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Former NBA star Devin Harris converts to Catholicism

The Dallas Mavericks mainstay made headlines this month for his graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after nearly two decades away.

Former NBA All-Star Devin Harris and his children. (UW Badgers)

Former NBA All-Star Devin Harris, who most notably played for the Dallas Mavericks during three stints between 2004 and 2019, recently made headlines for his belated graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison—where he first enrolled after high school and was once the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Hidden between the lines of a profile published this month in the sports outlet The Athletic, though, was the fact that he and his children (Charlie, Scarlet, and Violet) recently converted to Catholicism. 

The move apparently came after Harris’ encounter with the history of the Italian Renaissance, part of his studies to finish a history degree at UW-Madison. He wrote his senior thesis on the infamous 15th-century Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, who—ironically enough—is often pegged as a precursor to the Protestant Reformation.

“I thought going back through that process, wondering what it was like back then, made sense,” he told journalist Tim Cato in an interview ahead of his graduation on Dec. 17.

Harris reportedly spent the fall semester flying from Dallas to Madison every weekend to attend his final course in-person, following several years of virtual courses beginning during the pandemic. 

The 40-year-old Milwaukee native​ had originally planned to return to the NBA during the 2019-20 season, a plan that did not materialize following the cancellation of the league’s regular schedule and the onset of the “NBA Bubble” in Orlando, Florida.

“It was the oddest feeling of, ‘What am I supposed to be doing?’” he said of his career thoughts following his unofficial retirement. He officially closed the chapter in 2020 when he decided to return to school, fulfilling a promise he made to his parents when he declared for the NBA draft nearly 20 years ago.

Since his retirement, Harris has also been an NBA color analyst for Bally Sports Southwest, covering his former team, and for NBA TV the last four years. He has also worked for Fox Sports covering college basketball, including during March Madness. 

“Starting out, it was very surreal to be in front of the TV cameras in a new role. Like a lot of people that try something new, it takes work to make a smooth transition,” he wrote in a guest post for the UW Badgers’ official blog earlier this month.

With a degree in hand, Harris says he now has thoughts of possibly coaching, which many former players in his position have gone on to do.  

Whether he takes that path or not, Harris now joins a unique group of NBA-affiliated African Americans who have recently joined the Catholic Church—including three-time NBA champion and former New Jersey Nets coach Byron Scott, who also returned to college in recent years to get his degree. (He converted after marrying his wife in 2020.)

Toronto Raptors assistant coach Andrew Jones III, who played professionally overseas in Slovakia, Greece, and Ukraine, was confirmed in Detroit earlier this year.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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