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The Secret Life of Habiba Abdul Jabbar: Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Former Wife

In the world of basketball, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is a legend. He soared to fame with his towering presence on the court and unparalleled skills. Yet, behind the spotlight lies a lesser-known figure, Habiba Abdul Jabbar, his former wife. While Kareem’s name resonates widely, Habiba’s story remains obscured. 

Throughout this article, we will share her experiences, challenges, and contributions. By delving into the untold truth of Habiba Abdul Jabbar, we uncover a narrative often overlooked but undoubtedly significant in the broader tale of basketball’s iconic figure, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Who Is Habiba Abdul Jabbar?

Habiba Abdul Jabbar, whose birth name is Janice Brown, is primarily known as the former wife of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. However, she has her own story beyond that association. Here’s what we know:

Relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • They met during Kareem’s senior year at UCLA and married in 1971.
  • They had three children together: Habiba Abdul Jabbar, Sultana, and Kareem Jr.
  • They divorced in 1978 after facing challenges adjusting to family life.


  • Born as Janice Brown, she converted to Islam upon marrying Kareem and took the name Habiba.
  • They met during Kareem’s college years and married in 1971.
  • They had three children together: Habiba Abdul Jabbar, Sultana, and Kareem Jr.
  • Their marriage faced challenges, mainly due to Kareem’s difficulty adjusting to family life, and they divorced in 1978.


Habiba and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got married on May 28, 1971, in Washington, DC. But before their marriage, something significant happened. Habiba Abdul Jabbar had to change her religion to Islam. This was a big step for her. Their Marriage was held in a mosque by a Hanafi movement Leader, Hamas Abdul-Khalis.

On their wedding day, Habiba’s parents, who came from New York, couldn’t go inside the mosque where the wedding was happening. This was because they weren’t Muslim, and only Muslims were allowed inside. It was sad for them to miss such an essential moment in their daughter’s life.

Kareem, the groom, didn’t know what was happening because he had only become a Muslim a few years earlier, in 1968. He didn’t understand why Habiba’s parents couldn’t be there, and this caused some problems at the start of their marriage.

But Kareem worked hard to fix things with Habiba’s family. He even mentioned them on TV, saying hello to them in New York. This helped to make things better between them.

Marital Life

After Habiba and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got married, they had three kids: Habiba, Kareem Jr., and Sultana. Habiba Abdul Jabbar was their first child, born in 1972 while Kareem was studying Arabic at Harvard.

Their first child, Habiba Jr., grew up to become a journalist, writing for big platforms like the Huffington Post and other newspapers.

Even though Habiba Sr. and Kareem separated a year after Habiba Jr. was born, they still had more kids together.

Their second child, Kareem Jr., was born in 1976. He followed his dad’s footsteps and played basketball. Kareem Jr. even tried acting and got a role in a movie called “Weapons.”

Their third child, Sultana, came along in 1979. She started working with the Los Angeles Lakers, just like her dad, as an assistant in 2008. But after a short five months, she decided to switch gears and became an administrative assistant at the Children’s Institute Inc. She stayed there for about four years or more.


Kareem and Habiba got married in 1971. But things needed to be smoother right from the start. During their wedding ceremony, there was a big problem. Habiba’s parents, who were Catholic, couldn’t go into the mosque where the wedding happened. They went from New York to Washington, D.C., to see their daughter marry, but they couldn’t. This made them upset.

Because Kareem was new to being Muslim, he didn’t know what was happening until after the wedding. This caused a big issue in their relationship right from the beginning. Kareem tried hard to make up for it over the years. Whenever he was on TV, he would always mention Habiba’s parents in New York to show respect and improve things.

But there were more problems in their marriage. Kareem started having migraines because of tensions in the Muslim community. Some bad things happened, like when his mentor’s family members were attacked. Kareem was also a target, but luckily, he stayed safe. In 1977, there was another scary situation where a group threatened Kareem’s life.

Kareem and Habiba stopped living together in 1973, even though they kept having children until 1979. During this time, Kareem got close to Cheryl Pistono. She became critical of him and gave him a lot of advice. It’s said that she encouraged Kareem to get a divorce from Habiba Abdul Jabbar. Eventually, in 1978, they got divorced.


While the exact reasons behind Habiba Abdul-Jabbar and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s divorce in 1978 haven’t been explicitly confirmed by them, several factors are often cited:

  • Difficulties adjusting to family life: Kareem, then known as Lew Alcindor, converted to Islam and married Habiba Abdul Jabbar shortly after entering the NBA. Some sources suggest he struggled to balance his demanding basketball career with family life, leading to strain in the marriage.
  • Religious differences: Habiba Abdul Jabbar converted to Islam alongside Kareem, but her parents weren’t allowed at the wedding due to their Catholic faith. This reportedly caused tension early on.
  • Personal challenges: Kareem reportedly suffered from migraines and experienced stress due to internal conflicts within the Muslim community. These emotional struggles may have impacted the marriage.
  • Age at marriage: Kareem was only 24 when they married, and rumors suggest he might not have been fully ready for such a big commitment.
  • Influence of another woman: Some sources mention Cheryl Pistono, whom Kareem met in 1977, as a factor influencing his decision to file for divorce. However, their relationship also ended in 1984.

It’s important to remember that these are primarily speculations and reports, and the valid reasons behind the divorce remain private. Both individuals have chosen not to elaborate on the details publicly.


Delving into the life of Habiba Abdul Jabbar has revealed a fascinating and often overlooked aspect of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s story. Through exploring her experiences, we gain insight into the complexities of their relationship and the challenges she faced. 

Despite being in the shadow of her famous ex-husband, Habiba’s story stands on its own, highlighting her resilience and strength. By shedding light on her untold story, we not only honor her contributions but also enrich our understanding of the broader context surrounding Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s life.


What is Habiba Abdul Jabbar renowned for?

Habiba Abdul-Jabbar gained fame as the former spouse of NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

How long was Habiba Abdul-Jabbar married?

Habiba Abdul-Jabbar was married to Kareem for a duration of seven years, spanning from 1971 to 1978.

Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still married?

Following his separation from Habiba, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has maintained privacy regarding his marital status, suggesting he remains unmarried.

Does Habiba Abdul-Jabbar have any children?

Yes, Habiba Abdul-Jabbar is the proud mother of three children: Habiba, Sultana, and Kareem Jr.

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