard to know what he’s going to say or do, especially when it comes to his personal practices. He’s not one for a ton of fanfare, nor does he like making it all about him.
The way he quietly converted without a show reveals the decision was for Irving more than anyone else. It gives the choice authenticity, which is so rare in today’s social media age. It’s not something that many saw coming, but it makes sense given how Irving operates.