Abdul-Wahad was born in France from parents who migrated from French Guiana. He changed his name to Tariq Abdul-Wahad after converting to Islam in 1997. He is the first player to be born and raised in France and play in the NBA. Tariq first played college basketball at the University of Michigan, but later transferred to San Jose State, and was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 1997. He was known as a defensive specialist, but his playing time was restricted in later seasons due to injuries. He only played in 236 out of a possible 788 games. In 2005 Abdul-Wahad was on the Dallas Mavericks' roster on injured reserve but was released during training camp prior to the 2005-06 season. In November 2006 Italian team Climamio Bologna invited Abdul-Wahad to a try out, but he was not signed.
His No. 3 jersey was retired by San Jose State in 2002, however the banner hanging in the Event Center Arena refers to him as Olivier Saint-Jean, the name he used while in college.
Abdul-Wahad's finest year as a pro was with the Sacramento Kings in the 1998-99 NBA season. He was a starter for the Kings the year they first stepped on the scene as perhaps the most exciting team in the NBA. They pushed the heavily favored Utah Jazz to the brink of elimination but lost in the 5th and final game of the series.