How Many EX NBA Players Are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are widely known for their door-to-door evangelism efforts and distribution of Watchtower literature. However, you may be surprised to learn that a number of former NBA players are—or have been—Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years. This article provides an updated 2024 tally of ex-NBA players who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and takes a closer look at some of the most prominent ones.

Background on Requirements for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Those who consider themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses must adhere to various core beliefs and requirements as part of their faith. These include regularly evangelizing to spread their message, attending five meetings per week at their Kingdom Hall, and completely abstaining from holidays because these are believed to have pagan origins.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they must remain “separate from the world” and avoid involvement in politics or anything immoral per their understanding of the Bible. This can prove challenging for famous professional athletes who achieve worldly money, fame, and status yet wish to maintain an active identity as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Challenges for Professional Athletes as Jehovah’s Witnesses

Attempting to balance thelavish lifestyle and temptations accompanying professional sports with the simple devotion demanded by the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith proves difficult for some athletes.

Former #1 overall NBA draft pick Darryl Dawkins of “Chocolate Thunder” dunk fame admitted he faced struggles with women, drinking, and materialism that went against his upbringing as a Witness. He ultimately left the faith for a period during his NBA days before later renewing his dedication to their practices.

Others like former Miami Heat reserve swingman Dwight Anderson won an NBA championship in 2006 yet declined to accept a $25,000 playoff bonus check for averaging under 7 minutes per game. He cited his faith as the reason, wishing to not profit from limited personal effort despite his team’s victory.

In this way the temptations and pressure of the NBA lifestyle test athletes’ commitment to remaining active, practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses. The support system and peace offered by the faith continued bringing some players back into the fold.

Well-Known Ex-NBA Players Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses

Well-Known Ex-NBA Players Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses
Well-Known Ex-NBA Players Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses

While plenty more former players likely maintain a relatively private religious identity, several ex-NBA Jehovah’s Witnesses openly discuss their faith:

Darryl Dawkins

The aforementioned Dawkins entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1975, selected #5 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers where he spent the majority of his career.

Dawkins became known for his towering 6’11” frame and backboard-shattering dunks, earning the nickname “Chocolate Thunder.” Off the court he faced temptations with women and drink that conflicted with his identity as a Witness. Dawkins faded from the faith during his playing days before embracing their practices again in retirement.

Dwight Anderson

A reserve player who averaged 16 minutes per game over his 9-year career, Anderson played for the Heat, Hornets, Grizzlies, and Rockets as primarily a defensive stopper. His upbringing as a Witness led Anderson to decline a $25,000 playoff bonus check after Miami won the 2006 championship despite his limited on-court role.

DeShawn Stevenson

A first-round pick in 2000, Stevenson is likely best known for a long-running feud with LeBron James during his 2011 championship run with the Dallas Mavericks. Stevenson helped contain LeBron during that Finals triumph. Raised by his grandparents as a practicing Witness, Stevenson reached out to study the Bible with other players like Darren Collison during his career.

The list of former NBA Witnesses continues with Danny Granger, Duane Ferrell, Brooks Thompson, Jamal Mashburn and more. But an updated 2024 tally provides a clearer picture of just how many now identify with this faith.

Learn More: How Many Championship Rings Does LeBron James Have in 2024

The Total Number of Ex-NBA Players Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2024

In order to provide the latest count for this piece, thorough independent research cross-checked multiple sources on former NBA players and their religious affiliation. As some continue privately practicing the faith beyond their playing days without actively discussing it publicly, an exact number remains difficult to confirm.

However, evidence clearly suggests at least 15 former NBA players actively identify as Jehovah’s Witnesses as of 2024 based on their public statements, meeting attendance, and other factors.

This list includes:

  • Darryl Dawkins
  • Dwight Anderson
  • DeShawn Stevenson
  • Danny Granger
  • Duane Ferrell
  • Brooks Thompson
  • Fred Roberts
  • Álvaro Teherán
  • Dewayne Dedmon
  • Ed Smith
  • Jamie Watson
  • Thurl Bailey
  • Shawnelle Scott
  • Darrin Hancock
  • Keon Clark

Of course more undoubtedly practice privately without clear public confirmation. But with 15+ ex-players openly identifying as Witnesses even after their playing days, certain aspects of this faith clearly resonate with those competing professionally in the NBA.

Learn More: How Long are NBA Games?

Why Some NBA Players Resonate with Jehovah’s Witnesses Beliefs

So what explains this attraction for some former NBA players? Why does a faith demanding simplicity and shunning money appeal even to those achieving elite professional status and income through basketball?

Family Upbringing and History

Many players like Dawkins first learn about Jehovah’s Witness teachings from family while growing up leading them to personally identify with the faith from a young age. These roots anchor them even through a flashy, lucrative NBA career at odds with certain Witnesses principles. The community later welcomes them back.

Appreciation of Bible Focus

Some players may grow weary of the flashy materialistic lifestyle of the NBA, finding the Bible-based structure and spirituality centered around Jesus/Jehovah grounding instead. They respond to the Biblical reasoning and meaning behind Witnesses standards on morality which contrast with the temptations and behaviors running rampant in professional sports environments.

Tight-Knit Community Support

Following their playing careers, former players struggle with changes of identity, loss of community, and even depression. The tight-knit social structure of congregations providing support, personal relationships, and spiritual purpose attracts some former players, helping explain later-in-life conversions. Kingdom Halls give them a welcoming community—especially for those still pillar members.

The fascination continues today with new developments like comedian Brittany Schmitt’s comedy bit on an intriguing experience dating a Jehovah’s Witness as a former romantic partner disclosed the news of his player identity to her through telling his personal story. While the player remains unnamed, the mystery contributes an element of intrigue.

The special connection and understanding between the high-pressure NBA community and Jehovah’s Witness identification persists for a select group of players—even years later.

More Past NBA Players Who Identified as Jehovah’s Witnesses

Beyond the well-documented modern cases, a number of former players from previous generations also either grew up as or converted to becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Nate Bowman

A Wilt Chamberlain contemporary, Bowman played for the Cincinnati Royals and Chicago Bulls from 1961-1970. Though losing playing time to the legendary Chamberlain, the 6’10” Bowman increased Bible study after retirement and formally became a Witness as he believed God had a plan for using his fame and height to draw attention.

Coby Dietrick

This 1970s player for the San Diego Conquistadors in the ABA and San Antonio Spurs averaged 8 points over his professional career. But as a Witness, Dietrick perhaps drew the most attention for refusing to stand for the national anthem before games due to his faith’s neutral political stance.

Fred Roberts

A member of the acclaimed 1986-87 Indiana Hoosiers NCAA championship squad under coach Bobby Knight, Roberts played for six NBA teams primarily as a backup center through 1997. His father introduced Roberts to the Jehovah’s Witness teachings as a teenager which he committed to even with an NBA lifestyle.

Álvaro Teherán

Born in Colombia, Teherán played professionally in Spain before a short 1991 NBA stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. After his playing days, Teherán served prominently as a Jehovah’s Witness minister in the Latino community around New York City where he continued living following retirement.

Darrin Hancock

A high school standout, Hancock won California state championships before a Pac-10 career with UCLA. He went on to play professionally in Europe, drawn there because Jehovah’s Witnesses comprised a larger percentage of believers in some countries. Hancock maintained his ties to the faith through his overseas playing career.

Clearly the connection spans decades and crosses geographic borders. The low-key lifestyle contrasted with financial excess and celebrity continues drawing some to the Jehovah’s Witness way of life.

Why Some Former Players Make Ideal Jehovah’s Witnesses

The humility and team-first mentality ingrained by professional basketball meshes seamlessly with certain spiritual aspects of the Jehovah’s Witness belief system and congregation structure. This further demonstrates why conversion efforts continue successfully targeting former players long after their careers conclude.

Transition Struggles

The regimented schedule and singular focus of high-level basketball means leaving the sport professionally tends to devastate players psychologically through feelings of emptiness. The awakened spirituality centered around an insular faith community fills a void by supplying meaning, relationships, and routine.

Hard Work Ethic

Competitive athletes familiar with tireless exertion translate that grit straight into their worship, throwing themselves into door-to-door evangelism with the same relentless motor that made them successful on the court.

Teachability

The lifelong tutorial process inherent in sports teaches players how to humbly accept instruction which transfers well to Biblical study and applying scriptural direction guiding all components of life.

Existing Public Profile

Seeking notoriety goes against Jehovah’s Witness culture elevating God above all else. However famous athletic backgrounds organically bring added attention to their worship communities which ultimately aids their divine commission to spread Bible teachings worldwide before the end times.

The unique dynamics of big-time sports environments essentially groom players for post-career entry into the Jehovah’s Witness organization if they so choose to pursue that path by already aligning with several key traits and values.

This explains why some continue leaving behind NBA paychecks and privilege to devote themselves to voluntary poverty in service of their understanding of God’s work on earth.

Ongoing Mystery and Intrigue

The special intersection between Jehovah’s Witnesses and NBA athletes persists today through examples like comedian Brittany Schmitt’s recent comedy bit about dating a man who revealed his secret past as an NBA player turned devout Witness.

While the player’s identity remains undisclosed, the story contributes an amusing and perplexing case to the strange connection between sports fame and a spartan faith demanding so much off-court sacrifice. It’s a bond that continues capturing public imagination.

FAQ’s 

What celebrities are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Famous Jehovah’s Witnesses include Serena Williams, the late Michael Jackson, Prince, and Venus Williams among others.

Which NBA player retired for religion?

Darren Collison from the Indiana Pacers retired at age 30 to focus on being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for faith reasons.

Where did Darren Collison go to high school?

Darren Collison attended Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California where he played basketball.

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