The Next Dream: Olajuwon's sons to play basketball at The Village School in Houston
HOUSTON – In the West Midlands Region of the United Kingdom, the game of basketball is not the most popular sport. Not by a long-shot.
For NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon though, it was always a sport he wanted to see his sons pursue. In fact, the member of the historic Phi Slamma Jama-era at the University of Houston made a deal with his sons Abdullah and Abdul.
"Every time I'd leave them with a basketball, I'd come back in it would turn into a soccer ball," Hakeem, who spoke to VYPE in an exclusive interview, said. "Then we made a deal, once they tasted basketball they'd forget about soccer. So, I put them in a basketball club and a soccer club. After three months they forgot about soccer. I saw the passion, they started playing some games."
Originally when they moved to the UK, Abdullah admitted they had a passion for soccer. They had played it before, so they didn't mind.
With basketball becoming a viable option, Abdul admitted that once he played it, things changed.
"When we used to play soccer, I was more passionate than everybody," Abdul, who's favorite NBA players are Golden State's Steph Curry and Sacramento Kings' De'Aaron Fox, said. "But when my dad told me to forget about soccer, I really didn't believe it. But after I tasted [playing basketball], I didn't want to play anything else, I knew that was my passion."
With their love of basketball growing, Hakeem had to make a decision and knew moving back to the United States would be best for their basketball future.
"[Abdullah] is 15, if he doesn't come now, he won't really get a chance to catch up," Hakeem said. "So, that's why I moved them back here."
It was a month ago that the Olajuwon's officially reclaimed Houston as their full-time home.
With the move, Hakeem enrolled his sons into The Village School, where Abdullah will be a part of the Vikings basketball team as a sophomore. Abdul will be entering the eighth grade.
"I feel really blessed, because a year ago, even a month ago, I didn't know this would happen," Abdullah – who is a fan of James Harden - said. "It was a dream and then it became a reality."
Coming to the United States and especially Houston, which is a hotbed of basketball recruits, has already paid off for Abdullah.
"In one month, the improvement is tremendous," Hakeem said. "His disadvantage is that he started playing late. So, he's playing well but the basketball IQ is coming along, it's things like that. I saw him play [on Saturday] and I saw his court awareness is much better than he was in the UK. So, he's improved a lot in basketball IQ."
The Village School coach Andy Johnson added: "He's made remarkable progress in the month he's been here. Like he talks about, step by step. He's been phenomenal, he's been awesome to coach. Just a great kid, down to earth, humble and works extremely hard."
Being the son of an NBA Hall of Famer back in the city that he played for and helped bring two championships to can be a challenge for some. Abdullah feels "blessed and grateful."
Not putting too much pressure on themselves is something Hakeem encourages.
The one comparison that was asked about when it comes to Abdullah's game – Can you do the Dream shake?
"We'll let the coach teach him that," Hakeem said with a laugh.
"I can't do it like you can," Johnson responded.
With Abdullah playing basketball, Hakeem has been known to attend a Village School practice the past month. Giving him an opportunity to watch his sons grow but also throw up some shots.
"Sometimes I take them to practice," Hakeem said. "I can't imagine just sitting there, sometimes I even take a shot. Now, just to watch them to develop is gratifying."
As Abdullah gets acclimated to the game of basketball in the United States, Olajuwon credited the facilities, trainers and all the resources to develop his son.
"High school and college is different, so you have to adapt your game to the system," Hakeem said. "Where it's more teaching basketball, fundamentals, pick and roll. Things like that that you can't do in the NBA.
"In high school it's very discipline, where you keep the game simple, more effective, more team-oriented."
This whole process has been a whirlwind, especially with the basketball season starting in a few weeks. But Abdullah knows there will be process and he has big dreams.
"I know we have to go through the steps," he said. "High school, college and then hopefully to the NBA. It's just step by step."