From Handball To Basketball
Hakeem Olajuwon was born on January 21, 1963, in Lagos, Nigeria. His parents, Salaam and Abike Olajuwon, owners of a concrete business, raised Olajuwon along with his four brothers and one sister in a one-story, three-bedroom red concrete house in a neighborhood inhabited by Nigeria's relatively small middle class. During his childhood, Olajuwon played soccer as a goalie and excelled as a team handball player. He did not play basketball until he was a high school senior at Moslem Teacher College, after a Nigerian basketball coach spotted the six-foot-nine-inch, 170-pound Olajuwon on the soccer field and talked him into trying the game.
Although Olajuwon instantly loved basketball, learning to play was difficult because basketball games were not televised in Nigeria, and soccer dominated the nation's sports news. Nonetheless, under the tutelage of coach Richard Mills, 17-year-old Olajuwon quickly became a leader on the Nigeria national basketball team, which took third place in the All-African tournament in 1979. The following year Olajuwon traveled to the United States to visit colleges. Disdaining the cold wind that greeted him when he arrived in New York in October of 1980, Olajuwon enrolled in the University of Houston, which offered him both a place on the basketball team and a much more familiar climate.