Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeemsigningautocropped.jpg
Olajuwon signing autographs
Personal information
Born (1963-01-21) January 21, 1963 (age 56)
Lagos, Nigeria
NationalityNigerian / American
Listed height7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Listed weight255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
CollegeHouston (1981–1984)
NBA draft1984 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career1984–2002
PositionCenter
Number34
Career history
19842001Houston Rockets
2001–2002Toronto Raptors
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points26,946 (21.8 ppg)
Rebounds13,747 (11.1 rpg)
Blocks3,830 (3.1 bpg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
FIBA Hall of Fame as player

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (n/;[1] Yoruba: [olaɟuwɔ̃]; born January 21, 1963), formerly spelled (and still pronounced as) Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American former professional basketball player. From 1984 to 2002, he played the center position in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors. He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2016, he was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Listed at 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m),[2] Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game.[3][4][5] He was nicknamed "The Dream" during his basketball career after he dunked so effortlessly that his college coach said it "looked like a dream."[6]

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon traveled from his home country to play for the University of Houston under head coach Guy Lewis. His college career for the Cougars included three trips to the Final Four. Olajuwon was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the first overall selection of the 1984 NBA draft, a draft that included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. He combined with the 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson to form a duo dubbed the "Twin Towers". The two led the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Boston Celtics. After Sampson was traded to the Warriors in 1988, Olajuwon became the Rockets' undisputed leader. He led the league in rebounding twice (1989, 1990) and blocks three times (1990, 1991, 1993).

Despite very nearly being traded during a bitter contract dispute before the 1992–93 season, he remained in Houston where in 1993–94, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season. His Rockets won back-to-back championships against the New York Knicks (avenging his college championship loss to Patrick Ewing), and Shaquille O'Neal's Orlando Magic. In 1996, Olajuwon was a member of the Olympic gold-medal-winning United States national team, and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He ended his career as the league's all-time leader in blocks (3,830) and is one of four NBA players to record a quadruple-double.

Early life

Hakeem Olajuwon was born to Salim and Abike Olajuwon, working class Yoruba owners of a cement business in Lagos.[7][8] He was the third of eight children. He credits his parents with instilling virtues of hard work and discipline into him and his siblings; "They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, and believe in ourselves".[7] Olajuwon has expressed displeasure at his childhood in Nigeria being characterized as backward. "Lagos is a very cosmopolitan city ... There are many ethnic groups. I grew up in an environment at schools where there were all different types of people."[9]

During his youth, Olajuwon was a soccer goalkeeper, which helped give him the footwork and agility to balance his size and strength in basketball, and also contributed to his shot-blocking ability.[10] Olajuwon did not play basketball until the age of 17, when he entered a local tournament.[7] It has been said that a coach in Nigeria once asked him to dunk and demonstrated while standing on a chair. Olajuwon then tried to stand on the chair himself. When redirected by staff not to use the chair, Hakeem could initially not dunk the basketball.[11]

Despite early struggles, Olajuwon said: "Basketball is something that is so unique. That immediately I pick up the game and, you know, realize that this is the life for me. All the other sports just become obsolete."[12]