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The NBA All Star bringing B-ball to B-town

Only the biggest sporting legends come with their own nickname. Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon is just that: one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1994, won Olympic gold in 1996 as part of the famous “Dream Team”, was 12 times an NBA All Star, and inducted in to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

The New Generation of Basketball Players

When the 7-foot superstar came to celebrate Birmingham 2022’s announcement that 3×3 basketball will be played in the heart of the city centre during the Games, the excitement was palpable. We were in the presence of greatness.

Now a Birmingham resident, Hakeem Olajuwon is using his legacy to inspire a new generation of young players.  After moving here five years ago when his daughter came to study at the University of Birmingham, he started working with the City of Birmingham Rockets Basketball Club as Executive Director, and now runs an annual international basketball camp in the city.

The inclusion of 3×3 basketball in the Commonwealth Games for the first time in Birmingham is fitting for a city that’s succeeded in getting more young people playing the sport.

3x3 basketball is making Smithfield

Speaking at the announcement of Smithfield as the venue for the basketball competition in 2022, Olajuwon says bringing the 3×3 format to Birmingham city centre will inspire his young players to strive for greatness:

“3×3 will mean more kids will get involved playing. Basketball is a sport where once you get started, you can’t stop. 3×3 is the kind of game that everybody loves; it’s very dynamic, and I think that will raise awareness of basketball here. The club [City of Birmingham Rockets] is planning to build from there.”

“I’m trying to raise more awareness for the club, and what they’re adding to the city, bringing kids from the inner city, and promoting this sport in the UK. I’ve seen the city’s transformation in just five years, so [Birmingham 2022] is something that will bring future pride.”

Even more support for the action

Team England star Kofi Josephs, from Aston, agrees that bringing basketball to the city centre, with a bespoke venue overlooking the famous skyline, is a unique opportunity to grow the grassroots of the sport in this country:

“To think that the Commonwealth Games, which is huge for so many reasons, is going to be here in Birmingham, is amazing. We want to get the grassroots inspired, because they are our future. If we can get them early, that’s how they go on to do great things when they’re older.”

Stewart Kellett, Chief Executive of Basketball England, is relishing the chance Birmingham 2022 brings to grow interest and participation in the sport in this country:

“I couldn’t be more excited. We’re going to be the eye of the Games at the Smithfield site, with a whole new format that the British public haven’t seen before, and I think the city of Birmingham will be proud.”

To find out more about how the site of Birmingham’s former Wholesale Markets will be transformed into the venue for 3×3 basketball and beach volleyball for the Games, click here.

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