60 things to know about Hakeem Olajuwon

14 Jun 1995: Center Hakeen Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets celebrates after a Finals game against the Orlando Magic at The Summit in Houston, Texas. The Rockets won the game, 113-101. Mandatory Credit: Allsport (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Get out your party hats and let’s celebrate Houston Rockets legend and NBA icon Hakeem Olajuwon as we celebrate his 60th birthday this weekend!

Here are 60 interesting facts about Olajuwon:

  1. Olajuwon was born in Nigeria on Jan. 21, 1963.
  2. He was the third of six children.
  3. Olajuwon’s parents were middle-class and owned a cement business in Lagos, Nigeria.
  4. His full name is Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon.
  5. The name Olajuwon translates into “always being on top.”
  6. Olajuwon was unfamiliar with basketball until age 15.
  7. Prior to playing basketball, Olajuwon played soccer and team handball in Lagos, Nigeria.
  8. He arrived in the United States from Nigeria in 1981.
  9. He came to the University of Houston in a taxicab and coaches were amazed by his size as he exited the vehicle.
  10. Olajuwon is seven feet tall.
  11. Olajuwon played as a center.
  12. Olajuwon was recruited by the University of Houston after playing the sport for only two years.
  13. Olajuwon said he loved life on the campus of the University of Houston, meeting people from different backgrounds and majors, according to this 1995 documentary in which he was quoted about his time in college.
  14. In Olajuwon’s first season, Houston advanced to the Final Four (national championship semifinals) of the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
  15. Olajuwon trained with Moses Malone the summer after his first year of college. Malone was not easy on the training of Olajuwon, pushing him to be tough.
  16. In 1982, Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were on a Houston squad that made it to the NCAA semifinals but lost 68-63 to the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by James Worthy and Michael Jordan.
  17. Olajuwon left college after his junior year.
  18. He was selected by the Houston Rockets.
  19. He was the first pick in the 1984 NBA Draft.
  20. He was picked ahead of Michael Jordan in the NBA Draft.
  21. The Rockets reached the play-offs in his first year with the team, and in his second they narrowly failed to win the championship, losing to the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals.
  22. Olajuwon’s signature move was known as the “Dream Shake,” a series of feints, spins, and drop steps he would perform close to the basket that often-confounded opposing defenders and left Olajuwon with an open shot.
  23. Olajuwon is a published author, writing, with Peter Knobler, the autobiography “Living the Dream: My Life and Basketball” in 1996.
  24. Olajuwon was named the NBA’s MVP in 1993 and 1994.
  25. Olajuwon was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 1992–93 and 1993–94 seasons.
  26. Olajuwon was named finals MVP twice -- both when the Rockets won the NBA finals in 1994 and 1995.
  27. The NBA announced in December 2022 that the Defensive Player of the Year award has been renamed “The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy” in honor of the Hall of Famer and former Rockets star. Read more here.
  28. Olajuwon is a 12-time All-Star player.
  29. Olajuwon was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996.
  30. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
  31. Olajuwon retired in 2002, after being traded to the Toronto Raptors.
  32. He scored a quadruple-double in 1990. He is reportedly only one of four NBA players to record a quadruple-double.
  33. Olajuwon was named League MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive player of the year all in the same year.
  34. After the finals in 1995, Olajuwon was going to do a one-on-one pay-per-view game for Taco Bell with Shaq, but it was canceled after he was injured.
  35. Robert Horry celebrates “The Dream” for his footwork.
  36. He remains the all-time top blocker in the NBA with 3,830 blocked shots.
  37. He’s a devout Muslim.
  38. Olajuwon is known for his amazing play during Ramadan in which he played without eating or drinking.
  39. NBA.com reported his Ramadan routine: “During an NBA season...he would awaken before dawn to eat precisely seven dates — the traditional Muslim fast-breaking food — and to drink a gallon of water. He would follow with a prayer for strength and have no food or liquid until sunset.”
  40. He was teammates with Clyde “The Glide” Drexler at the University of Houston.
  41. Olajuwon and Drexler didn’t win a championship at the University of Houston, but Olajuwon and Drexler did win a championship together as NBA players in 1995, a fulfillment of a long-awaited dream.
  42. “The Dream” was a member of Phi Slama Jama, a group of celebrated players that were known for dunking against their opponents.
  43. Olajuwon has mentored a number of players, including Dwight Howard.
  44. Olajuwon continues to maintain property in the Houston area in Harris and Fort Bend counties.
  45. Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson -- who was seven feet, four inches tall -- were known as “The Twin Towers” as they played together on the Houston Rockets.
  46. Olajuwon was married to 18-year-old Dalia Asafi of Houston in an arranged union in 1996.
  47. Olajuwon and Asafi have four children together.
  48. Olajuwon’s oldest son, Abdullah Olajuwon, is taking up the basketball tradition in Fort Bend County.
  49. Olajuwon became a naturalized United States citizen on April 2, 1993.
  50. A bronze statue celebrates Olajuwon outside the entrance of the Toyota Center.
  51. Olajuwon’s footprints in cement are also placed near the statue.
  52. Olajuwon reportedly wears size 18 sneakers.
  53. In 17 seasons in Houston, Olajuwon averaged 22.5 points, 11 rebounds and 3.18 blocks.
  54. The Rockets retired Olajuwon’s No. 34 in November 2002, ESPN reported.
  55. Olajuwon had an 18-year career.
  56. Olajuwon’s wealth is reportedly around $200 million, though KPRC 2 has not confirmed that claim.
  57. It’s unclear who exactly called Olajuwon “The Dream” or “Hakeem the Dream” first, but the nickname started in college. NBA.com reported that legend has it he acquired the nickname “The Dream” from a coach at UH when during practice he dribbled the basketball from one end of the court to the other and dunked it with such ease that the coach remarked it “looked like a dream.”
  58. Olajuwon’s career ended as a result of injuries and age. He suffered some very serious injuries during his career, including an elbow to the eye and atrial fibrillation, commonly known as an irregular heartbeat.
  59. Olajuwon is a favorite of many NBA legends, including Shaq.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.