The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) congratulates Brother Hakeem Olajuwon, a devout Muslim, on his election to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
In the past, Br. Hakeem has openly made known that he is a practicing Muslim. He fasted during Ramadan despite facing dehydration in intense match ups. He stayed out on the basketball court while his teammates celebrated their Championship win with champagne baths in the locker room. He regularly attended prayers at his local mosque.
Hakeem Olajuwon attended the 1994 ICNA Convention in Bloomsburg, PA after successfully winning his first NBA Championship with the Houston Rockets. He announced that he did not like it when young people wore his jersey and emulated him because he felt we should only emulate the Prophet Muhammad (S). He also set an example for NBA stars by endorsing inexpensive sneakers so they could be affordable for children whose families were not as well off. Br. Hakeem has consistently set an example for Muslims and Muslim youth by upholding the principles of Islam.
Related: Houston Chronicles’ coverage of Olajuwon’s election into the Hall of Fame:
Houston Icon’s Career Culminates in Highest Honor
By FRAN BLINEBURY
SAN ANTONIO — What was improbable on the day he stepped off a plane from Nigeria and inevitable by the time his glorious 18-year NBA career ended became official when Hakeem Olajuwon was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.
“For many years, you’ve been a future Hall of Famer,” said the former Rockets and University of Houston star. “You hear that. It’s an honorable title. But now, for the Hall of the Fame to call you, it’s like, ‘Wow! Is that really true?’
“All of these legends, great players who have played in the past, and you have been selected to be among them. I think that is the highest honor that any player can receive.”
Olajuwon is joined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame’s class of 2008 by former players Adrian Dantley and Patrick Ewing, coaches Pat Riley and Cathy Rush, and contributors Dick Vitale and Bill Davidson. The enshrinement will take place Sept. 5 in Springfield, Mass.
Olajuwon, a 7-0 center, led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 and the Houston Cougars to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1982 to 1984.
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Olajuwon holds the NBA record for blocked shots (3,830) and is the only player to record more than 3,000 blocked shots and 2,000 steals.
He was also a five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team, a six-time All-NBA First Team performer, and the 1994 NBA MVP. He recorded 26,946 points and 13,748 rebounds, good for ninth and 14th, respectively, on the all-time NBA leader board.
The selection is the culmination of a storybook journey that saw Olajuwon pick up a basketball for the first time at age 17 in his native Lagos, Nigeria, and, in less than a year, board a plane to the United States for a trip that would change Houston sports history.
He revolutionized the center position and became a pioneer who opened the door for so many of the international players in the NBA.
“Breaking new ground was not designed,” Olajuwon, 45, said. “It wasn’t a goal for me. It was important to believe that I have been given this talent to fill my role as a player and a leader on the team. Your teammates believe that we have this position covered. That’s been my role on every team that I played.”
It is significant and fitting to Olajuwon that he enters the Hall of Fame in the same class with his longtime rival Ewing, with whom he battled on the court for nearly two decades.
Ewing’s Georgetown team defeated Houston in the 1984 NCAA championship game, but Olajuwon led the Rockets to the first of their back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 by overcoming Ewing’s New York Knicks in a seven-game Finals.
The former opponents shared stories over breakfast Monday and reflected on their experiences, their battle scars and the fact they used to circle the dates when they would face each other on the NBA schedule.
“Definitely,” Ewing said, laughing. “You knew when you had to gear it up. Hakeem and I have been battling each other for years, starting in college and culminating in the NBA. I won a ring from him in college, and he won one from me in the NBA.”
Even though it was a foregone conclusion he would be elected in his first year of eligibility, Olajuwon said the phone call from the Hall was a thrill.
“On Tuesday, I was told I was supposed to expect this phone call,” he said. “Even though I was expecting the call, it was different when I actually got it. They say, ‘You are officially elected.’ That was so emotional. I couldn’t believe that it was actually official. You are a Hall of Famer.”
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle