Hakeem Olajuwon on Giannis

Days before Global Games London 2015, NBA Global sat down with Hall of Fame center -- and pioneer of the NBA's international expansion -- Hakeem Olajuwon to talk about the buzz of London: the "Greek Freak", Giannis Antetokounmpo.


NBA: Giannis has faced quite a bit of hardship in his life. Are you familiar with his story? How much can going through struggles like that make a person a better player and a better man?


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: I think when going through struggles, it teaches you a life lesson and you have a better appreciation of what it means to be able to go beyond your wildest dream.

I think the sense of value that you have will be much more than if, say, I just give it to you or if you accomplish something too easily.

I think that the life lesson, the thought, the experience and adjustment to the new life -- all this is part of the development to build character.

When you look at it all, the background and the experience, what will go on in the future, if you have a strong enough base and background you are able to handle any success that comes in the future.


NBA: Have you gotten a chance to meet Giannis?


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: I've only seen the highlights from the Draft night, but I remember one move, and that one move was so impressive that I will follow his career in the NBA.

The highlight was coast to coast. He was bringing the ball down from half court through traffic.

To be able to go through traffic gracefully and finish was very impressive – I know what it takes to do that.


NBA: What are your impressions of him?


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: I'm not really surprised to see him do well in the NBA – he will do much better with time and confidence.

Confidence means a lot. Skills, as with maturity, will come, but that confidence level to express himself without fear -- to experiment new moves or things that you are comfortable to do, but in game situation and hold back -- that confidence level takes time. First of all it's from coaching or from within.

Sometimes the coach will want to limit your ability: "just do this, just do this." But you know you can do much more, but don't do much more, just do what you're asked – so you need to fight to express yourself.

Then (you) gain the coaches' trust to be more comfortable, give more responsibility – then you have freedom, when you get to the point of (having) freedom, then the coach (will) trust your judgment, then you can play freely, then you can really excel to the next level.


NBA: What do you think his ceiling is, as a player?


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: He has the potential – the question is how to reach that potential.

That's exactly my point, meaning the skills are there, the talent is already there.

But the confidence is still mediocre, meaning "I'm already in the NBA and there are great players, but I want to dominate."

He has the potential to dominate in his position – so he needs to raise the bar.


NBA: What are the steps a player has to take to go from good to great? Can that be a perilous process, coming in with such fanfare?


HAKEEM OLAJUWON: He has what it takes, from what I see.

Now is the attitude and confidence and the belief to not be satisfied being average. Meaning scoring 10 points, 20 points, feeling he is able to average that.

And on defense to be a guy that size to block more shots, rebound – he's a complete player. Fantastic.

From what I see, I think he will have a wonderful, successful career, that his name will be remembered to have made a huge contribution to the league because he has a special talent – it's unusual to see someone of that size and with that skill.

So he can have a huge impact, IF he has the attitude to want to be a great player.