Shareef Abdur-Rahim hopes to offer ‘Dream’ like Hakeem
The former All-Star and new G League boss wants to inspire young Muslims
LAS VEGAS – Growing up watching Hakeem Olajuwon star in the NBA, Shareef Abdur-Rahim believed he too could lace up his sneakers and become an NBA player one day. Abdur-Rahim, of course, went on to have a productive 12-year career, averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. And now he hopes he can inspire young Muslims to believe they too can work in a pro sports league.
Abdur-Rahim will officially become president of the G League on Jan. 11 when he replaces Malcolm Turner, who is the new athletic director at Vanderbilt University. The former All-Star forward will run the G League’s business and basketball operations, including leaguewide expansion and testing of experimental rules.
“As a young kid, seeing Hakeem, who I identified with being a Muslim and seeing him play and fast, that was inspiring to me,” Abdur-Rahim told The Undefeated during the G League Showcase at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. “If there is a young Muslim who enjoys sports, thinks of being an executive in sports and entertainment, then absolutely I hope they are inspired. Now with that is hard work and sacrifices. I embrace that. It’s a blessing. It’s a good thing.
“The fact that I fast doesn’t prevent me from doing that. It’s the same deal. Just take the high-tops off, lace up some different shoes and go to work.”
Abdur-Rahim, who is currently NBA vice president of basketball operations, received news of his big promotion on his 42nd birthday on Dec. 11. He was the most popular person at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center as people continually congratulated him.
“It’s been really cool,” he said. “My peers, guys that are my contemporaries that I stay in touch with and lost touch with, teammates that were a little older than me that I looked up to, reached out. All those were really special.”
Abdur-Rahim was the third overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. He also won a gold medal for USA Basketball during the 2000 Sydney Games. He brings more than just playing experience to his new job, however. Abdur-Rahim spent five seasons as assistant general manager with the Sacramento Kings and was general manager of the Kings’ G League team in Reno, Nevada, during the 2013-14 season.
The former California-Berkeley star completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2012 while working in the Kings’ front office and also earned a degree from the USC Marshall School of Business in 2016.
“I went to business school to have the opportunity, be qualified and have different experiences, “Abdur-Rahim said. Some of it was seeing where the industry was going.
“When I explained this opportunity to my wife, she said to me, ‘That is pretty much what you have been working towards since you’ve retired,’ And that is true.”
Abdur-Rahim is also the latest African-American former NBA player who has earned an executive role in the league or with a team in recent years.
The Philadelphia 76ers named two-time All-Star Elton Brand their general manager this year. Three-time NBA champion James Jones was named interim general manager of the Phoenix Suns this year. Others include: Sacramento Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams, New York Knicks assistant general manager Gerald Madkins, Denver Nuggets assistant general manager Calvin Booth, Detroit Pistons assistant general manager Malik Rose, Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Trajan Langdon and Atlanta Hawks vice president of basketball operations Rod Higgins.
“Some folks will say there was a rush of analytic folks,” Abdur-Rahim said. “You see now folks are directing back towards people with playing experience. I think the guys mentioned are qualified people. I couldn’t have an opportunity like this without being qualified and working my way in the G League running, interning at the league office, going back to school and being in the position I have been in the last three years. That lends itself to experience and being qualified. …
“And then you get in, do a good job and open doors for other folks.”
The G League currently has 27 teams affiliated with its 30 NBA clubs. Its annual G League Showcase, in which every team plays two games on two closed courts, began Wednesday and ends Saturday. Abdur-Rahim hopes that every NBA team will have its own affiliate by 2022. He also expects the G League to continue to be an open-minded experimental league under his leadership.
“I’ve seen the evolution of the league and the great work that Malcolm and has group has done,” Abdur-Rahim said. “To see where we are sitting now. … Going towards 30 teams, the professional path, the rebranding, it’s such a great situation with so many opportunities. You’re positioned really with a great team around it. There is so much opportunity to help craft with folks, craft a vision, craft ideas, move forward.
“It’s a great balance personally to share my experiences on the court and as basketball player, developing life in the NBA and life past playing, with young guys I identify with. And, connecting the business with it. It’s a lot of different levels. It makes a lot of sense.”