Saying Goodbye to a Houston Legend
THURSDAY, AUGUST 2, 2001 11:59 PM CT
Copyright 2001 ClutchFans.net
It had been rumored for weeks, and was fairly obvious during a Toronto press conference Tuesday, but when it became official later in the afternoon that Houston's legendary center would no longer be a Rocket and was heading to Toronto, I was simply disappointed.
Not because it hurts the Rockets, but because it really doesn't hurt the Rockets.
A legend shouldn't go out that way.
With their hand forced, the Rockets dealt the greatest player ever to don their uniform to the Canadian Dinos for throw-in draft picks. Not Hakeem Olajuwon. His tenure in Houston just doesn't end like that.
It's foolish to think my words could possibly describe the glorious ride (H)Akeem Abdul Olajuwon has taken Houston basketball fans on these past 20 years and in particular, how he's impacted my life. Without him I probably never become a big Rocket fan.I certainly never would have created this site
5 years ago and the term "Clutch City" would conjure up visions more of used car parts than playoff basketball in Houston.
From the moment I first saw him play, I was hooked. Clyde Drexler. Guy Lewis. Phi Slamma Jamma. 6-feet and 11-inches of raw athleticism. Cat quick, amazing footwork and a brilliant shot blocker, it was obvious Olajuwon was going to be a special player. He led the Cougars to the Final Four all three seasons. It was crushing he would leave after his junior season, but it was equally sweet he would play professional ball in the same city.
From there he took it to a whole new level. He simply electrified this city. The Twin Towers. Those "Unbeatable" McDonald's chicken nuggets. Battles with referee Jack Madden. Cold-cocking Mitch Kupchak.
Sports Illustrated dubbed him the "New Force" back in '86, and he proved them right. Olajuwon became a terror. Too strong. Too quick. All-World. Unstoppable. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's shyhook shot was said to be unblockable. Hakeem rejected it on several occasions. Remember that insane "fly-back-then-feet-to-the-rim" slam against the Kings in the 1986 playoffs? To this day you can still read "Etonics" printed on Otis Thorpe's forehead.
Dream Shake. Dream Spin. Dream Hook.
There's Arsenio Hall, practically begging Olajuwon on his show to come play for the Lakers, but Hakeem, while flattered, calls Houston "home" and expresses his desire to bring the first ever championship to the Texas city. On national TV. That was something.
Things changed. Etonics out, LA Gear in. Teammates tossed due to drugs. Ralph Sampson simply tossed. Team got worse. Dream became bitter. Hakeem "The Team" they called him, but when guys like Buck Johnson, Derrick Chievous and Dave Jamerson are considered second and third scoring options, you take your chance with the big fella against triple-teams.
1992 is rock bottom. The team just misses the playoffs. Hakeem is accused of faking an injury. He demands to be traded. The dream looks like it's over before it ever reaches the best part.
Hakeem changes -- he's at peace with himself. He reinvents his game. Dominates, yet gets his teammates involved. The 1992-93 Rockets are suddenly a championship-contending ballclub and the next year Hakeem simply does it all. Defensive player of the year. League MVP. NBA Finals MVP. Same Season. Still the only player in league history to do it.
He brings Houston, long with history of choking sports teams, its first ever championship. That was just a dream, until the Dream.
The next season he brings another.
Clyde returns. Anemia. 6th seed. Elimination games. "Stay Humble, Stay Hungry". Utah. Phoenix. San Antonio. David Robinson, the then-mighty Admiral, was once considered the equal of Olajuwon... that is until his demotion to sea scrub. Hakeem absolutely decimated and humiliated Robinson so badly in the Western Conference Finals, the performance still ranks in NBA history as one of legend.
Some say Hakeem was fortunate he never faced Michael Jordan in the Finals. I say Michael Jordan should thank his Nike-sponsored lucky stars every single day of his life that he never faced Olajuwon in his prime in the Big Dance.
Marc Jackson possibly replace the Dream? Please. You could fit 200 of those 270+ pound Jacksons in one of Olajuwon's shoes, and still have room left over for the Millenium Falcon.
He becomes the greatest shot blocker of all-time. Named one of the 50 greatest players of all-time. Probably could be top 10 and will no doubt be known as a player that revolutionized the center position. Guard-like skills in a massive body. No pivot ever possessed the moves, the speed, the quickness and the athleticism of Hakeem Olajuwon.
And that's where it ends for me. That's what I choose to remember about Dream. I'm not sure I like the rest. The bitterness in his final season in Houston, the pride, leaving the city. That chapter isn't in my book.
You will be missed Hakeem. Good luck in Toronto. Your legend here is secure.