Home Personality Habiba Abdul-Jabbar: Woman Who Changed her Religion for Marriage to Basketball Star Kareem

Habiba Abdul-Jabbar: Woman Who Changed her Religion for Marriage to Basketball Star Kareem

by Louise W. Rice

When you think of wives and girlfriends of high-profile sportsmen, you might picture a woman in extravagant designer clothing living a public, luxurious life and showcasing it on social media.

With Habiba Abdul-Jabbar, ex-wife of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Lakers player, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Abdul-Jabbar lived a life at a distance from the public’s eyes. She continues to live an accomplished life as a businesswoman, despite divorcing the NBA player. 

Stick around to learn more about Habiba Abdul-Jabbar, from the first time she met Kareem to where she is now.

Who Is Habiba Abdul-Jabbar?

Habiba Abdul-Jabbar is prominently known as the NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s ex-wife. While most star athlete wives enjoy the fame, the same can’t be said for Habiba. She didn’t seem to bask in the limelight and instead, prioritized her private life.

One of the most critical decisions she had to make was switching her religious affiliation to marry the famed Muslim basketball player. Ever since then, her choice brought on multiple turns of events.

Habiba Abdul-Jabbar

Image source: Google

Early Life

Born in October 1950, Abdul-Jabbar was raised in a devout Christian household in New York. Janice Brown is Habiba Abdul-Jabbar’s maiden name. She changed her name after marrying Kareem to align with Islamic culture. 

As for her education, Abdul-Jabbar was believed to attend California State University.

How Did Habiba Abdul-Jabbar Meet Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Habiba and Kareem’s story began at a Lakers game. At the time, Habiba was dating Cliff Anderson. He introduced her to Kareem. The latter then invited her to watch one of his games.

Back then, Kareem was known by Lew Alcindor.

Habiba was speculated to be a high school student when attending the game. Meanwhile, Kareem was a college student at UCLA. 

After breaking up with Anderson, Habiba started seeing Kareem more often until the couple decided to get married.



Image source: Google

Habiba got married to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on May 28, 1971. The marriage took place in Washington, DC. It was a religious ceremony held in a mosque and was led by the Hanafi movement leader, Hamas Abdul-Khaalis.

Before the marriage, Habiba had to convert to Islam. Despite being a crucial moment for Habiba, her parents, who flew from New York, were unable to witness the matrimony. The in-laws weren’t allowed entrance to the mosque because of their non-Muslim faith.

The groom was unaware of the situation when it unfolded since he had recently converted to Islam in the summer of 1968 and wasn’t knowledgeable about certain customs. It caused some issues during the beginning of Habiba and Kareem’s marriage.

Fortunately, Kareem was able to ease the family rift later on. He was spotted on national television mentioning his in-laws by saying, “Hi to Moms and Pops in New York.”


Despite marrying into fame, Habiba Abdul-Jabbar has kept her life private for the most part. Nonetheless, she had a Facebook page called RunHabibaRun, showcasing her athletic side. 

Abdul-Jabbar also held a deep interest in fashion design, as evidenced by her apparel company, Tutu Glam. Her designs are exceptionally extravagant and work well for holidays.

Family Life

Family Life

Image source: Google

After their marriage, Habiba and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had three children: Habiba, Kareem Jr, and Sultana. Habiba was their first child. She was born in 1972 when Kareem was in Harvard studying Arabic.

Habiba Jr. went on to become a journalist in the popular platform, Huffington Post, as well as in other publications.

A year after she was born, Kareem and Habiba separated in December. Nonetheless, they continued to have more children. 

Their second child, Kareem Jr., was born in 1976. He followed in his father’s basketball-playing steps. Kareem Jr. also did some acting and was cast in “Weapons.” Meanwhile, their third child, Sultana, was born in 1979.

She worked in the same industry as her father as a Los Angeles Lakers assistant in 2008 for a brief 5 months. She broke off from the sports field and decided to become an administrative assistant at the Children’s Institute Inc. for about 4 years or more.


After 7 years of marriage, Kareem and Habiba filed for divorce after a couple of complications.

Reason #1: Loss and Safety Issues


Image source: Google

The first involved Kareem’s experience with loss. The NBA star grieved for seven people, six cousins and one friend. It led him to develop serious migraines that eventually caused a rift in his relationship with Habiba.

The seven were murdered due to being associated with the Hanafi group led by the mentor Hamas Abdul Khaalis. 

The rival group, Black Muslims, claimed responsibility for these attacks in Washington, DC. The incident occurred in a house purchased by Kareem.

It was later revealed that he was also a target, which led him to hire a bodyguard for the following few weeks.

The issue escalated even further in 1977 when the Hanafi group mentor organized an invasion of three Washington buildings. One of which was the national headquarters of B’nai B’rith. 

After several wounded and one fatality, Hamas was arrested and Kareem was threatened to be kidnapped by the Jewish Defense League.

Now, this could have caused a hitch in the marriage because Kareem primarily married Habiba out of Hamas’ advice, even though he had feelings for another woman.

Reason #2: Affair

Kareem was believed to have had an affair during his marriage with Habiba. He was involved with Cheryl Pistono. She persuaded Kareem to finalize his split with his then-wife. 

After the divorce, Pistono and Abdul-Jabbar went on to have a son named Amir Abdul-Jabbar. 

Even though Pistono played a pivotal role in Abdul-Jabbar’s life, their relationship soon ended, and she ended up with Steven Jenkins in 1985.

To Conclude

Who is Habiba Abdul-Jabbar? From reading about her, I can say that she’s a strong and determined woman. Her decision to convert to Islam to marry Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, despite her devout Christian background, shows commitment.

Even though she faced a heartbreaking split from the sports star, Habiba picked up the pieces, pursued her fashion dreams, and develo

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