HoopsHype.com Interviews

Hakeem Olajuwon: "You have to run your own race"
by Dean Serravalle / April 28, 2002

How do you see your playoff role on the Toronto Raptors?

Hakeem Olajuwon: I think it depends on the game. You have to maximize and take advantage of what opportunities are presented to you. Antonio Davis was having an exceptional game, so you have to feed the hot hand to win the game. My role on the team is to stabilize the confidence level on defense as well as offense.

How do you like Toronto as a basketball city?

HO: It's beautiful. I'm glad I came here. The fans are very supportive, and the city is beautiful, multicultural. I really like it a lot. I feel welcomed.

What are some of the high points and low points of your first season as a Toronto Raptor?

HO: There are no low points, really. To me, I am just experimenting. I mean, I've accomplished everything in basketball that I've wanted to accomplish. At this stage in my career, I want to contribute to other people's goals and ambitions.

Having accomplished just about everything possible, including two championships, MVP, NBA's 50 greatest players, how do you motivate yourself?

HO: Every game is different. Right here, there are guys that haven't been there before. Seeing them get there, that is my commitment, because I know how badly everybody wants to win a championship. I want to do my part in any way that is needed.

With the NBA getting younger and younger, with many foregoing their college eligibility, how do you see yourself and others like John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing and even Michael Jordan, in comparison to these up and coming stars?

HO: That's how the league is. There are always guys going out and new guys coming in. The most important thing is what is my accomplishment in the league. If you have a consistent career you don't compare yourself to the new guys coming in. You have to run your own race.

You are the consummate professional. Do you feel that some of the league's newest stars, with their brash attitudes, tattoos, and, in some cases, off the court troubles, taint the professionalism players like yourself have established for the league?

HO: Well, I think it depends on the peer pressure. What's cool is often accepted. From my side, though, with regards to tattoos and attitude, that's not acceptable. But you can't tell people what to do, so I accept them for what they are and not what they look like. (Laugh)

How do you see the next couple of years on this Toronto Raptors team? Are expectations high for a championship?

HO: Well, when I was in Houston, the last championship that we won was not expected. You always have to believe that anything is possible, like this series. We've won one tonight, and we are going to put the pressure on Detroit in game 4 so that in Game 5, anything can happen.

You were a center that revolutionized the position, most especially with your graceful footwork. Do you see another canter in the league that resembles yourself?

HO: I think the game has changed so much. I see a number of big men playing inside and outside. When I first started, that wasn't encouraged, but now it seems to be a common thing, which has made the game more diverse and challenging for big men. Big men have nicer moves off the dribble and they feel comfortable beyond the three- point arc. It makes for interesting matchups.

Historically, your game has included top rankings in steals, assists and turnover ratio. If you had the opportunity to relive your basketball career, at what position on the court would you relive it? Would you relive it as a guard, possibly?

HO: I like my position. (Laugh) You expand your game by using skills that are conducive to inside play and outside play. All of us big men want to play guard, and all of the little men want to post up. (Laugh) So, it's always the opposite. You only hope it comes together for a win.

Dean Serravalle is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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