Most athletes earn their stripes on the pitch or high above the rim. Every so often, though, a player is born who is even more inspiring when he leaves the game. "Hakeem The Dream" is one of those rare gems.
Hakeem Olajuwon, as "The Dream" is legally known, led the Houston Rockets of the NBA to back-to-back championships in the 1990s. He is still considered one of the most dominant centres ever to have played the game. Yet it is the former hoop star's personal life, notably his unwavering commitment to Islam, that inspires us most today.
Former teammates recall how religion defined their colleague, and Olajuwon always said his beliefs helped a directionless man find purpose. That the faith is Islam and the man is an American is all the more inspiring. He has helped to show how the two identities are not incongruous.
When Olajuwon takes to the court this weekend at the Yas Island Flash Forum as part of the NBA Jam Fest, his skills with a basketball will no doubt dazzle those in the audience. But perhaps the real value in watching The Dream work will come from knowing that if he has made us better fans, faith has made him a better man.