We constantly hear stories of players putting up a 1000 shots a day, working on their craft. The myth of unimaginable dedication to reach excellence. But even MJ or LeBron had to have had days where they didn’t feel like it when they gave themselves some slack. What if they couldn’t? Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf knows the answer to the question. To him he didn’t have a choice – he HAD to do it right.
While playing at Denver, Chris Jackson became debilitated by the fame that accompanies life in the NBA. He began to immerse himself in the teachings of Malcolm X, and became interested in the Islam faith. That was his way out. In 1993, he officially converted to Islam and changed his name from Chris Jackson to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, which loosely translated means “elegant and praiseworthy, most merciful, most kind.”
His conversion and name are the things most fans will know him for. Abdul-Rauf believes it cost him his NBA career and the league blackballed him. But there is something else most fans don’t know about him. The reason why he was a career 90.5% free throw shooter with an insane 95.6% in 1993/1994 season is that Mahmoud HAD to do it perfectly every time. That’s what life with Tourette’s syndrome is like.
In some patients, symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome manifest in such a way that the brain will establish unreasonable goals that simply must be achieved before feeling satisfied. It varies from motor tics to vocal tics. In most cases, the tics aren’t so severe medication is needed. With Abdul-Rauf that meant he would spend hours on the court shooting free throws until he made 10 in a row that were perfect.
The ball would have rest in his palm in exactly the right way. The ball would have to roll off of his fingertips in exactly the right way. The spin on his shot would have to feel perfect. The ball had to swoosh the net perfectly with just the right sound, without touching the rim. This was a blessing and a curse.
As is often in life, people who had to overcome difficult situations came out of them stronger. While learning to manage and deal with his Tourette’s, Mahmoud became one of the best shooters in the NBA. The compulsion to get everything right translated into countless hours n the court.