***** 5 stars!

“Darkness to Sunlight”:  One of my most treasured books. (August 28, 2019)

I met Zaid a couple of years ago, and read his book just about a month later.  We talked only briefly before I read the book, but got to know each other better later.  I was surprised, Darkness to Sunlight is a memorable read. 

I expected the book to be a typical autobiography by a former athlete.  Many write such books to take advantage of their notoriety, and make a little money.  While the story of Zaid’s basketball career is interesting, that was not the main story of the book.  This book is not a book about basketball, but a story about life, and an inspiring one at that.  It was an intense experience to read it, and though I’m a quick reader and it is quite engaging, I needed to take it a few chapters at a time to process the story and its meaning.

Zaid writes in a conversational style that draws the reader into his experience in a very real, even emotional way.  Rather that just listing the chronological events of his career and life, Zaid focuses on key events and circumstances, and shares his thoughts, emotions, and perspectives in a very personal and candid way.  He went through a lot of challenges, successes and failures through his life covered in the book, and I identified with not only the feelings, but felt like I got to know the man himself.   Zaid paints the picture of his journey in simple, yet eloquent, language that make the reader feel a part of his story.  Having met him personally, I can say that he is among the most honest and open hearted writers I have ever encountered, despite his normally shy nature.  Also, Zaid speaks of all the people in the book with respect, even those who brought him trouble or heartbreak.

I short, I recommend you read this book.  You will not only gain insight into the life and extraordinary story of a great man, but you will be challenged to examine your own story, and consider how the choices you make form you as a person.  I am asking my 12 year old son to read it.  He is interested in the Basketball aspect, but he will benefit from the story of Zaid’s struggle, and gain a new role model for his own journey of life.

-Tom Simon:  Reader, Dad, and Seeker of Truth.


“Darkness to Sunlight,” by Zaid Abdul-Aziz, is a riveting autobiography by an NBA legend.  In addition to being a basketball superstar, Abdul-Aziz is a gifted writer who bares his soul to give readers a profoundly moving look at his life and the sport.  This book is truly inspirational, and is impossible to put down.

In short, highly readable and entertaining chapters, Abdul-Aziz first takes on a journey across three decades, from his Brooklyn roots in the 1950s, to his Iowa Collegiate fame in the 1960s, and a 10-year NBA professional career during the 1970s. In this fascinating period of his life, Abdul-Aziz offers deeply moving snippets of his family, friends and life as a gifted athlete as he went on to break college and professional records. We experience life as a top NBA player at the mercy of injury and trades.

In the second half of the book, the basketball superstar takes us beyond his NBA career, through three more decades of his life, to his coaching and counseling careers, marriages and spiritual journey through extremely difficult times.  His honesty in discussing this part of his life is absolutely breathtaking, and the reader is rewarded with insight into the strength and resilience of a great man.

-Moses Seenarine
5.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon
Great read for basketball fans

Zaid's story is uplifting,interesting and an easy read. Basketball fans who want to know more behind one of the game's most unselfish players should read this book. Zaid's life story is much different than the stories of the NBA players of today. He was a great defensive player, leaper and rebounder who has been unnoticed by many.

-Roy Umlauf


From Jacqueline Knapp

“Darkness to Sunlight” is a fine memoir gripped and bound with grainy shadows of truth that most of us would do our best to hide. But the author, Zaid Abdul-Aziz (Don Smith) uses a high-powered magnifier to examine each major incident whether it is good, bad, or ugly.  He tells it like it was.  It is this brutally honest approach that gives his book a depth of insight that one does not soon forget.

Writing honestly about experiences is oftentimes difficult and painful, but like everything else Abdul-Aziz has accomplished, it is done with a magical flair.  Not only did he reach for and achieve impossibly high vertical jump shots at Iowa State and as a Seattle Super Sonic, he’s weathered seemingly unendurable storms at many and varied junctures; and lived to tell about it.

Danger could well have been Don Smith’s middle name.  Born into the poverty of the Brooklyn, New York projects, his home life consisted of an odd mixture of displaced (as well as misplaced) love and dysfunction. Outside the wells of the family dwelling lurked gangs, drugs, alcohol and crime. Smith had no way of avoiding these negative elements but somehow managed to turn them into positives. Just like those gravity defying jump shots, he would lift himself above the violence and rise far above it.

The fact that Smith/Abdul-Aziz was a terrific NBA athlete is nearly a moot point.  The fact that he survived his upbringing, his teen years and beyond is what is most amazing.  His stamina, strength of conviction and faith in himself and mankind allowed him to hone his athletic skills despite the poverty, violence, and racism of the times.  For me, this makes the author not only a giant of a man but a hero to all are lucky enough to read his book.

-Jacqueline Knapp (


April 1, 2012

Zaid's story does not end with the typical plot: making it from some under-privileged background to fame. Zaid's story is much more than that, with a more cyclic nature of trials and tribulations.

His identity alone makes his story captivating: a black man in Iowa, a black basketball player just after Jim Crow, a Muslim in the NBA, a tall black man post NBA, a Muslim post 9/11, a son to an alcoholic, and ultimately a drug counselor. On many of these levels, Zaid experiences prejudice, and the way he deals with it is with a huge heart for forgiveness. This attitude inspires me as we face many of the same prejudices of that era as well as new forms of hatred.

Zaid shares how he dealt with hatred over and over again by tapping into love, and magnifying goodness especially in times of distress.

His story is captivating, his writing style frank, and his themes relevant. I could not put the book down from the moment I opened it.



December 9, 2006

Zaid Abdul-Aziz (formerly Don Smith) was a stand out basketball player at Iowa State, and played for several years in the NBA, including several years with the Seattle Supersonics. However, the book is really about his life journey from the rough neighborhoods of Brooklyn to life in the NBA and beyond.

The book is written entirely in first person narrative, and reads in a manner which gives the reader the experience of sitting down with Zaid over a cup of coffee and hearing the stories. As such, it can be at times a bit choppy from an editing standpoint, but is wonderful in how it captures the mood and tone of the experiences.

Of particular importance are the depictions of how Zaid struggled with racism, specifically in nearly 100% white Iowa, and how this struggle defined many of his views to this day. I was personally very struck by how Zaid viewed these experiences, and how he handled the vast contrasts between his home in Brooklyn and the corn fields of Iowa. He managed to steer clear of many of the challenges with drugs and gangs that derail way too many lives then and now. The emotions of these times were depicted exceptionally well. A story in Sports Illustrated in 1969 brought much of these issues to the public eye and helped raise awareness for race issues in sports.

-Michael Erisman


5.0 out of 5 stars
Heartfelt truth. Everyone should read it.

January 31, 2019

Amazing and beautiful book about a black man's journey through countless hardships. Just amazing.


October 30, 2007

I was called to read Darkness to Sunlight after meeting Zaid and his beautiful family. I was drawn to read about his life story not because I am a basketball fan, but becauase of his deep-hearted spirit. Our human family needs more stories like this one.

That a woman like myself with no interest in sports would find this book a pleasure to read speaks volumes. His story is inspirational, accessible, enjoyable, and timely. I look forward to enjoying this book in movie form. It will do much to help bridge understanding between Muslim and Christian faith communities. Thank you, Zaid, for writing this book.

Lisa Iversen, MSW, LCSW

Mr. Zaid Abdul-Aziz


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