ESPN’s Jalen Rose wants those to know that like Michael Jordan, Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon was legendary and unprecedented.
Many of the current wave of basketball fans have no interest in the 1980s and 1990s brand of the NBA. Some of these are, of course, younger fans that grew up watching LeBron James, hence why they’ve instantly crowned LeBron as the greatest player of all-time. Even some of the fans that were around for the older eras of the NBA would say that the Houston Rockets‘ two championships shouldn’t count because Michael Jordan “wasn’t playing,” which is incredibly erroneous.
The Michael Jordan angle has blinded many of the basketball world and led them to believe that he was the only all-time great to play during his era, which shuns legends like Hakeem Olajuwon, whose Rockets broke up the Bulls’ championship run. ESPN’s recent docu-series The Last Dance did little to change that, as it glorified Jordan and completely disregarded the fact that the Rockets and Hakeem Olajuwon had Jordan’s number.
The film also was constructed in such a way that would lead one to believe the NBA didn’t crown a champion from 1993-1995, which was also not surprising considering how Jordan was essentially the executive producer of the film. When you take all of this into account, it’s easy to see why casual fans have elevated Jordan and largely forgotten about Olajuwon because of the media biases and myths surrounding MJ.
But ESPN analyst Jalen Rose wants people to know that Hakeem was also a legend in his own right, and was an unstoppable force as well. On Thursday, Rose was on ESPN’s morning show Get Up and had the below to say about the Houston Rockets legend:
“We talk about Michael Jordan not being human, but for those that haven’t been paying attention to the NBA, Hakeem Olajuwon wasn’t human either.
He could play with his back to the basket, play with facing, he had quick hands, and quick feet.”
It’s correct to say that The Dream wasn’t human, as he accomplished feats that hadn’t been done before him and haven’t been done in the 18 years since he retired. To this day, Olajuwon remains the only player in NBA history to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA Finals MVP in the same year.
The Olajuwon-led Rockets team of 1994-95 remain the only team in NBA history to finish sixth place during the regular season and still win the title. But even Rose’s statement doesn’t give Olajuwon enough credit, as he was much more than just the dominant post player Rose described.
Olajuwon was a menace of the defensive end of the floor, as he led the league in blocks per game in two of the Bulls’ championship years, and remains the NBA’s all-time leader in blocks. Olajuwon also won the head-to-head matchup against Jordan during their lengthy careers, which Jordan wouldn’t want many to know.
Olajuwon was also one of the greatest passing big men to ever play, as evidenced by him being one of only four players in NBA history to post a quadruple double, which he nearly accomplished twice in the same calendar month. Olajuwon led the league in rebounds twice during his career, and finished with career averages of 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 1.7 steals.
But even this doesn’t do him justice because Rose was right: Olajuwon was simply unhuman.