Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon was born on January 21, 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria. He was born to owners of a concrete business, Salaam and Abike Olajuwon. He was the third of six siblings. The knowledge he, along with his siblings, got from his parents was virtues of hard work, discipline and respect of life. He was married to Dalia Asafi under the traditional Islamic custom of prearranged marriage. During his early years, he was a goalkeeper and also excelled as a team handball player. He didn’t play basketball until the age of 15. Since he was around six feet nine inches tall, soccer helped him balance his size. He attended Moslem Teacher College, where he first played basketball in his senior year.

When Hakeem was 17 years old, he was coached by Richard Mills, who helped him become the leader of the Nigerian National Basketball Team. In 1979, his team won third place in the All-African tournament. Olajuwon immigrated from Nigeria to the United States, where he enrolled at the University of Houston. UOH offered him a place where he could practice his passion for basketball. He played basketball under coach, Guy Lewis. He was the redshirt freshman since he did not get clearance from NCAA to play. He was advised by the coaching staff to play under Moses Malone, the then multiple NBA MVP winner. Hakeem played many games with Malone throughout the summer. Malone helped him improve his name a lot by letting him play against himself. In 1983, he won the NCAA Tournament Player of the Year Award, although his team lost the game.

In the 1984 NBA draft, Olajuwon was selected as the number one overall pick by the Houston Rockets. That year, with his partner Ralph Sampson he averaged 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. He finished second to Michael Jordan in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 1985-86, Olajuwon’s team lost the series four games to two, where he averaged 23.5 points and 11.4 rebounds against Boston Celtics. In his personal life, Hakeem started to pay attention towards Islamic beliefs, for which he made his first trip to Mecca in 1992, after which he started praying daily. The years before that had not proved to be quite in his favor career wise as he struggled with injuries and had a weak team to work with.

1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons went well for Olajuwon and his team as he outplayed some of the top players. In 1994, The Rockets won the NBA Finals against New York Knicks. At this time he was at the peak of his career, he was the only foreign born player who had won the NBA MVP (Most Valuable Player), Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Awards all in the same season. His season average score was 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.

In 1996, his career took a natural decline, as he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg for which he started taking blood thinners. By the end of that season, Olajuwon’s contract expired as well. He decided to retire in 2002 and instead started operating real estate investment in Houston, under his company Palladio Development Ltd.

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