Omar Abdelkader, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, is an observant Muslim but admits that, at least as a kid, he was occasionally seduced by the swish of a perfect jump-shot over the Islamic call to prayer.

“Sometimes we’d sneak out of prayers to play ball,” recalled Abdelkader, who grew-up attending the Worcester Islamic Center in central Massachusetts. Like a growing number of American mosques, the Worcester Islamic Center has a basketball court — and hence a built-in temptation for younger members.

“It’s not supposed to be like that, but kids love to play the game,” Abdelkader said while watching a recent Boston Celtics playoff game on a big-screen television at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. He was joined by about 20 other Muslims, a scene that is being replicated in living rooms and Islamic community centers as the NBA playoffs head toward the finals in June.

At the moment, there are at least eight Muslim players in the NBA (four Turks, two African Americans, one Iranian, and one Tanzanian), and one of them — center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder — is currently in the middle of a tense series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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