In today’s culture, it’s common to see people see religion and athletics as unrelated fields. The religious beliefs of some athletes, however, are an integral part of their life off the court as well. The Christian sect known as Jehovah’s Witnesses is one such group. They are noted for their door-to-door evangelism and literal interpretation of the Bible. It’s not the most common religion in the NBA, but a few ex-players practice it now. This article will focus on the early careers, conversion stories, and post-basketball lifestyles of ex-NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. We will also discuss the difficulties Jehovah’s Witness NBA players may experience, such as prejudice and the need to balance religious views with a professional athletic career.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian sect that stands out from the mainstream for its unconventional teachings and rituals. The faith dates back to the latter half of the 19th century and is predicated on the Bible’s teachings and seeks to adhere strictly to its precepts. Here, we’ll examine the origins of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, their doctrines and practices, and their widespread presence in the USA.
The doctrines and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses set them apart from other Religious groups. The following are among the most notable:
- Jehovah is God’s name, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they insist on always calling him by that name. They consider it a form of worship to speak God’s name.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because they think the devil created those holidays, and they don’t celebrate birthdays. They also shun the tradition of commemorating birthdays because they consider it heathen.
- One of the most recognizable characteristics of Jehovah’s Witnesses is their habit of going door to door to preach. They consider it their duty to tell people about their religion since they have received such a gift from God.
- Blood transfusions violate the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious beliefs and are thus never accepted. They believe receiving a blood transfusion is sinful because God forbids it in the Bible.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known for their adamant opposition to serving in the armed forces. They consider God to be a God of love and peace. Hence they reject war and violence.
Almost 1.3 million people in the United States identify as Jehovah’s Witnesses as of 2021. Regular worship and study sessions help foster a warm feeling of community among the faith’s adherents. Despite tensions with other faiths and governments, Jehovah’s Witnesses have become a recognized and active branch of Christianity in the United States and elsewhere.
Many NBA players have long held strong religious beliefs, and some have even used their fame to spread the word about their faith. This section will discuss the NBA’s stance on players publicly expressing their religious beliefs and the prominent religious individuals who have had a role in the league.
As long as it doesn’t disrupt the game or cause offense to others, NBA players are free to discuss their faith in interviews and on the court. No punishment will be given to any player who chooses to pray or show religious expression on the field of play. However, there have been isolated incidents when athletes’ religious convictions have led to hostility. NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was banned from the league for kneeling during the national anthem out of respect for his Muslim faith. Changes were made to the NBA’s stance on the national anthem due to the event, which prompted a national discussion about religion and sports. Despite the league’s tolerant policy on players’ religious expression, there have been isolated incidents of players being criticized for their convictions.
Ex-NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a controversial religious sect known for its zealous door-to-door evangelism and hostility to traditional practices like celebrating holidays or serving in the armed forces. Several former NBA players have become Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we’ll look at how their religion has shaped their life in this article.
NBA veterans will recognize former player Jason Collins from his time with the New Jersey Nets and the Washington Wizards. He created history in 2013 when he came out as homosexual while still actively playing in one of the four main North American professional sports leagues. Collins is a Jehovah’s Witness, although few people know this. He attributes his choice to come out largely to having been reared in the church. Collins has often spoken publicly about the importance of his Christian religion. He attributes his growth as a person and as a Jehovah’s Witness to the lessons he’s learned about love, compassion, and community. He has also discussed how his religion sustained him through difficult circumstances, including his coming out and subsequent retirement from basketball.
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Former NBA player Maurice Evans suited up for several squads, including the Lakers and the Magic. Evans became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2005 and has been an outspoken religious member ever since. According to his own words, the religion’s emphasis on fellowship and charity drew him in. Evans’s religion has affected his life on and off the court, and he has discussed this effect. He credits his upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness with instilling in him the values of integrity, diligence, and consideration for others. He also claims his religious beliefs have kept him grounded and inspired throughout his professional basketball career.
Former NBA player Mark Jackson suited up for several squads, including the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers. Jackson has been a Jehovah’s Witness for a long time and is a devoted congregation member. He claims his religion has helped him make important decisions in his professional and personal life. Jackson has not been shy about sharing his Christian convictions and has leveraged his celebrity as a basketball star to do so. He has spoken at Jehovah’s Witness conventions and has emphasized the importance of his position as a public figure and role model in his professional athletic career.
Benoit Benjamin, a former NBA player, played for the Seattle SuperSonics and the Los Angeles Clippers. As of the late 1980s, Benjamin fully embraced his Jehovah’s Witness role. He credits his religion with keeping him centered and motivated throughout his basketball career. Benjamin has not been shy about sharing his religion and has utilized his prominent position as a professional basketball player to do it. He has spoken at Jehovah’s Witness conferences, emphasizing the importance of using his platform to inspire others.
Famously, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t stand for the national anthem or participate in other displays of patriotism. As the NBA mandates that players stand for the national anthem before games, this belief has created a precarious situation for Jehovah’s Witness NBA players. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony,and Chris Paul are just a few of the NBA players who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality. Yet, NBA players who identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses had a difficult choice. Should they sit or kneel while playing the national anthem, risking criticism from fans and the press? Like Jason Collins, NBA players who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses have shown their support for the team and country by standing during the national anthem.
The urge to participate in secular holiday traditions is another obstacle for NBA players who adhere to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. For this reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not participate in Christmas and Easter festivities. Celebrating the holidays together is a great way for NBA players to connect. Nonetheless, this might be difficult for NBA players who also follow the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Benoit Benjamin is just one player who has skipped team holiday gatherings. Others have gone but not taken part in all of the festivities.
While there aren’t many ex-NBA players who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses, their influence on the sport and their religion is huge. These athletes have utilized their prominence as professional basketball players to advocate for their religion and demonstrate that one can be successful in all aspects of life while being true to one’s values. These athletes have maintained their religion in the face of fan and media opposition and the difficulty of reconciling their religious convictions with the demands of a career that includes patriotic and team-building activities. They’ve shown that one may be true to one’s values while pursuing one’s passions. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the NBA are a reminder that one’s religion may be a source of strength and inspiration in and out of the game.