â€œBasketball has given me so much in life,â€ said Olajuwon. â€œIn this new role I am looking forward to impacting young Africans and utilising the power of sport to help change lives in what is an exciting new chapter in my career.â€
â€œWe are elated that one of the greatest to ever play the game, a son of Africa, and a legend of Hakeemâ€™s stature will officially represent the NBA in Africa,â€ said Amadou Gallo Fall. â€œHe truly embodies the values of the game, and will be a great ambassador for the league and a perfect role model for Africaâ€™s youth.â€
Olajuwon recently participated in the launch of â€œPower Forward,â€ the ExxonMobil, NBA and Africareâ€™s development program launched in Abuja, Nigeria last November. Prior to that he visited South Africa last August and attended the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day celebrations at the International Convention Centre and the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon was selected with the No 1 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, becoming the first African player selected first overall. His playing highlights include: 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA Champion (1994, â€˜95), NBA Most Valuable Player (â€™94), and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (â€™93, â€™94). He is the only player in league history to be named MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (1993-94).
The NBA has a long history in Africa with more than 30 players from the continent playing in the league since 1984. Basketball without Borders Africa has been held 11 times on the continent and the league opened its African office in Johannesburg in 2010.
Since 2003, the NBA has worked with community-based organisations to create 38 places to live, learn or play in Africa, including youth hostels, kitchens, sports complexes, health facilities, Habitat for Humanity homes, and basketball courts in Angola, Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Cameroon, South Sudan, and South Africa.