When a person thinks of top-notch basketball players who played in the United States in the National Basketball Association, a few names immediately stand out. Michael Jordon, Shaquill O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Hakeem Olajuwon might come to mind. There are many others, but I wanted to think about Hakeem Olajuwon today.
There is no doubt that Olajuwon could play some fine pro basketball. From the mid 1980s until the early 2000s, his name was frequently mentioned in the sports media as he led his teams to victory after victory. The seven foot tall center led the Houston Rockets to two consecutive NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. Later, he continued his winning ways with the Toronto Raptors.
Hakeem was the only NBA player to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and the Finals MVP trophies in the same season. In 1996 he was a member of the U.S. national Olympic basketball team that captured the gold medal. Olajuwon ended his career as the NBA’s all-time blocking leader with a tally of 3,830. He is also listed as one of the 50 Greatest Players of all time in the NBA.
“When you get to that level, it’s not a matter of talent anymore – because all the players are so talented – it’s about preparation, about playing smart and making good decisions.”–Hakeem Olajuwon
As in all major professional sports, to be a part of a team, no less one of the best, requires supurb concentration and focus. Daily physical and mental workouts to the human limits determines winning or losing.
In his case, perhaps his surname is part of the success mixture. Olajuwon in the Yoruba language translates to “always being on top”. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria in a cosmopolitan, multicultural atmosphere. But was still somewhat undisciplined.
Then, early in his NBA career, Olajuwon became interested in developing his personal spirituality. He devoted more time and energy to his Islam faith. He altered his name from Akeem to the Arabic spelling Hakeem.
An amazing fact is that Olajuwon strictly observed Ramadan, that is abstaining from food and drink in the daytime hours for a month. Ramadan occurred nearly every season of his career. He was even named NBA Player of the Month in February, 1995 despite Ramadan beginning on February 1st that year.
“All these boundaries – Africa, Asia, Malaysia, America – are set by men. But you don’t have to look at boundaries when you are looking at a man – at the character of a man. The question is: What do you stand for? Are you a follower, or are you a leader?”–Hakeem Olajuwon
If you know his statements on life and his behavior through his life, you begin to get a handle on the Wisdom of Hakeem. You don’t have to be muslim or even religious to have an excellent life. You do need to know your core values and have the courage to live them.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Hakeem quote about readiness. “I always keep a ball in the car. You never know.”