5 Successful Athletes You Didn’t Know are Arab-American
By: Noah Chani/Arab America Contributing Writer
- Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr is arguably one of the most successful basketball figures of all time, but many people don’t know he’s an Arab American. Kerr has won 8 NBA Championships in his lifetime. 5 of the 8 came as a player during his time with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs and 3 have come within the last 4 years as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Steve was one of four children born to his parents Ann and Malcolm. His father would be tragically assassinated just outside his American University of Beirut where he served as the University’s president. Kerr was 18 Years of Age attending the University of Arizona when his father was killed, Kerr claims his father’s death motivated him to dedicate his life to Basketball. Throughout his 15-year playing career and 4-year coaching career Kerr has ended his season with an NBA title an astounding 42% of the time. This feat surely puts him in consideration of being one of the most successful Arab American athletes of All Time.
- Doug Flutie (Lebanese Father)
Doug Flutie is an American born former professional football player whom had a successful professional career spanning over 21 years. He played his college football at Boston College where he amassed more than 65 touchdowns in 4 seasons. While at Boston College Flutie won the sport’s most prestigious individual award in 1984 when he hoisted the Heisman Trophy. Flutie was signed by the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, whom were owned by now US President Donald Trump. On February 4, 1985 Flutie was made the highest paid rookie in any sport when Trump and the Generals agreed to pay him $7 million dollars over 5 years. As the USFL collapsed in 1986, Flutie would move to the NFL where he would play for the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots until he decided to make the jump to the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Flutie went on to tear up the CFL over 8 years for 270 Touchdowns until he decided to sign with the Buffalo Bills in an attempt at a resurgence into the NFL. In his first Season, back Flutie was named to the Pro-Bowl as he led the Bills to an 8-3 record as a starter. For the rest of his playing career after being cut by the Bills, Flutie would bounce around fulfilling many backup roles where he often outperformed the starters.
- Justin Abdelkader
Justin Abdelkader is uniquely one of the few Arab-American professional hockey players. He has arguably had the most successful career of the bunch, a career which has garnered 249 total points over the span of 11 seasons in the NHL. Abdelkader played in 50 games during the 2009 season in which his Detroit Red Wings fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Abdelkader’s grandfather Yusuf Abdul Qadir emigrated from Jordan and settled in Muskegon, Michigan. His successful professional career came on the heels of a 3-year career at Michigan State University where he landed himself on the 2007 All-NCAA Tournament Team. Justin Abdelkader has down an exceptional job to excel at a sport that Arab Americans have long been a large minority in.
- Sam Khalifa
Sam Khalifa is an American born former Major League Baseball (MLB) player that’s father was an emigrant of Egypt in 1959. During his childhood, Sam Khalifa spent three years living in Egypt and a year in Libya before his family relocated back to the United States permanently and he focused on his baseball career. Khalifa was drafted 7th overall in the 1982 MLB draft and chose to forego his college career and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Khalifa spent 8 years bouncing around the minor leagues for, finding himself securing the shortstop position for a brief stint in the 1985 season back with Pittsburgh. He was never able to secure more than a temporary spot before his 1990 retirement. His retirement came in the wake of his father being murdered. Khalifa’s most significant contribution to the sport was being the first man of Egyptian descent to play in the Major Leagues, which was a huge feat in its own.
- Sarah Attar
Sarah Attar is an American born track and field athlete whose father hails from Saudi Arabia. She has dual citizenship through her father which allowed her to represent Saudi Arabia in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. After controversy between Saudi Arabia and the International Olympic Committee, Attar was one of just two women representing Saudi Arabia in the 2012 Olympic Games. She competed in the 800m event where she finished last but was applauded by the crowd for having the courage to represent a country who didn’t necessarily want women to compete. In 2016, she again competed covered from head to toe to conform with Saudi Arabia’s requests, she finished second to last finishing the Marathon in 3:16:11. She has defied odds and shown great courage which has earned her great publicity within the United States and a running sponsorship from the brand Oiselle.