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How a Tokyo plane ride saved Hakeem from leaving the Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon
Mandatory Credit: Tim de Frisco /Allsport
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon Mandatory Credit: Tim de Frisco /Allsport
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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Olajuwon fired back after a press conference and briefly meeting with Thomas. “There is an old saying in my country (Nigeria): ‘Silence is the best answer for a fool,’ ” Olajuwon said. “I don’t want to get down in the mud with this organization. Everything will come out.”

The Rockets’ decision to suspend Olajuwon and say he was lying about his injury led to the superstar requesting a trade. As a result, the Rockets began exploring trade options before the 1992-93 season.

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Teams like the Miami Heat and L.A. Clippers were rumored as possible destinations at the time. There was even a rumored trade proposal that involved the Heat, as this  Sun Sentinel story from 1992 detailed:

“Earlier in the offseason, the Heat reportedly turned down an offer involving Olajuwon and Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice and Steve Smith. Seikaly, Rice and Smith are the Heat’s three ‘untouchables’ and Miami would loathe gutting its nucleus.”

The Heat denied these rumors at the time, but if that was an actual deal that had been accepted, imagine just how different the Rockets franchise would be. There’s certainly a good chance those titles in the mid-1990s would never have happened unless the team had been able to find another superstar.

Next: The Trip That Changed Everything

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