Former Houston Rockets guard Sam Cassell talked about how he and Paul Pierce would debate Hakeem Olajuwon’s merits against those of Tim Duncan.
There’s no doubt that Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan aren’t only two of the best big men ever to play in the NBA, they’re two of the greatest players ever. Both essentially put the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs on the map, changing their respective franchises forever.
On Austin Rivers’ podcast Go Off, Sam Cassell gave his educated opinion on Hakeem’s place in NBA lore. “I know you’d tell anybody, [you’d take] Dream in his prime versus any power forward,” said Rivers.
Nodding his head approvingly, Cassell expanded on his thoughts. “Me and Paul [Pierce] used to argue about him taking Tim Duncan over Dream,” said Cassell. “I said this to Paul: ‘Ask David Robinson about Dream’. ”
Cassell, of course, is referring to the famous 1995 Western Conference Finals in which Hakeem Olajuwon led the number-six seed Rockets over the first-seed Spurs with a dominant series against then-MVP David Robinson.
“David Robinson was a top-echelon defender,” continued Cassell. “Tim Duncan did not want Dream attacking him. We were going to Dream every time and it was tough to stop that man every time.”
Robinson finished his NBA career with eight NBA All-Defensive Team selections and one Defensive Player of the Year award (1992) while Tim Duncan had 15 All-Defensive selections in his 19-year career.
Still, Cassell believes the variety in Hakeem’s game would’ve been too much for The Big Fundamental if the two ever met up in their primes.
“He had every shot,” said Sam. “He could face you. He had the 15-foot jump shot. He had a turnaround jump shot. He had a jump hook. He made free throws.”
The full interview can be seen below.
While Paul Pierce would take Duncan over Olajuwon, he at least still gave Hakeem credit recently, by saying ESPN should have included him in their top 10 players of all-time list. In their list, Olajuwon was ranked 12th all-time, behind Oscar Robertson and ahead of Stephen Curry. Tim Duncan was ranked eighth on the list.
Given how much everyone values NBA championships in determining rankings, it makes sense that some people would have Duncan ahead of The Dream. Who was the greater player overall though? That’s a much tougher call.