How Many NBA Players Are Jehovah Witnesses? Exploring The Faith In Professional Basketball


The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a league known for its diversity, How Many NBA Players Are Jehovah Witnesses bringing together players from all walks of life and various religious backgrounds. One particular religious affiliation that has piqued the interest of many basketball fans is Jehovah’s Witnesses. How many NBA players are Jehovah Witnesses, and what role does their faith play in their professional careers? In this article, we will delve into this intriguing subject, exploring the intersection of religion and basketball.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Brief Overview

Before delving into the specific numbers, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their beliefs. Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a Christian denomination known for their distinctive approach to religion. Their beliefs, practices, and way of life are rooted in a strict interpretation of the Bible, and they are well-known for their door-to-door evangelism efforts.

Some key tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses include:

  1. Non-Trinitarian Beliefs: Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the Holy Trinity, which distinguishes them from many other Christian denominations.
  2. Refusal of Military Service: They conscientiously object to military service based on their interpretation of biblical principles, choosing alternative forms of civilian service.
  3. Refusal of Blood Transfusions: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible prohibits the consumption of blood, which extends to refusing blood transfusions even in life-threatening situations.
  4. Strong Community and Evangelism: They place a strong emphasis on communal life within the faith and are known for their active door-to-door evangelism.

With this foundation in mind, let’s explore how many NBA players adhere to these beliefs and are part of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

How Many NBA Players Are Jehovah Witnesses?

It is challenging to provide an exact number of Jehovah’s Witness NBA players, as the religious affiliation of athletes is often personal, and many may choose not to publicly disclose it. However, some players have openly identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others are rumored or speculated to belong to this faith.

Notable NBA Players Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses

  1. Michael Adams: Michael Adams, a former NBA point guard who played for multiple teams, is one of the most well-known Jehovah’s Witness players. He was vocal about his faith during his playing career and often mentioned the support he received from his religious community.
  2. Thabo Sefolosha: Thabo Sefolosha, a Swiss professional basketball player who has played for several NBA teams, is another notable Jehovah’s Witness. He has been open about his faith and its impact on his life and career.
  3. Prince Sammons: While not a household name in the NBA, Prince Sammons is a professional basketball player who declared his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. He played college basketball and entered the professional ranks.
  4. Carl Engstrom: Engstrom, a Swedish basketball player, has also publicly identified as a Jehovah’s Witness. He played college basketball in the United States and pursued a professional career.
  5. Theo Ratliff: Theo Ratliff, a former NBA player who had an illustrious career as a shot-blocker, has been associated with the faith, although he has not been as vocal about it as some others.
  6. Bobby Portis: Bobby Portis, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, is another NBA player rumored to be a Jehovah’s Witness. While he has not confirmed it publicly, some reports suggest that he follows this faith.

It’s important to note that some of these players may have become more private about their religious beliefs in recent years. Jehovah’s Witnesses typically value privacy in their faith, so public declarations may be less common among athletes.

The Influence of Faith on NBA Players

Jehovah’s Witness NBA players, like athletes from various religious backgrounds, often face unique challenges and opportunities due to their faith. Here are some ways in which faith can influence their careers:

  1. Scheduling Conflicts: Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to prioritize religious meetings and activities. This can create scheduling conflicts with NBA games, especially those scheduled on evenings or weekends when religious gatherings are common. Players need to find a balance between their faith and professional commitments.
  2. Military Service: The Jehovah’s Witness faith teaches its followers to refuse military service. This can be a significant issue for players who may be called up for military duties, particularly in countries with compulsory military service.
  3. Healthcare Decisions: The belief in abstaining from blood transfusions can be a challenging issue for athletes who may face injuries or medical emergencies during their careers. Players and their medical teams must consider alternative medical treatments in line with their faith.
  4. Community Support: Many Jehovah’s Witness players have mentioned the support they receive from their faith community. This support can be crucial for athletes dealing with the pressures of professional sports.
  5. Evangelism: Some players are active in sharing their faith within the NBA community. They may engage in discussions and provide literature to their teammates and colleagues, as is typical of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ evangelism efforts.

The Balance Between Faith and Career

For Jehovah’s Witness NBA players, finding a balance between their faith and professional basketball careers is a personal and often challenging endeavor. Some may opt for early retirement or overseas leagues to accommodate their religious obligations, while others continue to play in the NBA while managing their schedules and commitments.

An example of a player who faced this balance is Michael Adams, who, during his career, expressed his dedication to his faith while still pursuing his basketball dreams. His commitment to Jehovah’s Witnesses has been well-documented, and he has shared how his faith played a significant role in shaping his life both on and off the court.

It’s worth noting that the NBA has made efforts to accommodate players’ religious beliefs. The league’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has led to policies that respect and accommodate players’ religious practices when possible.

Darren Collison’s Retirement and Transition to Becoming a Jehovah’s Witness

In 2019, former NBA player Darren Collison made a surprising decision by announcing his retirement from professional basketball to pursue a different path in life as a Jehovah’s Witness. This marked a significant and unexpected shift in his career and personal life. Collison had established himself as a skilled point guard during his NBA tenure, playing for several teams including the New Orleans Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Sacramento Kings.

Collison’s decision to retire was based on his desire to devote more time and energy to his faith and religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. This denomination is known for its strong commitment to evangelism and community involvement, which often requires a substantial amount of time and dedication.

His choice to prioritize his faith over his basketball career was met with mixed reactions from fans and the sports community. Many respected Collison’s commitment to his beliefs and his willingness to make a significant life change, while others expressed surprise and disappointment at the loss of a talented player from the NBA.

Collison’s transition to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness marked a personal and spiritual journey that took precedence over his professional basketball aspirations. His story serves as a unique example of an athlete choosing to follow their faith and convictions, even when it means leaving behind a successful career in the world of sports.

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Challenges and Controversies

While Jehovah’s Witness NBA players have the freedom to practice their faith, some controversies and challenges have emerged over the years:

  1. Scheduling Conflicts: As mentioned earlier, scheduling conflicts can be a source of tension. Some players have had to miss games or events due to their faith’s obligations, which can lead to criticism from fans and organizations.
  2. Blood Transfusions: The refusal of blood transfusions, even in life-threatening situations, has raised concerns about players’ health and well-being. Medical professionals and team physicians must be aware of the players’ beliefs and plan accordingly.
  3. Public Perception: Some players may face public scrutiny or misunderstanding of their faith. The relatively low profile of Jehovah’s Witnesses in mainstream Christianity can lead to misconceptions or prejudice.

Overall, while Jehovah’s Witness NBA players have faced challenges, they have also contributed positively to the league, exemplifying dedication, discipline, and strong moral values. Their presence in the NBA highlights the diversity and inclusivity of the league.


The presence of Jehovah’s Witness NBA players adds a unique dimension to the league’s diverse roster of athletes. While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number of players who belong to this faith, those who have openly identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses bring a distinct perspective to the world of professional basketball.

These players must navigate the challenges that their faith presents, such as scheduling conflicts and healthcare decisions. At the same time, their commitment to their beliefs and strong moral values can serve as an inspiration to both fans and fellow athletes.

In a league known for its inclusivity and respect for diversity, Jehovah’s Witness NBA players have found their place and made valuable contributions both on and off the court. As the NBA continues to evolve, the presence of athletes from different backgrounds and belief systems enriches the sport and reinforces the message of unity and acceptance.

So, the next time you watch an NBA game, remember that the players on the court come from a wide range of backgrounds, including those who adhere to the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their commitment to their beliefs is yet another fascinating aspect of the beautiful game of basketball.

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