Praying with Hakeem Olajuwon

TrueHoop reader Ghaith has been reading a lot about Hakeem Olajuwon today, on the day of his induction into the Hall of Fame, and was inspired to send the following e-mail:

It was my freshmen year at UCLA (1998). Two things to know about me: I'm Muslim and a HUGE basketball fan.

Two things drew me to UCLA, the fact that every Friday at 1 p.m., a student organization, the Muslim Union, would book a room to hold the Friday sermon for the Muslim community (Jumu'ah prayer), and that the Men's Gym at the time (and still to an extent) was a basketball mecca for all kinds of professional and wanna-be ballers to swing through.

Well, one week I attended this Friday sermon, it was one of the first ones I went to as a freshman. As I sat down to hear the sermon I noticed that about five minutes into it, the person giving the sermon got a little flustered and quite red.

Naturally, I assumed it was just nerves or something.

At the end of the sermon, we all get in rows to pray together, and I notice that about three people down is this REALLY tall person dressed all in white. I didn't bother looking over until after we were done, and when I glanced to my left, to my utter shock, it was Hakeem Olajuwon, sitting on the floor in contemplation, in a full dashiki.

Needless to say, I was shocked and speechless, all I could do was stare.

Apparently, the Rockets were in town to play the Lakers, and Hakeem wanted a place to go to Jumu'ah before the game. Here's the amazing part though, when Hakeem finishes and gets up, a lot of the students go up to him, give him big handshakes, hugs, slaps on the back, all that.

Hakeem is returning it equally as jovial with a great smile on his face and laughing with the students. As a freshman, I thought "oh, Hakeem must stop by all the time, and some of these guys must be old friends."

Not the case at all, this was the first time meeting Hakeem for most of the students, but you couldn't tell at all from his body language. He was warm, gracious, kind, spent time with us, joked with some of the Lakers fans, and left to go get some shots in before the game that night.

Such a class act.