Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon deserves a formal apology from ESPN

Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets are used to being slighted by major media outlets, but a recent ESPN ranking made an absurd choice regarding Hakeem Olajuwon.

It’s certainly not a rare occurrence for the Houston Rockets to be disrespected by the media, but this violation might be one of the worst ones we’ve seen in a while. In a recent segment during SportsCenter revealing the top foreign-born NBA players of all-time, two-time Finals MVP Hakeem Olajuwon was ranked second.

The full list went as follows, with another former Rocket, Yao Ming, noticeably missing from the list (though he did get a shout-out in the segment):

10. Dikembe Mutombo9. Manu Ginobili8. Tony Parker7. Pau Gasol6. Giannis Antetokounmpo5. Steve Nash4. Dominique Wilkins3. Patrick Ewing2. Hakeem Olajuwon1. Dirk Nowitzki

Does Dirk Have a Case Over the Houston Rockets Legend?

In looking at raw numbers and career achievements, it’s hard to see what criteria ESPN was using when they decided to rank Nowitzki over The Dream. Make no mistake; Dirk had a fantastic, Hall of Fame career. Much like Olajuwon, he’s likely to be the best player in his franchise’s history for decades to come.

Hakeem just did more across the board and had a level of skill above Nowitzki’s in just about every category besides jump shooting. On a per-game basis, here’s how they measure up against each other:

Hakeem Olajuwon: 21.8 PPG, 11.1 REB, 2.5 AST, 51.2% FGDirk Nowitzki: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 REB, 2.4 AST, 47.1% FG

Given their differing styles of play, it makes sense that Hakeem’s advantage on the boards is so vast, as he was in the paint way more often than the sharpshooting Nowitzki.

In fact, Dirk’s biggest advantage in a comparison with Olajuwon is his marksmanship from downtown, as he shot 38 percent throughout his 21-year career to finish with 1,982 total made threes. In comparison, Hakeem finished his career going 25-for-124 from beyond the arc for 20.2 percent.

If ESPN was ranking the top foreign-born shooters in league history or the best guys on the offensive side of the ball? By all means, Dirk belongs at the top of the list with a bullet. It’s just a severe oversight to not account for two Defensive Player of the Year awards and nine All-Defensive NBA selections when comparing two players, especially considering Dirk had zero of each.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about the accomplishments of these two legends and how they stack up against each other, I encourage you to check out their Basketball Reference pages and compare them yourself.

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No media outlet is perfect, but given how badly ESPN missed the mark on this one, they deserve to be called out.