His nine-year NBA career, spent with the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies, was marked by an appearance in the Slam Dunk Contest as well as by one of the most accurate free-throw shooting records ever. Considered one of the greatest free-throw shooters in the history of the game, Abdul-Rauf missed the all time free-throw shooting NBA season record by only a single miss in the 1993–94 season. He sparked controversy for refusing to stand for the national anthem, and calling the Flag of the United States a symbol of oppression. After his NBA career, he played in multiple leagues around the world.
Abdul-Rauf was born in Gulfport, Mississippi the son of Jacqueline Jackson. He was raised in a single-parent family, along with his two brothers,Omar and David. His childhood was characterized by poverty, as there was times that he and his brothers were not able to have proper nutrition. Abdul-Rauf missed the Fourth grade and, later on, he was placed in special education classes. He suffered from a moderate form of Tourette syndrome, a condition that went undiagnosed until he was 17. Abdul-Rauf managed to overcome difficulties to become a basketball prodigy for Gulfport High School. In his senior season in high school he averaged 29.9 points and 5.7 assists per game and was called up to the McDonald's All-American Game. He was also named Mississippi Mr. Basketball twice, in 1987 and 1988.
Abdul-Rauf was a standout freshman for LSU scoring 48 points against Louisiana Tech, in just his third game for the school. He set the record in scoring for a freshman with 53 points against Florida. On March 4, 1989 he scored 55 against Ole Miss to break his own record, also setting career-high for three pointers made with 10. In the same game Ole Miss's Gerald Glass scored 53, making their 108 combined points the most ever by two players in a SEC game  He appeared in 32 games in his freshman season, setting the NCAA record for points by a freshman (965) and points per game by a freshman (30.2). He was named SEC Player of the Year and First-team All-Americans. In his sophomore season, he produced similar numbers with his scoring average slightly falling to 27.8 per game. On February 10, 1990 he tied his career-high for three pointers made, while finishing the game with 49 points. He was named SEC Player of the Year and First-team All-American for a second year in a row.
In 1991 he converted to Islam and changed his name from Chris Jackson to his current one in 1993. He is the father of five children. After his basketball career was over, Abdul-Rauf moved to Atlanta, since his house in his hometown was burned to the ground in 2001.
Abdul-Rauf is perhaps best known for the controversy created when he refused to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games, stating that the flag was a symbol of oppression and that the United States had a long history of tyranny. He said that standing to the national anthem would therefore conflict with his Islamic beliefs. On March 12, 1996, the NBA suspended Abdul-Rauf one game for his refusal to stand. Two days later, the league was able to work out a compromise with him, whereby he would stand during the playing of the national anthem but could close his eyes and look downward. He usually silently recited Islamic Prayer during this time.
In an apparent publicity stunt linked to this controversy, four employees of Denver's KBPI radio station were charged with misdemeanor offenses related to entering a Colorado mosque and playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on a bugle and trumpet, in a provocative response to Abdul-Rauf's refusal to stand for the national anthem.