Would a Prime Shaq have tipped the ’95 NBA Finals against the Rockets?

Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O'Neal (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Anfernee Hardaway Mandatory Credit: Robert Laberge /Allsport /

A Look at Prime Shaq

During the ’95 NBA Finals, Hakeem Olajuwon was 32 years old while Shaquille O’Neal was 22. We all know the monster he became in Los Angeles, averaging 29.9 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game over the span of the Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-02. He was certainly a beast in the prime of his career.

Considering how dominant he was, it’s at least worth entertaining the hypothetical scenario — for about two seconds. The biggest flaw in Hardaway’s argument is the fact that the Orlando Magic would still have had to deal with a prime Olajuwon, who many would say was more talented than Shaq.

Hakeem was putting up 33.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.0 blocks per game before even getting to the NBA Finals that season, outplaying that season’s MVP David Robinson and the Spurs in the process.

While it’s easy to give Hardaway a hard time with his first statement, he did at least acknowledge to Barnes and Jackson that Hakeem was just on another level.

“Dream was really a small forward playing center,” said Penny. “His footwork, his shot-making ability, his IQ, his toughness. To me, he was a robot. That dude deserves way more credit than whatever he gets if he’s not getting it.”

Next: Debunking Penny's Theory