the Influence of Jehovah’s Witnesses Among Ex-NBA Players


The intersection of sports and religion has always fascinated fans and commentators alike. In the world of professional basketball, one lesser-known yet intriguing intersection is that of ex-NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This article explores how many ex-NBA players identify with the faith, their journey to spirituality, and the impact of their religious beliefs on their careers and personal lives.

Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses is a Christian denomination known for its distinctive beliefs and practices, including door-to-door evangelism, rejection of blood transfusions, and an expectation of the imminent end of the world. With over 8 million adherents worldwide, it’s a faith that emphasizes strong community ties, moral conduct, and a rigorous interpretation of the Bible.

A closer look at former NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Though the exact number of ex-NBA players who identify as Jehovah’s Witnesses isn’t publicly available, a few notable players have been open about their faith. Among them is former Indiana Pacers player Darren Collison, who made headlines in 2019 when he announced his retirement from the NBA at the age of 31 to focus on his faith. Collison cited his desire to devote more time to spiritual pursuits and spend more time with his family, stating, “I am a Jehovah’s Witness, and my faith means everything to me.”

Another ex-NBA player who shares this faith is Dewayne Dedmon, known for his tenacity on the court and his strong religious convictions. Dedmon was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness household and, due to religious restrictions, wasn’t allowed to participate in organized sports during his high school years. His journey to the NBA was unconventional, underscoring the challenges and sacrifices often associated with adhering to strict religious principles.

Impact of Faith on Their Careers

The beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses can significantly impact a player’s career. The faith’s emphasis on community and family can influence players to prioritize religious events over basketball commitments, leading to decisions like Collison’s early retirement. Additionally, Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from celebrating birthdays, holidays, or other events that could conflict with a traditional NBA schedule.

For players like Dedmon, the transition to a professional sports career required balancing faith with personal aspirations. Dedmon’s path to the NBA is a story of perseverance, where he had to convince his mother to allow him to play basketball. His success is a testament to the idea that strong faith and athletic prowess can coexist, but it might require significant adjustments to the conventional athlete’s journey.

Public Perception and Reactions

The decision by some ex-NBA players to prioritize their faith has garnered mixed reactions from fans and the broader public. While some respect the commitment to spiritual beliefs, others struggle to understand why athletes would leave lucrative careers to pursue religious activities. Collison’s retirement, for example, sparked a wide range of reactions, from admiration to disbelief.

Despite the varied public responses, these players’ decisions to prioritize their faith highlight the significance of spiritual convictions in guiding life choices. It also sheds light on the personal sacrifices some athletes make in the name of religion.


Q: What are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what do they believe?

A: Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination known for their distinctive beliefs and practices. They emphasize door-to-door evangelism, reject blood transfusions, and refuse military service. They also avoid celebrating birthdays, holidays, and other events that conflict with their religious principles. The faith is centred on Bible study and aims to live according to its teachings.

Q: How many ex-NBA players are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: The exact number of ex-NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses is not publicly documented. However, some notable ex-NBA players have openly identified with the faith. The most well-known among them is Darren Collison, who retired from the NBA in 2019 to focus on his faith. Another player with Jehovah’s Witness ties is Dewayne Dedmon.

Q: Why did Darren Collison retire from the NBA to focus on his faith?

A: Darren Collison retired from the NBA in 2019 at the age of 31, citing his desire to devote more time to his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness and spend more time with his family. He mentioned that his religious beliefs were a central part of his life and that he felt called to focus on spiritual pursuits rather than his basketball career.

Q: Are there any current NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: Information about current NBA players’ religious beliefs is generally private. While some players might have connections to Jehovah’s Witnesses, they may not publicly disclose their religious affiliation. The most notable examples of Jehovah’s Witnesses among NBA players are primarily retired players, such as Darren Collison and Dewayne Dedmon.

Q: How does being a Jehovah’s Witness affect an NBA player’s career?

A: Being a Jehovah’s Witness can influence a player’s career in various ways. Jehovah’s Witnesses often prioritize religious events and community gatherings, which could affect their basketball commitments.

They also refrain from celebrating birthdays and holidays, which can clash with the traditional NBA schedule. Additionally, some players might face challenges balancing their faith with their sports career, leading to difficult choices, as seen with Darren Collison’s early retirement.

Q: What challenges do Jehovah’s Witnesses face in professional sports?

A: Jehovah’s Witnesses face unique challenges in professional sports due to their strict religious beliefs. They must navigate a sports culture that often includes activities and events contrary to their faith, such as birthdays and holidays.

For example, Dewayne Dedmon, who was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness household, wasn’t allowed to participate in organized sports during high school because of his faith restrictions. Balancing their religious principles with the demands of a professional sports career can be difficult.

Q: What has been the public reaction to NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A: Public reaction to NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses has been mixed. Some people admire their commitment to their religious beliefs, while others struggle to understand why they would leave lucrative careers for spiritual pursuits.

Darren Collison’s retirement, for example, sparked a wide range of responses, from respect for his decision to confusion about why he would leave the NBA at his career’s peak.

Q: Can an NBA player be successful while adhering to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs?

A: Yes, an NBA player can be successful while adhering to Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs, but it requires balancing religious principles with the demands of a professional sports career.

Dewayne Dedmon’s journey to the NBA is a testament to this balance, as he overcame religious restrictions to pursue his basketball dreams. While not always easy, these players demonstrate that faith and sports can coexist with careful planning and strong personal conviction.

Conclusion: The Intersection of Sports and Faith

While only a few ex-NBA players are known to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, their stories offer a unique perspective on the intersection of sports and religion. The journey of athletes like Darren Collison and Dewayne Dedmon shows that faith can be a guiding force in the lives of professional athletes, leading them to make unconventional career decisions.

Their stories also underscore the importance of respecting individual choices and recognizing that personal convictions can lead people down paths less travelled. As these players demonstrate, the road to spiritual fulfilment can be just as rewarding as the journey to professional success.

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Jyoti Kumari

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