Once a Viral Sensation, Boston's Jamad Fiin Inspires Youth One Layup at a Time

Fiin has changed the game, both literally and figuratively, for many young athletes, including Muslim girls

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For Jamad Fiin, it was a routine shot. 

It happened on an ordinary day in 2016 at Clarence Jones Park in the heart of Roxbury, one of the Boston courts where the Emmanuel College basketball standout learned to play the game. 

Twenty-one years old at the time, Fiin and her friends decided to accept a challenge to play a pickup game. 

Dribbling from one end of the court to the other dressed in a traditional Muslim hijab and dress, Fiin smoothly wove between her opponents to the hoop for a lefty layup.

Nothing fancy: the ball bounced off the backboard and through the net. 

Little did she know the shot would change her life -- and those of many others. 

Six months later, Fiin learned a friend had secretly taken her phone and recorded the play. When she found the video in her camera roll, she sent it along to her cousin, who posted it on Twitter.

Fiin could never have predicted what happened next. 

“I just want people to, if they see me with my scarf, just know that I’m a Muslim woman, I play basketball; I can do the same things that other women can do.”

Jamad Fiin

The Twitter “likes” and views on Facebook began to skyrocket and Fiin's phone blew up with texts from friends congratulating her for going viral. 

"I didn't think nothing of it," Finn recalled. It wasn't until the next morning she realized she had become an overnight internet sensation. "I finally realized in the morning when I woke up and everybody was texting me how viral and crazy it went."

The video -- and the empowering sight of a young woman hooping in traditional Muslim garb -- electrified the basketball world and drew the attention of musicians Drake, Lil Baby and OverTime as well as Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown. 

"They didn't really expect a Muslim girl dressed in the scarf and a skirt to actually play basketball," she said. "It's not really on social media, just like a Muslim girl hooping in a dress."

Since then, Fiin has leveraged her viral fame to help others, starting a camp to empower young women through basketball -- all while helping lead her team at Emmanuel College to multiple championships. 

But her basketball journey has been far from easy. 

Growing up in Boston in a Muslim Somali family, basketball was, in a literal sense, always nearby for Fiin. 

That’s because her family’s mosque was located near Timilty Park, where she and her brothers would often drop by to play pickup ball. 

Jamad Fiin
The Fiin family

Once she started playing at the age of 12, Fiin was hooked, playing every chance she could at Timilty or with her friends at the local YMCA. 

She quickly picked up basketball skills, but her work ethic was even more notable: Finn would wake up at 5 a.m. to work out at the YMCA, where she would return after school for more drills.

But as her enthusiasm grew, so too did the concerns of her mother, Yasmin, who would get calls from other Somali parents questioning her decision to let Fiin play. 

You know, people… they’re afraid because they knew the influence Jamad (was) going to have on their kids.

Hussean Fiin

“I just (felt) shame because it’s not normal for our culture, even our religion,” Yasmin recalled.

On the court, Fiin said she could feel the surprise of spectators who weren’t used to seeing a young Muslim woman play basketball. 

Fiin’s father, Hussean, remembers driving her to different courts until they found one where she felt welcome. 

"You know, people… they’re afraid because they knew the influence Jamad (was) going to have on their kids," Hussean Fiin said.

Fiin’s girlfriends declined her invitations to play, leaving the Boston Latin student -- dressed in her hijab, long sleeves and leggings under her shorts -- as the only female Muslim player at her community court.  

Jamad Fiin
Fiin during her playing days at Boston Latin School.

Eventually, Fiin found a community center in Roxbury where she could hone her skills alongside others from the Somali community.

After graduating high school, Fiin went on to play one season at Clark University in Worcester before transferring to Emmanuel her sophomore year, where she would help lead the Saints to back-to-back Great Northeast Athletic Conference championships. 

Jamad Fiin/ Instagram
Fiin and her team after capturing the GNAC title in 2020.

Andrew Yosinoff, the head women’s basketball coach and associate athletic director at Emmanuel, describes Fiin -- now a senior captain -- as intensely charismatic.

“All her teammates just look up to her,” he said. “I mean, she gets along with everyone… She just has that warm outgoing personality that you have to like her.”

The rest of the world was finding out about Fiin's uplifting personality as well. 

“I didn’t have a role model that looked like me."

Jamad Fiin

After her video went viral, Fiin’s social media following on Twitter, YouTube and TikTok skyrocketed. The same was true on Instagram, where Drake began following her. She used her newfound platforms to post videos of her slick ball-handling skills, attracting more fans to her accounts.

In 2019, Fiin launched the “Jamad Basketball Camps," a camp for girls in Ohio, which has a large Somali community, aiming to empower a younger generation of female hoopers, including Muslim girls. 

The free camps build skills through drills Fiin has learned over the years, as well as a healthy dose of her signature positivity. 

Fiin’s father recalled a time at one of her camps when a friend admitted it was the first time he “saw girls playing and boys sitting and watching.”

With the success of the camps, Fiin expanded to other cities, holding sessions in Toronto and Boston. 

The endeavor attracted the attention of Drake -- an NBA superfan -- who helped Fiin hold the camp at the Toronto Raptors' practice facility.

Jamad Fiin
Fiin leads a basketball clinic in Toronto at the Raptors' practice facility.

Fiin describes the camps, which she hopes will reach cities across the globe, as “someplace where the girls can have their day.”

Yosinoff says Fiin’s impact is immediate. 

“Jamad has given young Muslim girls the feeling that they can accomplish something on the basketball court," he said. "She’s just an amazing inspiration for all young boys and girls, especially in the Muslim community."

Fiin plans to continue running the Jamad Basketball Camps for as long as she can while she pursuing a career in biology.

For her, basketball will always be more than a game. 

“I just want people to, if they see me with my scarf, just know that I’m a Muslim woman, I play basketball; I can do the same things that other women can do,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m Muslim or not. We have the same rights that other people do.” 

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