Former NBA All-Star Stephen Jackson played 14 seasons in the basketball league, released a hip-hop mixtape and journeyed to Islam, focusing on community work.
He played basketball with several teams — the New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, San Antonio Spurs, and Los Angeles Clippers.
In 2003, Jackson won an NBA championship with the Spurs. In 2015, he retired.
Testing musical waters, he released “What’s a Lockout?” in December 2011 under the alias Stak5, hosted by DJ Scream of Maybach Music Group.
Along the way, Jackson found Islam and began focusing on community work.
Here are five things to know about the NBA All-Star’s journey to Islam and community work.
Even before converting to Islam, Jackson said he tried to live as a Muslim man and was inspired by many of his friends who were Muslim.
“I think the first time I was exposed to Islam was in high school through a friend of mine named Maya Abdullah. Me and his family grew up together. Through him, I saw the structure and balance of this religion…It was something different from everybody around my city. I knew there was something special there,” Jackson told Muslim Matters in a Feb. 8, 2021 report.
“I have always tried to live my life like a Muslim man…And this decision has been in place for at least seven to eight years, but only Allah knows when the time is right,” Jackson said of his decision to recently adopt the religion.
Jackson grew up Christian. “Religion was what everyone was schooled with in the South,” he said. “It was what everybody was taught. It was what everyone was brainwashed with.”
As he grew older, he said he began to reflect on his spirituality.
“I began to think for myself. I came to stop believing in a lot of the things that I was taught as a kid. I knew for a fact that a lot of the things I was taught as a kid were not true. So I took the liberty of educating myself. “
Jackson said he wants to achieve great things along the lines of Malcolm X.
“I do not see myself just following him. I want to be greater than Malcolm X,” he told Muslim Matters. “Even when I say that, it might be damn near impossible because the man was so special. I strive to be like him or even better than him. And for you to say that he is the most respected American Muslim ever, I strive to be that. I plan to be that.”
Jackson has spoken out about the importance of keeping up the fight for justice for his late friend George Floyd, who was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020. Jackson appeared on Young Money Radio with Lil Wayne on Wayne’s “All The Smoke” Apple Music series, during which he spoke to Lil Wayne about growing up with Floyd.
“When me and Floyd met, we met in the hood, in Third Ward,” Jackson said, referring to an area of Houston, Texas, where the two grew up. “Once we saw each other, the first thing we said was… ‘Who your daddy?’ And he said ‘Who your daddy?’ That’s how much we looked alike.”
He added, “From then on we was going down the same path. The only thing that separated me and Georgie was that I had more opportunity.”
Jackson, 42, said he will work hard to make sure George Floyd didn’t die in vain.
Jackson “thrust himself into a movement that resonated with the entire world,” Basketball News reported. “He flew down to Minneapolis and spoke at rallies…Jackson appeared on every media outlet he possibly could, calling for justice for his friend who he called ‘Twin.'”
Standing in front of Minneapolis City Hall during a protest in 2020, Jackson declared, “They’re not going to demean the character of George Floyd,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
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Floyd was a gentle giant, Jackson said. “A protector, a provider. He wanted everybody to be happy and have a good time. That was his thing. Now his name is ringing bells, far away—the Netherlands, Iran, all these places. His death won’t be in vain.”
Jackson gave an impassioned speech at the rally, NBC Sports reported. “If they’re not giving us no answers, we gotta come up with our own answers,” he said. “And we willing to do that. Understand that. We’re willing to do that. We gonna use our platform. I’m going to use everything I have to get a conviction, to get all these MFs in jail – excuse my French, I’m angry – but I’m a proud Black man.”