Retirement And Beyond
In 1996 33-year-old Olajuwon married 18-year-old Dalia Asafi under the traditional Islamic custom of a prearranged marriage. As Olajuwon aged, his minutes on the court and statistics took a natural decline, and Houston management began planning a future beyond his presence on the court. During the 2000-01 season Olajuwon was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg and benched while he took a series of blood thinners. At the end of the season Olajuwon's contract expired, and Houston management decided to free themselves of Olajuwon's hefty salary and traded their premiere center to the Toronto Raptors. Olajuwon already has plans for life after the NBA. He has significant real estate investments in Houston, which he operates under his company Palladio Development Ltd.
A shoo-in to the NBA Hall of Fame, Olajuwon matched up against some of the best centers to ever play the game, including Bill Walton, David Robinson, Ewing, and O'Neal. His ability to perform in the company of such talent proves his place in the NBA history books. Upon his retirement in 2002, the Houston Rockets announced that a life-size statue of Olajuwon would greet fans outside the team's new downtown arena.