"Most Muslims do not become Muslims to indulge in murder and mayhem," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the leading point scorer in NBA history, told CNN's World Sport on Wednesday. "It's not what Islam is about.
"We try to live lives of peace and harmony within ourselves and with our neighbors."
Abdul-Jabbar -- also a best-selling author who was in London promoting a pair of new books including a fictional work about Sherlock Holmes' brother -- was speaking a week after brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people
at the French satirical magazine.
French media reported that the gunmen yelled, "We have avenged the Prophet" while carrying out the attack, referring to the Prophet Mohammed.
, who reportedly had ties to the brothers, killed four hostages at a kosher grocery store two days later.
Abdul-Jabbar, in a column
for the website of Time magazine last week, said he was looking forward to the day when "these terrorists praising the Prophet (Mohammed) or Allah's name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims."
He added to CNN that poverty or lack of opportunities in education are factors in people committing such acts.
"They become radicalized by the lack of opportunity and anything in their future that has any promise," he said. "They embrace violence. They try to use religion as something to justify that. But nothing justifies that."
As someone who was in the public eye through sports, Abdul-Jabbar feels sports can play a role in bringing people from different backgrounds together.
"Sport absolutely plays a part in that," he said. "When you spend all of your time trying to develop the talent for a sport and you see people doing the same thing from a different culture and you have the same interests, there's common ground there.
"And you can go from that to find more common ground. I think sport has gone a great way to doing that. Look at the U.S.-China relationship -- ping-pong was the thing that opened the door. A sporting event."
But Abdul-Jabbar also said it was down to the media to understand Islam better.
"I'd just like to see a better understanding by the media as to what Islam is all about as opposed to what the terrorists say it's about," he continued. "I think that is the key issue here. Once those things get cleared up, I think we can make some progress."