Unearth of the Cool Comment Count

Ace April 20th, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Accessorized logo pose. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In the bridge of the ubiquitous hit Hey Ya!, Andre 3000 asks the audience a question: What's cooler than being cool?

The answer, evidently, is "ice cold." That's presumably because Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was just nine years old when The Love Below came out.

mandatory soundtrack

I've spent two weeks trying to come up with a better, deeper premise than "cool guy is cool" but sometimes a thing is so obvious it must be acknowledged. Before he ever stepped on the court at Michigan, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was cool. He was a local high school basketball legend with no high-major offers until John Beilein came along at the eleventh hour. Being the overlooked two-star suited him well. Oh, you haven't heard of MAAR? Caught 'm at Allentown. Remember the name. You'll hear it again.

There's the name itself. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, aka Rahk, aka Ham (pronounced haam), the man containing four names, two hyphens, and the GOAT. In retrospect, our site's decision to mostly go with the MAAR acronym is unsatisfying. Rahk deserved better than Mawr.

Then there's the intro. When his name came over the speakers, Abdur-Rahkman would dap up his teammates, reach the designated leader of the bench mob, and bow. Understated? Sure. Undeniably cool? Indeed.

Young Rahk with Dak. [Paul Sherman]

There are the accessories. Oh, the accessories. While we didn't really notice until the pink shoes, Abdur-Rahkman has always accessorized. From the beginning, he wore leggings that came down well past his shorts, usually with just enough space above the sock to flash a little calf, like Philly legend Kobe Bryant. He layered a matching T-shirt under his jersey. Later, he'd add an elbow sleeve, but just the one, like Philly legend Allen Iverson. For a brief, glorious couple games, he also rocked rec specs, like Cupertino legend Kurt Rambis.


But it was really about the pink shoes. While they were worn initially for charity, then out of necessity when his usual kicks were in the belly of a crashed plane, they just worked for him. Rahk donned the distinctly loud pair all through the 2017 postseason run, and after an underwhelming start to his senior year, he dug them out of a trash bag to play out his final season in style. Maybe another player could've pulled it off because of superstition. A few other Wolverines occasionally busted out the pink Nikes. Nobody else on the team, however, could make them look downright good with Maize and Blue.

Shirt. Sleeve. Leggings. Shoes. Buckets. [Sherman]

Beyond all of the above, though, was the game itself. Like Miles Davis stretching the bounds of improvisation, Abdur-Rahkman created angles to the basket out of thin air, then contorted himself to find the right finishing touch. That could be adding a little english to a low bank, rising up for a dunk, or, say, putting up a teardrop from heaven over Mo Bamba.

Shot was so cool it froze the net, apparently.

While those herky-jerky drive-and-finishes were always a staple of Rahk's game, he had to work on the rest. With assistance from Beilein and Co., he turned a funky-looking jumper (29% on threes as a freshman) into a jumper that brought the funk (37% for the rest of his career). His defense over the last half of his career, especially his season as captain of Beilein's best-ever defensive team, belied his often lackadaisical efforts on that end of the floor to begin his Michigan tenure. Where he once engendered uncertainty, he inspired confidence:

The coolest child.

When I asked our photographers for their favorite player subject of the Beilein era, Abdur-Rahkman's name came up most often. A tour through the archives makes it easy to see why:

[Clockwise from top L: Patrick Barron, Bryan Fuller, Campredon, Campredon.]

The defining moment of an accomplished Michigan career would come on January 15th, 2018, in a home game against Maryland. Abdur-Rahkman stepped to the free-throw line for his first attempts of the night. It had not been a memorable game for him, at least not in any good way; he'd gone 2-for-9 from the field and the favored Wolverines found themselves 1.2 seconds away from an upset. Not many players would relish going to the stripe in such a high-pressure situation, especially on the heels of such a bad performance.

Rahk needed to hit both free throws to win the game. His face looked like this:

He hit both free throws. Michigan won the game. They'd lose three more all season before the national title game. That's when, rather appropriately, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored a quiet 23 points before exiting atop the school record book in all-time games played.

Rahk may not have his jersey lifted into the rafters or be the subject of a 30 for 30 or even have an NBA career. But for one night—and really, probably, for four years—he was the baddest, most cold-blooded dude in Ann Arbor, and that's pretty damn good, too.




April 20th, 2018 at 5:22 PM ^

some great players and leaders last year and came back even better.  I think this program is mostly in reload mode at this point.  So while departing players will be missed, and it's been really fun to watch their careers, it's reassuring that we can look forward to who is up next.


April 20th, 2018 at 1:41 PM ^

to a quiet, dignified, fearless player. He brought some junkyard dog onto the team when we didn't have any-- I still remember his first game at Breslin when he went off and almost led them to an upset. Izzo said something along the lines of "we didn't really know anything about that guy."  Well, in fairness, his whole career was something of a surprise, even to M fans. 

Wolverine In Iowa 68

April 20th, 2018 at 1:41 PM ^

Rahk has been amazing, from a leadership standpoint, to a silent assassin standpoint. 


While he may not have an NBA career, he certainly deserves one.  I fully hope a team picks him up and gives him a shot.  He's paid his dues and proven his worth.


April 20th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

I've enjoyed watching MAAR a lot over the years. From 2* recruit to a great player but better person. Good luck to him on his future endeavors.


April 20th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

I hadn't busted out Bitches Brew for years until about a month ago in the midst of the tourney run/win streak Rahk led.  As smooth as Rahk's game.  Underrated. Underappreciated.  Either way he turned himself into one of the best UM players ever.

Colo Blue

April 20th, 2018 at 2:16 PM ^

MAAR has been a different guy - just watching from the stands or on TV - from the get-go. We need a little used sports writing title to describe him.

I'm going with Dignified Winner. Analogs would be people like Lou Gehrig, Jim Brown, Wayne Gretzky. He has plenty of b-ball left in him. Hope he gets to use it. And thanks to him for using bunch of it in A2


April 20th, 2018 at 2:20 PM ^

the full weight of his legacy probably wont even be properly felt until a few years down the road. or game 1 next year. one of those two.


April 20th, 2018 at 2:51 PM ^

Always thought the "WE WILL" T-shirts would lead to a 2nd year of "WE WILL" and then finish with "RAHK YOU" but player likeness and whatnot ruined a good thing. 

Thanks for leading Michigan to it's most wins in a season in school history MAAR. Such a pleasure as a fan to watch you and the team grow over the past four years. 


April 20th, 2018 at 3:02 PM ^

What I loved about MAAR is that he never needed to be the alpha until he had to. He'd let everyone try to get theirs first, but if Walton and Moe were both struggling or if Charles and Moe were both cold then MAAR knew it was his time and he'd just will buckets every time down the floor. 


April 20th, 2018 at 3:23 PM ^

who was a last minute commit. Turns out that it's an important commit because he played all 4 years and was an important part of the team in the last two seasons. He was rushed into action due to LeVert's injury where he wasn't ready to play right away but we saw glimpse of his potential as a very good player.

He improved his shooting, ball handling and passing to the point where he's pretty much an indispensible player this past season. He has turned his weaknesses into an assets which is a testament to his work ethics and coachability.

We will miss him a lot next season with his steady and calm presence.

The Man Down T…

April 20th, 2018 at 3:40 PM ^

"But for one night—and really, probably, for four years—he was the baddest, most cold-blooded dude in Ann Arbor"

Yeah he was.  For at least 3 years most definitely.  Once he made that leap everyone hopes for, he was a monster. It became his team and he was an exceptional leader.  Beilein is the best at finding the diamonds in the rough and MAAR was the queen's diamond of them all.




April 20th, 2018 at 4:05 PM ^

I wonder if the players of these features read these pieces. If so, I'm sure they appreciate the praise from us fans and writers.

So proud Rahk was a guy on the team I cheer for. What a great dude. 

Thank you for the 4 years of super fun and successful basketball! 


April 20th, 2018 at 4:17 PM ^

Without him driving to the rack (rahk?!), we would have been a diminished team.  Hugely changed the way teams had to defend us.  Oh yeah - he could hit clutch free throws and lock down on D too.  A tip of the hat to you, sir


April 20th, 2018 at 4:38 PM ^

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored a quiet 23 points before exiting tied atop the school record book in all-time games played.

Not tied - he's got the record to himself. He played in 144 in his career. Zak Irvin had been the previous record-holder (142).

Larry Sellers

April 20th, 2018 at 5:13 PM ^

I remember his first game against State at Breslin. We were so decimated with injuries at the time that I didn't have that high of expectations. But he went right at State from the start and was on fire, causing a lot of problems for them. Unfortunately, he picked up the dreaded second first half foul and everything pretty much went south from there. 

But nevertheless, it was a great performance for him to come in and do that at State in his first year. Sucked that we lost the game at the time, but it justly boded well for his and the team's future. 

Thanks, Rahk

Walter Sobchak

April 20th, 2018 at 6:06 PM ^

Loved Rahk from the moment he almost won us the MSU game on the road his freshman year.

I'm greatly anticipating the Duncan tribute. One of my all time favorite Wolverines.


April 20th, 2018 at 7:04 PM ^

...to one of the most memorable and beloved Wolverine basketball players of all time. Whatever he chooses to do moving forward in life, he’ll do it well. With a lot of cool.