"The basketball coaches would sit and watch me play handball, which impressed me: no one had ever paid that kind of attention to me before. And after the game they would talk to me. They always tried to get me to play for them, but I was getting a reputation as the star of team handball and it was fun, so I wasn’t interested in changing. They would see me walking by and say, “This is your sport, this sport was made for you!” Every time the head coach saw me, at the Stadium or on campus, that’s what he would say. I would laugh and go away.
This time I went to him. I had to find a sport to play. The head coach’s name was Ganiyu Otenigbade, and when he saw me coming he laughed at me. It was a friendly laugh. He welcomed me. “I told you all along this was your sport!” I said,” I want to play.”
He looked at me. I was 6’8’’. He said he had room for me on the team. “Don’t come here thinking you’re just going to this tournament. This is permanent.” I didn’t know about that, but at least now I had a game to play, this was wonderful.
The basketball team was at one end of the court and first thing Coach Ganiyu did was take me down to the other end and teach me how to shoot a lay-up. He showed me the steps: one, two, and go. It looked easy when he did it, but I couldn’t get my feet together, I was more worried about scoring. He said,” Don’t worry about that, just get the form, the technique.”" - Hakeem Olajuwon in Living the Dream
Hakeem Olajuwon was always one of my favorite players when I was growing up. I remember I had a Rockets jersey and even did a presentation on him in 5th grade.
This is a cool story to me because he might never had played basketball if it hadn't been for the national team coaches watching him play handball, which was his preferred sport at the time. It did help that he was 6' 8'' and had great coordination for someone that tall and that young. It makes me wander what would have happened if he had never followed the advice of the basketball coaches. We would never had seen Hakeem "The Dream" play and win 2 NBA Championships.
Did you have an instance in your life when someone saw potential in you and you followed their lead? What were the results?