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Houston Rockets Birthdays: The interesting story behind Zaid Abdul-Aziz

Zaid Abdul-Aziz (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Zaid Abdul-Aziz (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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Scoring over 4,500 points in his career, Zaid Abdul-Aziz spent more time on the Houston Rockets than any other team, having four solid seasons in the 1970s.

Born April 7, 1946, Zaid Abdul-Aziz was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in 1968. A few years later, Abdul-Aziz found himself on the Houston Rockets, where he would spend his next three seasons.

Before joining Houston, Zaid played in 20 games with Cincinnati, 109 with Milwaukee and 119 with Seattle. It was during his tenure with the SuperSonics that he made a life-changing decision. Before Zaid Abdul-Aziz was Zaid Abdul-Aziz, his name was actually Donald Smith.

It was during his Seattle days that Smith converted to Islam, forever changing his name to Zaid Abdul-Aziz. As part of his new religion, he was obligated to participate in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. That would come into play as the 1974-75 season with the Rockets began.

As a column from the Seattle Times reported in April 2014, Abdul-Aziz found himself in an “anemic-like state” as the season began. As the column detailed, he struggled with what to do in the situation.

“I went in to the general manager and I told him, ‘I can’t play basketball anymore. I quit,’ ” recalls Abdul-Aziz. “But I didn’t really want to quit the team. I’d gotten sick and lost all my vital minerals. It was like a form of depression. What I really wanted him to do was give me a little time off because I was fasting for Ramadan, but if I would have told him that, he wouldn’t have understood. So I quit.”

According to Abdul-Aziz, that conversation is what ended up costing him greatly, as he never got back to his role as starting center again afterward.  “That was kind of my downfall,” he said in the column. “I was playing great with Houston, then I took that one-day hiatus and I never got back to being a starting center in the league.”

Despite the setback, he still averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in his three-season stint with the Rockets before going back to Seattle.

Overall, the 6-9 New York-native played for six different teams throughout his 10-year career, ending his career with a 14-game showing back on the Houston Rockets in the 1977-78 season.

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Abdul-Aziz finished his career with franchise averages of 14.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Now officially 74-years-old, Happy Birthday is in order for the man who deserves credit not only for his game but for his dedication off the court.

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