Hakeem Olajuwon Rumors

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Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon
Position: -
Born: 01/21/63
Height: 7-0 / 2.13
Weight:255 lbs. / 115.7 kg.
Earnings: $102,998,594 ($163,056,371*)
You spent one summer at UCLA before your SAT score was invalidated and Baron Davis mentioned that you were dominating the UCLA pick-up games against Magic Johnson, Penny Hardaway and Hakeem Olajuwon. In the film, writers also talk about how you outplayed Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett in high school. These are NBA legends! What do you remember about those pick-up games? Schea Cotton: I was having fun! (laughs) It didn’t really matter who was in front of me, I had a killer mentality. These same legends that you talked about? I mean, I came out with guys like Kobe Bryant – rest in peace. Kobe couldn’t do nothing with me either when we played! I was a problem because I had a chip on my shoulder… I played against Kevin Garnett, and Kevin has talked about my legacy and my career and what it was like playing against me. These are guys that I came up with and made my name against. These guys were the best in their area and we all came up together. It was a magnificent experience. I don’t know if they’ll ever see basketball like that again, because we’re living in a different time.
NBA Central: “Look at all his statistics. You’re talking about a player at the level of Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain.” -Hakeem Olajuwon on James Harden (Via SportsTalk790.com) pic.twitter.com/JSSDlq2Gan

Scott Brooks joined the Wizards Talk podcast this week and said he thinks the 1994 Rockets still would have won the title. “[The Bulls] had no answer for [Olajuwon]. It’s easy for me to say this now because it’s all hypothetical, but I don’t think they would have beat us in ’94,” Brooks said. “Now, the next year it could have been a different story. But that ’94 team, ‘Dream’ was, it was like destiny. He was locked in. I’ve never seen a guy up close every fourth quarter, I don’t even think he missed a shot, let alone make a mistake. He had both ends just covered.”
According to research in which we looked at every team’s path to their eventual championship wins (we only examined champions who had to win four playoff series during their postseason runs), Hakeem Olajuwon’s 1994-95 Houston Rockets had the toughest road ever to winning a title. The worst team they beat had a 57-25 record, and that was their Finals opponent, the Orlando Magic, who boasted a lineup featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardway, amongst many valuable role players.
Justin Kubatko: Dennis Rodman recorded 158 games with at least 20 rebounds in his career, the most such games since the ABA-NBA merger. Rodman’s career total is four more than the combined totals of Hall of Famers Charles Barkley (54), Dikembe Mutombo (52), and Hakeem Olajuwon (48).
In two days’ time, the two 7-footers were set to pull off what Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson could not. They were going to be the leading men in a pay-per-view blockbuster extravaganza featuring multiple NBA stars playing each other in games of one-on-one. Shaq would later go on to win four NBA titles and three MVPs, but looking back now, Shaq felt he had something to prove. “He kind of edged me out in the Finals, but it wasn’t a really fair edge out because when I got the ball, they doubled me and we didn’t double him,” Shaq says. “I wanted to show people that I’m unstoppable. Nobody can guard me on one-on-one.”
It turned out the 1995 NBA Finals wasn’t just a battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It was a launchpad for a marketing tour de force. And on that Thursday afternoon in the fall, it was all coming together. Armato launched a successful TV campaign hyping the two players, signed the other participants, booked the venue and promoted the heck out of the $19.95 PPV. “It was moving toward a great success,” Armato says now over the phone. “until it got derailed.”
The evening before the event, Armato got a call. It was from Olajuwon’s teammate Clyde Drexler. It wasn’t good news. “I want to talk to you about something,” Drexler said, according to Armato. “Hakeem. He’s not feeling well. His back.” Apparently, Olajuwon had hurt his back working out earlier that week. He’d hoped it would feel better by the weekend, but it wasn’t improving. After having Olajuwon examined by a physician, Armato decided to cancel late Friday night, the day before the showdown. There would be no “War on the Floor” or undercard matchups.
Back in 1995, Trump, of course, didn’t pass up an opportunity to turn up the controversy. “There’s a rumor out there that the NBA had something to do with it,” Trump told the Associated Press. “But it’s just a rumor.” Twenty-five years later, Armato laughs at the suggestion. “That did not happen,” Armato says. “That 100 percent did not happen. I know that for a fact.” Refunds were issued. Money was lost. But Armato nearly pulled it off, and not because of his relationship with NBA commissioner David Stern. It was because Armato had something his predecessors did not — a loophole created by opportunity.
It was a scorching hot Thursday afternoon on Broadway in New York City back in September 1995, just three months after the Houston Rockets bested the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. The teams’ two superstars, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal, were sitting atop a dais at a makeshift stage for a press conference at the partially-constructed All-Star Cafe. In two days’ time, the two 7-footers were set to pull off what Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson could not. They were going to be the leading men in a pay-per-view blockbuster extravaganza featuring multiple NBA stars playing each other in games of one-on-one.
At that point, Shaq was known as a rim-wrecker, not a skilled iso player. But he was eager to remind people he was a guard in his early high school days. “My NBA game was nothing like my one-on-one game,” Shaq says. “My one-on-one game was similar to Grant Hill. I could handle it, put it between the legs, do a lot of tricks and all that stuff. (Olajuwon) wouldn’t have been expecting that. He wouldn’t have been ready for that. I wanted to be able to showcase a different game.”
This was big money. Shaq and Hakeem would duke it out for a $1 million purse, furnished by Taco Bell. The two giants were at the top of the NBA at the time, but the heavyweight bout, titled “War on the Floor,” needed a slick promoter and a grand venue. It got one. Next to O’Neal and Olajuwon on the dais was the event’s host and promoter: Donald J. Trump. On Saturday, the Shaq-Hakeem basketball bout would be set for Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
This boxing-turned-basketball showdown was the brainchild of Leonard Armato, the former long-time agent for both O’Neal and Olajuwon, and it was months in the making. Shortly after the Finals, Armato struck a deal with Taco Bell to launch a calculated marketing blitz featuring the two star centers, eventually leading up to the Atlantic City battle. A month after the Magic were swept by the Rockets, Armato took out a full-page ad in USA TODAY. Adorned on the page was Shaq’s typewritten and signed challenge to Olajuwon: “Hakeem- The series may be a done deal, but it ain’t over between you and me. Sure, you’re pretty good with your team behind you, but I want you one on one. -Shaq.”
In a new Q&A with the Tribune, Smith said he doesn’t believe Chicago left any titles “on the table” during the 1990s. Here’s what he said: Houston used to beat them quite a bit. They had a losing record against the Rockets during the championship years. Vernon Maxwell would play Michael, and Michael was better but Maxwell was nuts. He used to attack Jordan and curse at him and run him all over the court. Michael could still get his 35 points, but now he’s really working for it as this guy is harassing him endlessly, like nobody else did. And then the frontcourt, the Bulls were just so overmatched. Otis Thorpe dominated and Hakeem Olajuwon, none of the centers they had could do anything with Hakeem. Houston just had great matchups all over the floor.
So, Thorn wanted to know if one of them would fall to him and Trail Blazers GM Stu Inman showed the Bulls his hand. “Stu Inman… told me a month before the draft that if Sam Bowie passed the physical they were going to take him,” Thorn recalled. “About a week before the draft, I called Inman and asked him had Bowie taken the physical and he said ‘yes.’ And I asked him did he pass it and he said ‘yes.'” The Bulls knew a month in advance of the draft that Jordan would fall to them if Houston took Olajuwon.
Former Bulls GM Rod Thorn, who selected Michael Jordan No. 3 overall in the 1984 NBA Draft, said Chicago would have picked legendary Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon over Jordan if they had the chance. Thorn was general manager of the Bulls from 1978 until 1985. In an interview on Sunday’s “The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN regarding Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, Thorn said: Olajuwon would have been first by anybody who picked, including me.
Storyline: Michael Jordan Documentary
With a newly retired (again) Jordan around, Tomjanovich had the chance to speak frankly about a never-ending debate fueled by Jordan’s decision to retire following the conclusion of his first three-peat with the Chicago Bulls and dabble in baseball. That 17-month absence from the NBA provided the opening for the Rockets to win back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, and for Hakeem Olajuwon to emerge as the only one of Jordan’s contemporaries to leave the game with rings on his fingers. Unprompted, Tomjanovich said, Jordan offered some praise for what the Rockets accomplished. “He gave our team great respect,” Tomjanovich said. “He didn’t feel that they could contain Hakeem. They just didn’t have the personnel to do it. And he said he thought we were the team that gave them the most trouble.”
Although he is reluctant to accept the credit, Tomjanovich is responsible for introducing the predecessor to the “pace-and-space” era that is prevalent today by turning small forward Robert Horry into a stretch power forward to complement Hakeem Olajuwon and give him room to operate. Tomjanovich admits that the innovation was created more out of developing a scheme to defend Barkley without double-teaming than some prescient vision. “We thought could give the other teams problems and when we moved Robert Horry,” Tomjanovich said. “Robert did a great job. He started his string of big shots against San Antonio. He made a big one at the buzzer there and he had a tremendous career. When you put a shooting big out there, whoa, they really have to rotate a long way. That’s basically what we saw there. And then, we really used it a lot after the championship runs with the guards, so that we could get penetration and we always looked for shooting. We didn’t have the computerized stuff at that time.”

Storyline: Hall of Fame Selections

Pelinka argued that Bryant’s legacy reflected something more substantive. Bryant had often reached out to star players with questions on varying X’s and O’s, including Jordan, Magic Johnson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Bryant then became gracious toward sharing that with the next generation’s star players. “He was one of the players I think that led the charge of really reaching out to all-time greats to try to collect wisdom and advice from them,” Pelinka said of Bryant. “He was one of the first players, I think, to really, really tap in to getting knowledge from the all-time greats and to be inspired by them. And to think now that a part of him will live in the Hall of Fame, a part of his spirit will always be there, the inspiration flips I think from those type of players inspiring him to now him being an inspiration to all of them and to all of us.”
During the first 19 games of his career, Zion Williamson has put up numbers that have him in the company of legends Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan. His strong performance — averaging 23.6 points per game on 58.9% shooting — has led many to wonder if Williamson, even in an abbreviated season, could unseat Ja Morant to win this year’s Rookie of the Year award. In a straw poll conducted over the past few days by ESPN of 70 eligible voters, a clear consensus has emerged: no.
Gordon scored a career-high 50 points to lead the short-handed Rockets to a 126-117 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night without James Harden and Russell Westbrook. In a stat line that resembled one Harden might put up, Gordon shot 14 of 22 from the field — including 6 for 11 on 3-pointers — and 16 of 20 at the free throw line. He became the first Rockets player besides Harden to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in January 1996, according to STATS. Harden has done it 23 times since. “I feel like I’m getting back to being myself,” said Gordon, who had knee surgery in November. “I told everybody when you have surgery during the season, it’s always going to be a process.”
“You cannot be a traditional center in today’s game. It will not work. What a center should be is what Embiid is doing,” Olajuwon said. “You’ve got the low post. You’ve got the outside. When they call for it, you have to throw it in and they make it happen. It’s as effective as in any era – unless you cannot play. That’s different. We have dominating big men. We still would dominate. If you’re a dominant big man, you have so many advantages. Because first of all, you can dominate on the defensive end. Shotblocking. Rebounding. Intimidation. That’s the start. Then, if you get the ball in the post, and you’re skilled, it’s a mismatch. Embiid, you have no answer for him.”
Mutombo, whose reputation was formed on the defensive end, marvels at the skill Embiid possesses and has unleashed at his size. He’s even more impressed by the name his play has invoked. “He’s found a way to get compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, skill-wise. He learned a lot from Dream and he does a lot of things that Dream does, Dream did. He’s very talented. Very gifted. A big man who can put the ball on the floor, do what he does. They don’t make too many of them. They don’t make too many of them. I was not a three-point shooter. I think I finished my career 0-for-1 [actually, 0-2] after 18 years. I made my living blocking shots. I was not someone who could come get the ball, dribble, go left and right, no? Give me the ball, I shoot the hook shot and it would go in. I was not a jump shooter, no. Maybe because I played in a different era.”
Masai Ujiri: I founded Giants of Africa in 2003. In the beginning, the goal was to uncover talent. I was saying to myself, “How do we find the next Hakeem Olajuwon?” Back then I was a scout for the Nuggets. That first camp we hosted was in Nigeria, my home country. We used baby blue Denver gear for all the campers. Kiki Vandeweghe was our GM at the time, and he told our equipment manager to get me the cheapest shorts and practice jerseys we had, so that we could get as many uniforms as possible. And then we needed shoes, so we put a giant bin in the middle of the locker room. Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby—they all gave me shoes by just throwing their old ones into the bin.