Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game, and has gone down in NBA history for his incredible skill. Over the course of his 18-year career, he played center for the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors, leading the former to back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. Beyond the seven-foot-frame, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Hakeem Olajuwon.
Sources: CBSSports.com, Basketball-Reference.com, ESPN.go.com, NBA.com, Wikipedia.org
It wasn’t until Hakeem Olajuwon was a student at the Muslim Teachers College in Lagos, Nigeria, that he first began to play basketball. The game came easily to him, especially in light of his superior coordination from his earlier handball and soccer days.
The third of six children, Olajuwon was raised by his parents, Salim and Abike Olajuwon, in Lagos, Nigeria. The name Olajuwon translates to “always being on top” in Yoruba. Could his name have helped put Hakeem in the right mindset for a competitive career in basketball?
Hakeem Olajuwon emigrated from Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston, but was not originally a highly sought-after recruit. In fact, he was initially offered just a visit to the university to work out with the coaching staff based on a recommendation from a friend of the coach who’d had seen him play. He demonstrated his impressive skill, and the rest is history.
Along with Clyde Drexler, his towering teammate at university, Hakeem Olajuwon dominated the above-the-rim game. The pair helped lead the Cougars to the final four two years in a row during Olajuwon’s sophomore and junior years. Hakeem was affectionately named an honorary Phi Slamma Jama fraternity brother.
In 1983, Olajuwon was awarded the NCAA Tournament Player of the Year award after losing to North Carolina State on a last second tip-in in the championship game.
He was drafted in 1984 with the first overall selection to the Houston Rockets, and was picked over the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.
Olajuwon owns several major buildings in downtown Houston and the surrounding area, and is very involved in his business. He decided to pursue real estate due to his love of architecture.
Olajuwon’s Big Man Camp in Houston helps centers improve their moves around the basket and is grooming the next generation of all-star players. Even current NBA players have worked with Olajuwon since his retirement. One of the all-time greats has a lot to teach.
Though he was raised a Muslim, Olajuwon became more devout later in life and devotes much of his free time to studying the Koran. His faith inspired him to change his name from Akeem to Hakeem.
For his performance in the 1993-1994 NBA season, Olajuwon was named the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), the Defensive Player of the Year, and the Finals MVP.