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Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon, Nigerian-American basketball player, and Patrick Ewing

Hakeem "The Dream" Abdul Olajuwon is a retired Nigerian-American professional basketball player widely considered one of the best centers to play in the NBA. He was born on January 21, 1963 to Yoruba parents in Lagos State. As a child he played football (in the position of goalkeeper) and first tried basketball at the age of 15, later playing for a Nigerian junior team at the All-Africa Games. He moved to the United States soon afterwards where he enrolled at the University of Houston and joined the Cougars, their basketball team. During his second and third years the Cougars were finalists in the NCAADivision I championships and Olajuwon won the NCAA Tournament Player of the Year award in 1983.

Despite these successes, he chose to join the NBA early instead of completing his final year at the university. This turned out to be a lucky decision as theHouston Rockets, his top choice NBA team, recruited him as the first pick in the 1984 rookie free agent draft. He went on to play for the Rockets from 1984 until 2001, gaining many accolades including two championship rings and championship Most Valuable Player awards in 1994 and 1995, overall season MVP in 1994 and twelve All-Star game selections. He played a final season with the Toronto Raptors before retiring in 2002 at the age of 39. Both the University of Houston and the Rockets retired the #34 jersey in his honour.

Classic Olajuwon Lay-ups

Olajuwon is known for being a devout Muslim: he was famous for keeping his Ramadan fast even while playing NBA games. He became a naturalised US citizen in 1993 and was a member of the national team that won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but keeps close ties to his country of origin. In 1996 he was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in the NBA and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Sources

  1. Wikipedia
  2. NBA.com

Picture sources: Muslim Athlete and RealClearSports