Hakeem Olajuwon - Hakeem "the Dream"
Hakeem "The Dream"
Foregoing his final year of college eligibility, Olajuwon was selected as the number one overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. Olajuwon, paired with seven-foot-four-inch Ralph Sampson in the front court, had a stellar rookie year, averaging 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, and finished second to Jordan in the Rookie of Year voting. During the 1985-86 season Olajuwon averaged 23.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game and led his team to face the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals, but lost the series four games to two.
The next several years of Olajuwon's career proved frustrating. Although his personal statistics remained impressive, Olajuwon struggled with injuries and an overall weak team that failed to produce playoff wins. By the end of the 1991-92 season, Olajuwon was demanding that Houston management trade him. Instead, Houston brought in a new coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, who worked to keep Olajuwon in a Rockets uniform. The year proved to be a turning point for Olajuwon and the Rockets. Under Tomjanovich the team began to once again post wins, making it into the second round of the NBA playoffs before losing to the Seattle Supersonics in seven games. Personally, Olajuwon found new focus in the Islamic faith. After making his first trip to Mecca in 1992, he began to pray daily, carrying a prayer rug and compass (to find Mecca) wherever he went.