Sports Stars


Karl Malone

Position: F
Born: 07/24/63
Height: 6-9 / 2,06
Weight: 259 lbs. / 117,5 kg.
College: Louisiana Tech '86

Karl "The Mailman" Malone is one of the great power forwards of all time and has been one of the mainstays of the Utah Jazz for more than 15 seasons. One of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History," a two-time MVP (1996-97 and 1998-99), a 14-time All-Star selection, an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection and the second leading scorer in the history of the game, Malone has set the standard for power forwards to match for years to come.

Built like a tight end, Malone has size and strength that make him difficult to defend in the low block, but he also runs the floor, fills the lane on the fast break, and shoots a deadly medium-range jumper.

Malone and point guard John Stockton formed the most consistent guard-forward combination of the modern era and have made the Utah Jazz one of the league's most successful franchises for more than a decade. Malone was a member of the original Dream Team that won the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and he reprised that role on the Dream Team that struck gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and was named to the 2003 USA Basketball Senior National Team that will be playing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in August.

Malone was still a relative unknown when the Jazz selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft-but he established himself quickly. After a fine rookie campaign (14.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Malone began a string of seasons virtually unmatched by power forwards in NBA annals. For six seasons beginning in 1987-88 his scoring averages were 27.7, 29.1, 31.0, 29.0, 28.0 and 27.0 points per game, respectively, and his rebounding averages ranged between 10.7 and 12.4 boards per contest.

That year he also began a string of 11 consecutive All-Star selections, and in 1989 he started a streak of 10 consecutive berths on the All-NBA First Team. Malone was Most Valuable Player of the 1989 All-Star Game and co-MVP (along with Stockton) of the All-Star Game played at Salt Lake City in 1993.

He finally reached the NBA Finals in 1997 after dethroning Michael Jordan as the NBA's MVP. Malone ranked second in the league in scoring, sixth in field goal percentage and 11th in rebounding in 1996-97. But in the title series, it was Jordan's Bulls who beat Malone's Jazz 4-2.

Malone and the Jazz suffered a similar fate in 1998, though this time it was Jordan who went into the Finals as the NBA's reigning MVP. Malone's season was comparable to his MVP year as he ranked third in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounding and ninth in field goal percentage. During the season he moved into fourth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

• Daughter Cheryl Ford is an All-Star for Detroit Shock of the WNBA.
• His full name is Karl Anthony Malone
• Nicknamed "The Mailman" because he always delivers
• Selected by The Sporting News in 1999 as one of the "99 Good Guys in Sports", because he donated $200,000 worth of supplies to Navajo Indians and to pay off a mortgage for a family with four sick children
• Won the 1998 Henry B. Iba award for athletes who go out of their way to help others
• Owns a cattle ranch in Arkansas on which he bails hay and brands cows with his brother
• Named the first Utahn of the Year in 1997 by the Salt Lake Tribune
• He and his wife Kay, a former Miss Idaho, have three daughters, Kadee, Kylee and Karlee, and a son, Karl Jr.
• Enjoys fishing and hunting and owns a cattle ranch in Arkansas
• Is active in the Utah Special Olympics and founded the Karl Malone Foundation for Kids
• Operates Karl Malone Toyota in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Full Name: Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon
Born: 1/21/63 in Lagos, Nigeria
Height: 7-0; Weight: 255 lbs.
High School: Muslim Teachers College (Lagos, Nigeria)
College: Houston
Drafted by: Houston Rockets (1984)
Transactions: Traded to Toronto, 8/2/01 Honors: NBA champion (1994, '95); NBA Finals MVP (1994, '95); NBA MVP (1994); Defensive Player of Year (1993, '94); All-NBA First Team (1987, '88, '89, '93, '94, '97); All-NBA Second Team ('86, '90, '96); All-NBA Third Team (1991, '95, '99); All-Defensive First Team ('87, '88, '90, '93, '94); 12-time All-Star; Olympic gold medalist (199); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996)

During his 18-year career, Nigeria-born Hakeem Olajuwon staked his claim as one of the greatest players in NBA history. Long considered a physical marvel since his days at the University of Houston, his aesthetic and productive play -- highlighted by his Houston Rockets’ back-to-back NBA titles -- earned him a place among the game’s best.

In 1993-94 he had a storybook season, becoming the first player to be named NBA MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP in the same season. The following season he rallied the Rockets from a sixth seed in the playoffs to their second straight NBA crown, making Houston the fifth NBA franchise ever to win back-to-back titles.

Olajuwon was the third of six children and acquired the basic values that pushed him to succeed from his parents, who were middle-class and owned a cement business in Lagos, Nigeria.

"They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, believe in ourselves," the NBA great has said.

Olajuwon, which translates into “always being on top,” began playing basketball at the late age of 15. Olajuwon's high school, the Muslim Teachers College, was an entry in the basketball tournament at the All-Nigeria Teachers Sports Festival in Sokoto -- but Olajuwon was on the handball team. A fellow student approached the coach and asked if Olajuwon could play for the team. Permission was granted and a basketball superstar was born.

Two years later he enrolled at the University of Houston under the name of Akeem Abdul Olajuwon. He dropped references to "Abdul" prior to entering the NBA and officially adopted "Hakeem" on March 9, 1991. To paraphrase Shakespeare; a great basketball player by any other name is still a great basketball player.

Although his athletic career began as a soccer goalkeeper and handball player, which ultimately helped give him the footwork and agility to balance his overpowering strength and size in basketball, he quickly became a dominating player at Houston. He played three seasons at Houston and help push the Cougars into the Final Four each year.

In 1982, Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were on a Houston squad that made it to the NCAA semifinals but lost 68-63 to the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by James Worthy and Michael Jordan. The next year in the semifinals, the Cougars -- by this time known as "Phi Slamma Jamma" for their above-the-rim play -- soared above an equally athletic Louisville squad 94-81 in perhaps the most exciting end-to-end, high-flying act the NCAA Final Four has ever seen. However, the Cougars were upset 54-52 in a thrilling championship game on a shot at the buzzer by North Carolina State, an overwhelming underdog.

In 1983-84, Olajuwon averaged 16.8 points and led the NCAA in rebounding (13.5 rpg), blocked shots (5.6 per game) and field-goal percentage (.675). He was a First Team All-America selection that season, but Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas defeated Olajuwon's Cougars 84-75 in the championship game.

After the Rockets won a coin flip with the Portland Trail Blazers for the first pick in the 1984 NBA Draft -- one year before the institution of the Draft Lottery -- Houston selected Olajuwon. Although the talented Jordan was also available (he would be picked third by the Chicago Bulls), almost all in the basketball world thought Olujawon was the correct selection at No. 1.

One year earlier, the Rockets won a coin flip with the Indiana Pacers, allowing the franchise to select the University of Virginia's Ralph Sampson. Thus, the fickle flips of a coin created the “Twin Towers” of 7-0 Olajuwon and 7-4 Sampson -- two agile giants.

In his rookie year, Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds while shooting .538 from the field and finished second to Jordan in Rookie of the Year balloting. The Rockets went from a 29-53 record before Olajuwon’s arrival to a 48-34 mark, but they were eliminated in five games by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 1985 NBA Playoffs.

Olajuwon ranked fourth in the league in rebounding and second in blocked shots with 2.68 per game. He played in the 1985 NBA All-Star Game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. He and Sampson became the first teammates since Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor in 1970 to both average better than 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The next year, Olajuwon and Sampson powered the Rockets into the 1986 NBA Finals. On the way there, they defeated the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers in a five-game Western Conference Finals. In the series' final three games, Olajuwon scored 40, 35 and 30 points to lead the Rockets. The Boston Celtics, champs in 1981 and 1984, had a formidable front line of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and defeated the Rockets in six games.

In 1986-87, Sampson began to suffer from injuries and the following season he was traded to the Golden State Warriors. Olajuwon's production simply increased as he developed into one of the game’s top big men. Olajuwon led the Rockets in 13 statistical categories, including scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. He began a string of selections to the All-NBA First Team (1987 to 1989) and NBA All-Defensive First Team (1987, 1988 and 1990), and was the starting center for the Western Conference All-Stars four years in a row (1987-90).

Olajuwon regularly placed among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals. He won rebounding titles in 1989 and 1990, averaging 13.5 and 14.0 boards, respectively. And in 1989 he became the first player to finish among the league’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots for two straight seasons. That same year against the Milwaukee Bucks, Olajuwon had 18 points, 16 rebounds, 11 blocks and 10 assists, recording the rare quadruple-double. He also led the NBA in blocked shots in 1989-90 with 4.59 per game and in 1990-91 at 3.95 per contest.

During this run, Olajuwon came back from two serious injuries. He took an elbow in the eye from the Chicago Bulls’ Bill Cartwright in the middle of the 1990-91 season, suffering a blowout fracture of the bones that surround the eyeball and forcing him to miss the Rockets’ next 25 games. In 1991-92, he missed seven contests early in the season after an episode of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat).

Despite Olajuwon’s play, the Rockets had settled into mediocrity since the team’s trip to the NBA Finals in 1986 -- Houston didn’t win a playoff series from 1988 through 1992. But beginning in 1992-93, midway through his career, Olajuwon got even better, taking himself and the Rockets to new levels of success.

Because of stagnated contract negotiations, many thought he had played his last game for Houston at the end of the 1991-92 campaign. But on a flight to Japan, where the Rockets played the first two games of the 1992-93 season against the Seattle SuperSonics, Olajuwon and Houston owner Charlie Thomas smoothed out their differences. In the next three seasons he would average 26.1 points, 27.3 points and 27.8 points, respectively.

Whether the contract squabbles had affected Olajuwon’s 1991-92 performance may never be known, but that year he failed to make an All-NBA Team or an NBA All-Defensive Team for the first time in his career. And he certainly experienced a resurgence in 1992-93. Coach Rudy Tomjanovich began his first full season with the Rockets, preaching defense and imploring the team to feed off of Olajuwon’s energy.

The eight-year veteran, who later in the season became a naturalized United States citizen on April 2, 1993, was simply spectacular throughout the year. He averaged 26.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.17 blocks, which established him as the league-leader in blocked shots for the third time in four seasons. More importantly, he led a Rockets team that had finished 42-40 the previous year to a 55-27 mark and the Midwest Division championship.

At season’s end, Olajuwon finished second to Charles Barkley in the voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player award. He was also named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the first time, while reclaiming spots on the All-NBA First Team and the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Akin to an athlete who shared his faith of Islam, Muhammad Ali, who devised the strategy of the rope-a-dope later in is career, Olajuwon introduced a new line of spins, fadeaway shots and jumpers, and he became virtually unstoppable on offense. The man called "Hakeem the Dream" had now developed a set of patented moves with either his back to the basket or facing opponents, and he abused defenders with numerous fakes, all of which became known as the "Dream Shake."

During the 1995 postseason run culminating in Houston's second NBA championship, the Rockets defeated the San Antonio Spurs and the Orlando Magic, two teams with great centers who were left bewildered by Olajuwon's moves.

In a Life magazine story, San Antonio's David Robinson seemed perplexed. "Solve Hakeem?" said Robinson. "You don't solve Hakeem."

Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal felt the same way after going down in a Finals sweep . "He's got about five moves, then four countermoves," said a stunned O'Neal. " That gives him 20 moves."

This new Olajuwon had evolved after the dispute with management prompted him to reflect and then rededicate himself. His maturation as a player and in his faith carried onto the floor as a team leader, offensive powerhouse and defensive stalwart.

The transformation was apparent when the Rockets advanced to the 1993 Western Conference Semifinals. However, the team lost a tough Game 7, 103-100 in overtime, against a Seattle SupeSonics team led by Gary Payton and a young, explosive Shawn Kemp.

But in 1993-94, Olajuwon attained the pinnacle of achievement when he won both the league and NBA Finals MVP awards while leading Houston to its first-ever NBA crown. Following a brilliant regular season, the Houston center also earned his second straight NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The Rockets won the title after a grueling seven-game defeat of the Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks. The center's defensive prowess put an end to the Knicks' attempt to win the series in Game 6, when he blocked John Starks' potential game-tying three-point shot at the end of the game. The 10-year veteran was simply brilliant in the Finals, contributing 29.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.86 blocks per game.

In 1994-95, Olajuwon had a career-best 27.8 ppg along with 10.8 rpg. Despite Olajuwon’s impressive performance, the league’s Most Valuable Player Award went to Robinson after he led the Spurs to the NBA’s best record. Olajuwon also became the Rockets’ all-time leading scorer when he passed Calvin Murphy early in the season. In February, Olajuwon was reunited with college teammate Drexler, who came over from the Portland Trail Blazers in a trade for forward Otis Thorpe.

While trying to adjust to Drexler’s presence, the Rockets closed out the season in bumpy fashion and entered the playoffs seeded sixth in the Western Conference. But Drexler was terrific in the playoffs and Olajuwon averaged 33.0 points on .531 shooting from the field, 10.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.81 blocks per game in the postseason as Houston captured its second consecutive title. Matched against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Olajuwon averaged 35.3 points to Robinson’s 25.5.

In the NBA Finals, Houston met the Magic and the league’s great young center, O’Neal. The two big men had similar numbers as Olajuwon averaged 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists to O’Neal’s 28.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists. But the Rockets swept the series, making Houston the fifth NBA franchise to win back-to-back titles. For his spectacular play, Olajuwon was awarded his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP award.

Olajuwon believes that his religious faith supported his drive to a great career. During an NBA season he observes Islam's Ramadan, which includes periods of fasting. He would awaken before dawn to eat precisely seven dates -- the traditional Muslim fast-breaking food -- and to drink a gallon of water. He would follow with a prayer for strength and have no food or liquid until sunset.

When he played an afternoon game, he would pant for water -- but did not drink a drop. Still, he would say, “I find myself full of energy, explosive. And when I break the fast at sunset, the taste of water is so precious.”

This transcendent dedication and performance earned him mention among the greatest winners in recent history, including Jordan, Bird, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.

After winning the championships, Olajuwon maintained his productive play over the next two seasons. However, the team was swept by the Sonics in the 1996 conference semifinals. And even with the addition of Barkley before the 1996-97 season, which reinvigorated the Rockets, the team lost in six games to the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals.

Beginning in the 1997-98 season, Olajuwon began to miss time due to injuries and played just 47 games that year. He returned to play close to a full schedule during the lockout season of 1998-99. However, his production was slipping and he played just two more years in Houston, averaging less than 12.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg. He retired after playing one season for the Toronto Raptors in 2001-02, interrupting 20 years, including his college career, of playing in the city of Houston.

His impact in the city, however, did not go unrecognized. The Rockets' all-time leader at the time of his retirement in a host of categories, including points, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots had his jersey No. 34 retired on Nov. 9, 2002. At the ceremony, it was announced that a life-sized statue of Olajuwon would be on display at the Rockets' new downtown arena, scheduled to open for the 2003-04 season.

Shaquille O'Neal

Position: C
Born: 03/06/72
Height: 7-1 / 2,16
Weight: 325 lbs. / 147,4 kg.
College: Louisiana State '93

Has appeared in 809 regular season games and has made 802 starts in his 12-year NBA career…has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.60 blocks, 0.69 steals and 37.7 minutes while shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 53.7 percent from the foul line…has missed a total of 132 games during his career due to injury, eight games to NBA imposed suspensions and three games due to personal reasons…his teams have compiled a 561-248 record (.693) in the 809 games in which he has played and an 82-61 record (.573) in the 143 games he has missed…has earned All-NBA honors in each of his 12 seasons, six times (1997-98, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04) he captured First Team honors, twice (1994-95 and 1998-99) he received Second Team honors and on three occasions (1993-94, 1995-96 and 1996-97) he garnered Third Team honors…has been All-NBA First Team each of the last five seasons…is an 11-time NBA All-Star…was named the 1999-00 NBA MVP…was named NBA Finals MVP three times (2000, 2001 and 2002)…is a two-time All-Star Game MVP (2004, co-MVP in 2000)…is a three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team member (1999-00, 2000-01 and 2002-03)…has captured NBA Player of the Month honors 11 times and Player of the Week accolades on 18 occasions…earned NBA Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Rookie honors in 1992-93…became the first player in NBA history to earn Player of the Week honors after the first week of his career after he averaged 25.8 points and 16.4 rebounds…was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, the youngest player to earn the honor…has scored in double figures in 799 of his 809 regular season career games (98.8 percent)…three times in his career he has gone over 140 consecutive games scoring in double figures…his longest stretch of consecutive games scoring in double figures is 245 and occurred from Feb. 28, 1995-Nov. 9, 1999…enters the 2004-05 season having scored in double figures in 39 straight games dating back to Jan. 30, 2004…only once in his career has he gone consecutive games without scoring in double figures (6 at Seattle on Jan. 2, 2004 and 7 vs. Seattle on Jan. 28, 2004)…has scored 20-or-more points in game on 687 occasions (84.9 percent of his games)…his longest stretch of consecutive games scoring at least 20 points is 37 and was accomplished from Mar. 2, 1998-Feb. 23, 1999…has scored at least 30 points in a game 292 times (36.1 percent of his games)…his longest stretch of consecutive 30-point games is 11 and occurred from Mar. 28, 2001-Apr. 17, 2001…has scored at least 40 points in a game 47 times…his longest streak of consecutive 40-point outings is two and occurred on three occasions…has also registered three games of at least 50 points and one 60-point game…has averaged over 21 points and shot at least 55 percent from the floor in each of his 12 NBA seasons…has grabbed double-figure rebounds on 595 occasions (73.5 percent of his games), including 33 games with 20-or-more rebounds…his longest streak of consecutive games grabbing double-figure rebounds is 18 and was accomplished twice (Nov. 27, 1993-Dec. 30, 1993 and Mar. 18, 2001-Oct. 30, 2001)…recorded double-figure blocked shots once…has recorded 591 double-doubles (73.1 percent of his games) and one triple-double…begins the 2004-05 season ranked among the NBA all-time leaders in points (20th-21,914), scoring average (4th-27.1 ppg), field goal percentage (3rd-.577), free throws attempted (9th-8,508) and blocked shots (9th-2,102)…among active players he ranks first in field goal percentage and scoring average, second in field goals made, free throws attempted and blocked shots, third in points and free throws made, fourth in defensive and total rebounds, and fifth in field goals attempted and offensive rebounds…enters the 2004-05 season needing 86 points for 22,000 in his career, 219 rebounds shy of 10,000 and 191 assists short of 2,500…has led the NBA in scoring average twice, in points scored three times, in field goal percentage on seven occasions, in field goals made five times, in field goals attempted twice, in free throws made once and free throws attempted on five occasions…is Orlando’s all-time leader in rebounds (3,691) and blocked shots (824)…has led his teams into postseason play in 11 of his 12 seasons, including five trips to the Finals and has captured three championships…the only year his team failed to qualify for the playoffs was his rookie year (1992-93)…has started each of the 158 postseason contests in which he has appeared and has averaged 27.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.37 blocks and 40.4 minutes while shooting 56.2 percent from the floor and 51.8 percent from the foul line…ranks among the all-time NBA postseason leaders in scoring average (4th-27.2), field goals made (4th-1,658), field goal percentage (6th-.562), field goals attempted (9th-2,951), free throws made (6th-978), free throws attempted (1st-1,889), rebounds (5th-2,040), blocks (3rd-374) and personal fouls (10th-552)…his 32.6 scoring average in NBA Finals contests ranks third all-time in league history and his 60.1 percent field goal accuracy ranks first all-time…has scored in double figures in 157 of his 158 (99.4 percent) postseason contests…the lone exception was a seven-point outing against Houston on Apr. 19, 2004, snapping his streak of 137 consecutive games of scoring in double-digits…has registered at least 20 points in a postseason game on 131 occasions (82.9 percent of his games)…has scored at least 30 points in a postseason contests in 54 of his 158 games (34.2 percent)…had a career-best streak of 27 consecutive postseason games with at least 20 points from May 10, 2002-Apr. 17, 2004…scored 30-or-more points in a postseason career-high seven consecutive games from May 31, 2002-Apr. 20, 2003…grabbed double-figure rebounds on 125 occasions, including 15 games with at least 20 rebounds…has recorded 125 postseason double-doubles…has started six of the eight NBA All-Star Games in which he participated and averaged 18.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.75 blocks, 1.13 steals, 1.0 assists and 24.8 minutes while shooting 52.6 percent from the floor and 48 percent from the foul line…three times he was selected to play in the All-Star Game and could not participate due to injury (1997, 2001 and 2002).

• His first and middle names, Shaquille Rashaun, mean "Little Warrior" in Islam
• Has released five rap albums, "Shaq Diesel," "Shaq Fu: Da Return," "You Can't Stop the Reign," "Respect" and a greatest hits album
• Starred in the movie "Kazaam," appeared in the movie "Blue Chips" and has a cameo appearance in the movie "He Got Game"
• Owns a record label and clothing line entitled "TWIsM"
• As Shaq-a-Claus, purchased toys to distribute at Christmas to disadvantaged Central Florida youths, and also served as Shaq-a-Bunny for Easter

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