Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Nigerian basketball player to make millions of dollars in U.S.

by Dr. A. B. Assensoh

Professional basketball is big business in the U.S. In May, Talking Drums reported that Nigeria's Akeem Olajuwon was to turn a professional in the game. In this report, his recent multi-million dollar contract with the Houston Rockets Basketball Club is discussed by Dr A.B. Assensoh, an Assistant Professor of History and the Director of Honours Programme at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
AKEEM OLAJUWON, the Houston-based ace Nigerian basketball player has signed a professional basketball contract to play for the Houston Rockets. The six-year contract is estimated to fetch the seven-foot tall Nigerian "some millions of dollars", but the specific amount of money involved was not publicly disclosed.

Olajuwon - nicknamed "Akeem, the dream" by American sports commentators is a final-year student of the University of Houston, where he is expected to earn a bachelor's degree in business administration. However, the signing of the multi-million-dollar contract means that he has agreed to suspend his studies and, upon his return, Olajuwon would forfeit the right to play amateur basketball for his University after turning professional

1984 Top Pick:

As the 1984 top pick of America's National Basketball Association, Olajuwon is expected to join the 1983 top collegiate pick now playing for the Houston Rockets, Ralph Sampson, to give the Club an additional boost.

After signing the contract with Olajuwon, the Rockets' General Manager, Ray Patterson, said, "I couldn't be happier to have Akeem as a Houston Rocket; all the steps we have taken before would have been diminished if we had not taken this step (of signing Akeem on)".

Houston Rockets' Coach Bill Fitch, at the recent contract signing ceremony, presented Olajuwon with the Rocket's No. 34 jersey. He, additionally, said to the young Nigerian: "Welcome to the Houston Rockets". In a dramatic response, Olajuwon replied: "I'm very proud to be a Rocket", adding that he was also anxious to team up with Sampson, the ace basketball player signed on by the Rockets last year.

Sampson's four-year contract with the Rockets, signed last year, was estimated at $5.3 million. In an answer to a reporter's query for comparison of Sampson and Olajuwon, General Manager Patterson made it known at a press conference that there was no way of comparing the two players and their contracts. He added: "The beauty of this (Olajuwon's) contract is it puts to rest all comparisons".

To an extent, what amazes American basketball fans is that before 1979, Olajuwon had not played much basket- ball. However, upon his arrival in America that year, he led the University of Houston to three consecutive victories in the NCAA national championship tournament before deciding to turn a professional.

In basketball statistics, Olajuwon led America's collegians in the 1984 basketball season in field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots. As a result, he became only the third collegiate player to lead the country in three individual categories of the game. Olajuwon, who hit 67.5 percent of his shots from the field in six games and with a 100 percent average, emerged as a super collegiate star at the NCAA Final Four tournament played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans about three seasons ago.

Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, where Akeem Olajuwon first exhibited his basketball talents.

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