Hakeem Olajuwon Biography, Childhood, Career, Life, Facts

Hakeem Olajuwon Biography, Childhood, Career, Life, Facts
Hakeem Olajuwon – Biography and career accomplishments. (Image credit: Al Messerschmidt/AP | Phil Lewis/WENN.com/Newscom)

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (born January 21, 1963) is a retired Nigerian-American basketball player who played basketball in the NBA between 1984 and 2002. During those 18 years, Olajuwon established himself as one of the top basketball players not just of his time, but to have ever played in the NBA. Olajuwon rose to become one of the best players to have played in the NBA, as a result of his unique style of play which combines a tactical defensive approach to fast-paced offensive skills. In this article on Hakeem Olajuwon biography, childhood, career, personal life and facts, we’ll review his life as well as his ascent to the top of his basketball career.

Hakeem Olajuwon Biography Facts, Age, Quick Info

Here are some notable quick facts that you should know about the retired Nigerian -American basketball legend.

  • Full Name: Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon
  • Nickname: The Dream
  • Born: January 21, 1963
  • Age: 57 years old
  • Place of Birth: Lagos, Nigeria
  • Nationality: American/Nigerian
  • Zodiac Sign: Aquarius
  • Height: 7 ft 0 in (3.13 m)
  • Weight: 116 kg (255 lb)
  • Education
    • College: University of Houston
  • NBA Draft: 1984 (Round 1, 1st Pick) Houston Rockets
  • Position: Center
  • League: NBA
  • Kit Number: #34
  • Playing Career: 1984 – 2001(Houston Rockets) 2001 – 2002 (Toronto Raptors)
  • Parents
    • Father: Salim Olajuwon
    • Mother: Abike Olajuwon
  • Siblings
    • Brother: Yemi Kaka, Afis Olajuwon, Tajudeen Olajuwon, Akinola Olajuwon
    • Sister: Kudirat Olajuwon
  • Wife: Dalia Asafi (Married 1996)
  • Children
    • Daughters: Abi Olajuwon, Rahmah Olajuwon, Aisha Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Early Life, Childhood & Family Background

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon is the third of eight children born on January 21, 1963, to Salim Olajuwon and Abike Olajuwon. His parents owned a cement business. Olajuwon prides his parents as devoted people who made sure they instilled core values such as respect, hard work and honesty in their children. Though many think his childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, was backward, Olajuwon counters such claims, claiming his childhood in Lagos was never backward as he met and interacted with various individuals from different ethnic groups.

As a young boy, Olajuwon was interested in sports, but not basketball at first. He enjoyed playing soccer, often playing as a goalkeeper. Playing as a goalkeeper helped Olajuwon learn how to balance his weight as well as strength. At the age of 17, he began playing basketball.

New to basketball and unaware of the various skills, such as dunking, a coach tried explaining to him what it meant to dunk, while standing on a chair. Olajuwon was instructed to follow the coach’s explanation and dunk but he stood on the chair. This was his earliest memory in the introduction to basketball. Following his introduction to basketball, he came to love the sports that other sports became unimportant.

Hakeem Olajuwon’s College Career & Awards

Olajuwon emigrated from Nigeria to the United States of America. He went on to attend the University of Houston. New to college, Olajuwon wasn’t a recruit that scouts rallied to sign, but a friend to the Houston varsity coach, Guy Lewis, recommended Olajuwon to Lewis after he saw Olajuwon play.

In his first year in the University, the NCAA didn’t give him clearance to play and thus he was redshirted. He thus earned little playtime as a redshirt freshman. He sought advice from the Houston staff on how to earn more playing time and it was recommended that he work out with NBA star, Moses Malone. His workout with Malone helped him a lot. Following his return, Olajuwon began creating a reputation for his dunks. He led his team to the NCAA Championship finals in his Sophomore and Junior years.

In the 1983 NCAA Championship though his team lost he was awarded the Tournament Player of the Year award. Following the 1983/84 seasons, Olajuwon made the decision to enter the NBA Draft. The decision to decide who had the number 1 pick was by a coin flip. Olajuwon stated he believed the Houston Rockets will win the coin flip and thus he entered the draft cause he wanted to play for the Rockets. The Rockets won the flip and was selected as the top pick in the 1984 draft, ahead of stars like Michael Jordan, and Charles Barkley.

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Professional Career, Stats, Achievements & Awards

Houston Rockets (1984–2001)

In his first year in the NBA, Olajuwon formed the first twin towers duo, with Ralph Sampson, the 1984 Rookie of the Year, to help the Rockets improve their performance. His performance in his first season earned him a second place in the Rookie of the Year voting. In his second year, Olajuwon’s performance improved greatly as he led the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics.

In the 1987/88 season, Ralph Sampson’s knee injury which ended his career prematurely started. Consequently, Olajuwon emerged as the Rockets franchise player. He led the league in rebounds that season, but the Rockets were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. The 1989/90 season was another bad season for the Rockets as they were defeated in the first round of the playoffs, but Olajuwon emerged as the league rebound leader and also became one of three players in the league to record a quadruple-double.

Following a dismal 1991 and 1992 season, Olajuwon requested a trade from the Rocket, citing contract issues as well as unconvincing performance. His contract was indeed not good enough, as he received a low salary for a player of his Caliber and also a lack of contract negotiations clause in his contract. He fell out with the Rockets management, but he returned in good form for the 1992/93 season, where he finished runner-up in the MVP race. He was thus rewarded with a new four-year contract which settled his contracts concerns.

Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994
Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994. (Image credit: Al Messerschmidt/AP Images)

The 1993/94 season was the peak of Olajuwon’s career. He led the Rockets to their first NBA Championship win, and also emerged as the only player to have won the league MVP, Finals MVP, the Defensive Player of the Year awards and the NBA Championship in one season. He also became the first player not born in the US to win the MVP.

The next season, Olajuwon rode high in his newly found momentum and led the Rockets to another Championship win, while claiming a second successive Finals MVP. From the 1996 season to the 1999 season, Olajuwon continued in fine form, but with Michael Jordan back in action, the Rockets struggled to claim another Championship. 

Toronto Raptors (2001–2002)

In 2001, Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors. He continued playing in good form for the Raptors until his retirement in 2002. His retirement was as a result of a back injury. Following his retirement, his jersey was retired by the Houston Rockets.

Hakeem Olajuwon’s National Team Career

Before his arrival in the US, Hakeem Olajuwon played for Nigeria at 1980 All African games. This prevented him from playing for the US team because he wasn’t a citizen and FIBA regulations prevented a player from representing multiple National teams. After he became a naturalized US citizen in 1993, he was allowed to play for the US team at the 1996 Olympics. He helped the team win gold.

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Wife, Personal Life & Trivia

Olajuwon got married to Dalia Asafi in August 1996. The couple has two children. He has another child, with Lita Spencer, who played basketball in the WNBA.

Olajuwon can speak French, Arabic as well as his native language, Yoruba.

He endorsed  Spalding shoe, the Dream which sells as low as $35. He is one of the few known athletes who endorse shoes, not from very prominent brands such as Adidas, Nike, or Reebok. His reason for his endorsement of a shoe which is sold at a low price is due to his belief that poor people can’t afford such shoes, and kids steal such shoes or sometimes kill for such shoes.

Hakeem Olajuwon studied physical education at the University of Houston.

Olajuwon is a very devout Muslim who observes Ramadan. Despite the fasting during the Ramadan period, Hakeem still produced some of his best performances during those periods.

SEE MORE: Biography facts and personal life of basketball players


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