Hakeem Olajuwon is known for being the most versatile NBA player ever, at 7’0 tall and having the footwork of a guard, in the paint, he shows off this feat by using his iconic move known as the “Dream Shake”, he learned while playing soccer at a younger age. Hakeem has had the most storied career, building the legacy of being the greatest African born NBA player ever. The biggest achievement of his time with the Houston Rockets is his legendary run to the championship to defeat the New York Knicks in 7 games in the 1993-1994 season.
Before the 1993 season was set to start, Michael Jordan shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the game of basketball to achieve his lifelong dream to play professional baseball, what his father wanted before he passed. This sudden change opened up many opportunities for many teams now knowing that the Chicago Bulls has lost the main piece to their championship hopes.
One person who took advantage of this sudden change is Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem started off the season, leading the Houston Rockets to a 15 game winning streak, the record for best start to a season at the time. During that run, he averaged 21.9 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks per game, beating many opponents like the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks on the road. Hakeem recollects about the winning streak and used the crushing Game 7 defeat against the Seattle Supersonics as motivation. He was quoted saying…
Coming back from Seattle, you could see the disappointment of all the players and coaches. The plane was so quiet coming back. I think it carried over the summer. Coming back in the preseason and the training camp, there was a bitter taste. You could see that determination from all the players for that season. We didn’t know we would win 15-0 [games], but from the disappointment in that previous year, what we had yet to accomplish the previous year, we knew we would have to go farther. We felt that in training camp. I know in the summer when I was training I felt very focused, knowing we lost a game we felt we should have won to go all the way
After the game against the Knicks, they encountered a fiasco, arriving at Atlanta at 3 in the morning and forcing to take taxi rides to the hotels because the bus driver left early. They lost 133-111 and moved on to another 7 game win streak, extending their run to 21-1 for the season. Hakeem was selected to the All-Star game averaging 26.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game. The Western Conference lost the game 127-118 but Hakeem was the best player for the squad, dropping 19 points, 11 rebound and 5 blocks, with Scottie Pippen winning the All-Star game MVP award in front of a Minneapolis crowd of 17,000 attendees.
The Rockets finished with a record of 58-24, good for 2nd in the West behind the Seattle Supersonics. Hakeem Olajuwon was awarded the MVP award and the Defensive Player Of The Year, joining only Michael Jordan to achieve both feats in a single season. He led the league in blocks while averaging 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks, one of the most dominant seasons ever by a big man.
In the first round, they faced off against the 7th seed Portland Trail Blazers squad led by Hakeem’s former college teammate and the “Phi Slamma Jamma” legend, Clyde Drexler. The Rockets took them out in 4 games with the efforts of Olajuwon, he put up 34 points and 11 rebounds along with 3 blocks per game. The Dream had 6 blocks and 46 points in a dominating Game 2 win, showing off his defensive prowess and the elite post work he possessed in the regular season. He led every major statistical category for the Rockets besides assists.
Their next task was to face off against Sir Charles Barkley and The Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. At the Summit, the Rockets stadium at the time, Houston dropped the first 2 games, blowing pivotal leads to trail the series 0-2 going back to Arizona, despite Hakeem having two 31+ point, 16+ rebound games. This dates back to the “Choke City” headlines, referring to the city’s nickname “Clutch City”. Houston clawed their way back from the desert, going back home, tying the series 2 apiece. Rockets impressed the home crowd by winning a convincing 109-86 blowout, even leading by 21 at halftime. Phoenix won the next game at their home but couldn’t handle Hakeem’s 37 point, 17 rebound, and 3 block effort, with Houston, winning the series 4-3, moving on to face off the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz, who was the 3rd seed, was led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, previously defeated the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets in convincing fashion, but were no match for the Rockets hot hand, prevailing in 5 games. The Dream dominated this series defensively, averaging 4.6 blocks per game, logging 7 blocks in the series-clinching Game 5. Karl Malone, 2nd in all-time points leaderboard, was held to 26.0 points per game, while John Stockton, 1st in all-time assists, was held to under 10 assists per game. Now it was time for Hakeem’s biggest test, The New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.
The New York Knicks, coached by legendary Head Coach, Pat Riley, led by the tandem of John Starks and Patrick Ewing, are the favorites to win it all. Both teams dropped one game each, tying the series 1-1 in Houston. The Dream, against Patrick Ewing, two 25+ pieces and 7+ rebound games, 3.5 blocks in both games. The series headed back to the Garden yet again had the same pattern, the series was tied 2-2. The Knicks emerging star of the series, John Starks, showed his sharpshooting skills, averaging a whopping .385 percent from 3 point land, impressive at the time, considering that the 3 point line wasn’t really utilized at the time. Riding his hot hand, the Knicks won Game 5, 91-84, taking a 3-2 lead, heading back to Houston. The Rockets were determined to even the series and lead 86-84 in the 4th quarter of Game 6. John Starks was hot that game, having 5 three-pointers made in 8 attempts. Pat Riley made up a game plan to let Starks take the shot, the Rockets knew it and had Vernon Maxwell pressure him. But a defender hit him with a screen, letting Starks get the open look off the dribble, then Hakeem ran up for the rescue and tipped the potential game-winning shot, forcing a decisive Game 7 in Houston. The Rockets took the game and series with John Starks shooting 0-11 from three while Hakeem, won Finals MVP, achieving the impossible feat of winning MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP in one season. That was Houston’s first major championship in many years and the Dream made it happen for the city.
Hakeem Olajuwon is now in the Naismith Hall Of Fame, having his jersey retired by the franchise and having his statue in front of the Toyota Center. He is now renowned as the greatest Houston Rocket ever, bringing in 2 championships, with the first one being his most memorable and remarkable in his 18 seasons in the NBA.