DENVER — Enes Kanter, a devout Muslim, is fasting from sunrise to sunset each day for the next month in observance of Ramadan. He even sought out an NBA legend for some advice on how to do it while maintaining a high level of play in the playoffs for the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I texted Hakeem [Olajuwon], because I met him like two years ago and I know what he did in, I think it was 1995, when he won the MVP in the playoffs. But I texted him and was like, ‘Hey, how did you fast through Ramadan and play at a really high level?'” Kanter said Tuesday morning. “And he gave me some tips. He gave me what he was eating, when he would wake up — like at 4 in the morning — how much water he was drinking and stuff.”
Fasting for Ramadan means, throughout the day, no food, no water and, perhaps most importantly for Kanter and his injured left shoulder, no medication.
“I took medicine at like 4 in the morning and I will take medicine again right before the game, because I can break my fast before the game,” Kanter said. “But I’ll be fine.”
Game 5 will tip off at 8:30 p.m. local time in Denver on Tuesday, with sunset at 8:06 p.m. So Kanter, who has been dealing with a separated left shoulder, can eat, drink and take medicine prior to the game.
“I might just have someone get some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the bench for me to eat during timeouts,” Kanter said.
Kanter fasts each year during the regular season “once or twice a week” to get his body ready for Ramadan, and he was unconcerned about it affecting his play. He said he talked to Terry Stotts about it Monday, adding that the Blazers coach was “very respectful and respected everything.”
Olajuwon was his typical stellar self during Ramadan, even producing better numbers in some seasons while fasting.
“As for fasting, it is a spiritual mindset that gives you the stamina required to play,” Olajuwon told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in 2017. “Through Allah’s mercy, I always felt stronger and more energetic during Ramadan.”
Kanter sees it the same way.
“It’s just mind over matter, man,” he said. “I think it just gives you so much positive vibes that just go out there to say, ‘You know what, I’m doing this for God, so God [will] help me.'”
Kanter said when he reached out to Olajuwon that the Hall of Famer was “very happy and very proud” and that they talked a little about basketball. But mostly, the focus was on Ramadan, the discipline it requires and how observing it during the most high-profile part of the season can serve as inspiration for others.
“It doesn’t matter what your status is, what your position is, I just want to set an example for the young generation,” Kanter said. “Because it’s very important for them to follow their religion.
“It’s awesome to get help from a legend,” he added, “so I would love to be the new Hakeem for younger generations.”