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Jeremy Rich

Nigerian basketball player, was born Akeem Abdul Olajuwon on 21 January 1963 in the Nigerian city of Lagos. His parents, Salim and Abike Olajuwon, were Muslim members of the Yoruba ethnic community. Olajuwon had the good fortune of belonging to a fairly well-off family, as his parents owned a cement fabrication firm.

As he grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Olajuwon played the Nigerian national sport of soccer. Basketball had yet to attract much attention in West Africa, and relatively few organized leagues existed in Nigeria. He was a goalkeeper in soccer and the captain of his state team in handball, a sport that remained more popular in Africa than in North America for decades. Olajuwon later credited this experience for giving him the footwork and ability to anticipate that helped make him a fearsome interior defender in basketball. In 1978 Olajuwon entered a basketball ...