10.25.2010

Dream Week: Fast Is a Feast



FD's Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball Historywill be officially released on October 26, but the celebration is beginning early. Inspired, and curated, by Brian Phillips of Run of Play, DREAM WEEK features some of your fastest and most favorite writers trying to crack the mystery of Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets.

Starting with the 1990-91 season, when he became more observant and changed his name, Hakeem strictly observed Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, which required him to forgo food and drink from sunrise to sunset. One of the enduring myths of his career is that his game actually improved during this time despite the fact that he played through hunger and often without drinking fluids. In 1997, for instance, he scored 32 points in a win over the Bulls in a game in which he didn't hydrate. In February 1995, he averaged 29 points per game and was named NBA Player of the Month, even though the entire month fell within Ramadan.

Hakeem himself thought he was better during Ramadan and has said in interviews that his statistics went up when he was fasting:
But it's true. When I was playing, we were travelling and all my team-mates were drinking water. To me, it didn't matter. It made me stronger and my statistics went up; I was better during Ramadan, more focussed… lighter.

At the beginning of my career, when my team-mates heard I was fasting during the season they thought it would affect my game and were concerned. But when they saw that it actually made me better there was a lot of admiration and intrigue: 'How can you play at this level without drinking water, when you must need water and must be thirsty' they would ask.
But did fasting actually boost his stats? Intrepid FD reader Eric Marsh ran the numbers, and the math says not really.











Except toward the very end of his career, when the fasting graphs tick up noticeably, Hakeem's Ramadan stats barely waver from his career averages. Which means that, by the numbers anyway, not eating or drinking didn't make him a better player. But it didn't make him a worse player, either, which is frankly impressive enough.

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5 Comments:

At 10/25/2010 11:38 AM, Blogger Marc said...

I don't understand this. If he could drink after sunset, then he could drink during most all NBA games, which are played at night. Also, if Ramadan is in February, he would have a time before the game to eat and drink as well.

 
At 10/25/2010 12:33 PM, Blogger W2 said...

I am curious about his won/loss percentage during these times and if this accounted for his feelings of improvement during fasting.

 
At 10/25/2010 12:38 PM, Blogger Dwight said...

True hydration occurs before the game. Think of your body as car that requires fuel 3x day. He basically performed better with less than the standard fuel

 
At 10/25/2010 1:07 PM, Blogger Eric said...

@W2 - You made me curious, too, so:

Hakeem's W-L during Ramadan:

74 wins, 50 losses

With the Rockets:

63 wins, 33 losses

 
At 10/25/2010 1:54 PM, Blogger Omar said...

I think you may need to correct for the precise timing of Ramadan which may serve to skew your stats. You should check when Ramandan fell each year, because as I remember, during the time that Hakeem was playing and fasting, Ramadan largely fell in the later half of the basket ball season. This means that defenses were better and legs were generally less fresh. A better comparison would be, say, his stats post all star break across years, or his stats in the month before, month of, and month after Ramadan each year. Comparing one month to the whole season may be misleading.

 

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