Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (/əˈlaɪʒuɒn/;[1] Yoruba: [olaɟuwɔ̃]; born January 21, 1963), formerly known as Akeem Olajuwon, is a Nigerian-American former professional basketball player. From 1984 to 2002, he played the center position in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors. He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2016, he was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Listed at 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m) ,[2] Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game.[3][4][5] He was nicknamed "The Dream" during his basketball career after he dunked so effortlessly that his college coach said it "looked like a dream."[6]

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon traveled from his home country to play for the University of Houston under head coach Guy Lewis. His college career for the Cougars included three trips to the Final Four. Olajuwon was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the first overall selection of the 1984 NBA draft, a draft that included Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. He combined with the 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson to form a duo dubbed the "Twin Towers". The two led the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Boston Celtics. After Sampson was traded to the Warriors in 1988, Olajuwon became the Rockets' undisputed leader. He led the league in rebounding twice (1989, 1990) and blocks three times (1990, 1991, 1993).

Despite very nearly being traded during a bitter contract dispute before the 1992–93 season, he remained in Houston where in 1993–94, he became the only player in NBA history to win the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP awards in the same season. His Rockets won back-to-back championships against the New York Knicks (avenging his college championship loss to Patrick Ewing), and Shaquille O'Neal's Orlando Magic. In 1996, Olajuwon was a member of the Olympic gold-medal-winning United States national team, and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He ended his career as the league's all-time leader in blocks (3,830) and is one of four NBA players to record a quadruple-double.

Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeemsigningautocropped
Olajuwon signing autographs
Personal information
BornJanuary 21, 1963 (age 56)
Lagos, Nigeria
NationalityNigerian / American
Listed height7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Listed weight255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
CollegeHouston (1981–1984)
NBA draft1984 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career1984–2002
PositionCenter
Number34
Career history
19842001Houston Rockets
2001–2002Toronto Raptors
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points26,946 (21.8 ppg)
Rebounds13,747 (11.1 rpg)
Blocks3,830 (3.1 bpg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
FIBA Hall of Fame as player

Early life

Hakeem Olajuwon was born to Salim and Abike Olajuwon, working class Yoruba owners of a cement business in Lagos.[7][8] He was the third of eight children. He credits his parents with instilling virtues of hard work and discipline into him and his siblings; "They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, and believe in ourselves".[7] Olajuwon has expressed displeasure at his childhood in Nigeria being characterized as backward. "Lagos is a very cosmopolitan city ... There are many ethnic groups. I grew up in an environment at schools where there were all different types of people."[9]

During his youth, Olajuwon was a soccer goalkeeper, which helped give him the footwork and agility to balance his size and strength in basketball, and also contributed to his shot-blocking ability.[10] Olajuwon did not play basketball until the age of 17, when he entered a local tournament.[7] It has been said that a coach in Nigeria once asked him to dunk and demonstrated while standing on a chair. Olajuwon then tried to stand on the chair himself. When redirected by staff not to use the chair, Hakeem could initially not dunk the basketball.[11]

Despite early struggles, Olajuwon said: "Basketball is something that is so unique. That immediately I pick up the game and, you know, realize that this is the life for me. All the other sports just become obsolete."[12]

College career

Hakeembillboard
A billboard at the University of Houston congratulating Olajuwon on being the 1994 NBA Most Valuable Player

Olajuwon emigrated from Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston under Cougars coach Guy Lewis. Olajuwon was not highly recruited and was merely offered a visit to the university to work out for the coaching staff, based on a recommendation from a friend of Lewis who had seen Olajuwon play.[13] He later recalled that when he originally arrived at the airport in 1980 for the visit, no representative of the school was there to greet him. When he called the staff, they told him to take a taxi out to the university.[14]

Hakeem Olajuwon UH retired number
One of only five numbers retired by the University of Houston men's basketball team, Olajuwon's #34 hangs in Fertitta Center.

After redshirting his freshman year in 1980–81 because he could not yet get clearance from the NCAA to play,[9] Olajuwon played sparingly as a redshirt freshman in 1981–82, and the Cougars were eliminated in the Final Four by the eventual NCAA champion, the North Carolina Tar Heels.Olajuwon averaged 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, shooting 60% from the field in 18 minutes per game.[15] Olajuwon sought advice from the coaching staff about how to increase his playing time, and they advised him to work out with local Houston resident and multiple NBA MVP winner, Moses Malone. Malone, who was then a center on the NBA's Houston Rockets, played games every off season with several NBA players at the Fonde Recreation Center. Olajuwon joined the workouts and went head to head with Malone in several games throughout the summer. Olajuwon credited this experience with rapidly improving his game: "The way Moses helped me is by being out there playing and allowing me to go against that level of competition. He was the best center in the NBA at the time, so I was trying to improve my game against the best."[9]

Olajuwon returned from that summer a different player. He and his teammates (including Clyde Drexler) formed what was dubbed "Phi Slama Jama", the first slam-dunking "fraternity", so named because of its above-the-rim prowess. In his sophomore and junior years he helped the Cougars advance to consecutive NCAA championship games, where they lost to North Carolina State on a last second tip-in in 1983 and a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team in 1984. He averaged 13.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.1 blocks in 1982-1983 and 16.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 5.6 blocks in 1983-1984.[15][16] Olajuwon won the 1983 NCAA Tournament Player of the Year award,[17] even though he played for the losing team in the final game. He is, to date, the last player from a losing side to be granted this honor. Drexler departed for the NBA in 1983, leaving Olajuwon the lone star on the team.

After the 1983–84 season, Olajuwon debated whether to stay in college or declare early for the NBA draft. At that time (before the NBA Draft Lottery was introduced in 1985), the first pick was awarded by coin flip. Olajuwon recalled: "I really believed that Houston was going to win the coin flip and pick the number 1 draft choice, and I really wanted to play in Houston so I had to make that decision (to leave early)."[14] His intuition proved correct, and a lucky toss placed Houston ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers. Olajuwon was considered the top amateur prospect in the summer of 1984 over fellow collegians and future NBA stars Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, and was selected first overall by the Rockets in the 1984 NBA draft.

In his autobiography, Living the Dream, Olajuwon mentions an intriguing draft trade offered to the Rockets that would have sent Clyde Drexler and the number two pick in the 1984 NBA draft from Portland in exchange for Ralph Sampson.[18] Had the Rockets made the deal, Olajuwon states the Rockets could have selected Michael Jordan with the number two pick to play alongside Olajuwon and Drexler, who had established chemistry playing together during their Phi Slama Jama days in college. Sportswriter Sam Smith speculates that such a trade "would have changed league history and maybe the entire Michael Jordan legend".[18] From 1991 to 1998, every NBA championship team included either Jordan or Olajuwon; furthermore, at least one of Drexler, Jordan, and Olajuwon was involved in every NBA Finals from 1990 to 1998.[19]

Professional career

Houston Rockets

Rookie and sophomore years

The Rockets had immediate success during Olajuwon's rookie season, as their win-loss record improved from 29–53 in 1983–84 to 48–34 in 1984–85.[20] He teamed with the 1984 Rookie of the Year, 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson to form the original NBA "Twin Towers" duo. Olajuwon averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.68 blocks in his rookie season.[21] He finished as runner-up to Michael Jordan in the 1985 Rookie of the Year voting, and was the only other rookie to receive any votes.

Olajuwon averaged 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game during his second pro season (1985–86).[21] The Rockets finished 51–31,[20] and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they faced the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets won the series fairly easily, four games to one, shocking the sports world and landing Olajuwon on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Olajuwon scored 75 points in victories in games three and four, and after the series Lakers coach Pat Riley remarked "We tried everything. We put four bodies on him. We helped from different angles. He's just a great player."[22] The Rockets advanced to the 1986 NBA Finals where they lost in six games to the Boston Celtics, whose 1986 team is often considered one of the best teams in NBA history.[23]

Mid-career years

Jawann Oldham 1986-87
Olajuwon (right) defending Jawann Oldham on November 25, 1986

During the 1987–88 season, Sampson (who was struggling with knee injuries that would eventually end his career prematurely) was traded to the Golden State Warriors. The 1988–89 season was Olajuwon's first full season as the Rockets' undisputed leader. This change also coincided with the hiring of new coach Don Chaney. The Rockets ended the regular season with a record of 45–37,[20] and Olajuwon finished the season as the league leader in rebounds (13.5 per game) by a full rebound per game over Charles Barkley. This performance was consistent with his averages of 24.8 points and 3.4 blocks.[24] Olajuwon posted exceptional playoff numbers of 37.5 ppg and 16.8 rpg, plus a record for points in a four-game playoff series (150).[25] Nevertheless, the Rockets were eliminated in the first round by the Seattle SuperSonics, 3 games to 1.

The 1989–90 season was a disappointment for the Rockets. They finished the season with a 41–41 record,[20] and though they made the playoffs, were eliminated in four games by Los Angeles. Olajuwon put up one of the most productive defensive seasons by an interior player in the history of the NBA. He won the NBA rebounding crown (14.0 per game) again, this time by an even larger margin; a full two rebounds per game over David Robinson, and led the league in blocks by averaging 4.6 per game.[24] He is the only player since the NBA started recording blocked shots in 1973–74 to average 14+ rebounds and 4.5+ blocked shots per game in the same season. In doing so he joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton as the only players in NBA history (at that point) to lead the league in rebounding and shot-blocking in the same season.[25] Olajuwon also recorded a quadruple-double during the season,[26] becoming only the third player in NBA history to do so.

The Rockets finished the 1990–91 season with a record of 52–30[20] under NBA Coach of the Year Chaney. Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points per game in 1990–91, but due to an injury to his eyesocket caused by an elbow from Bill Cartwright,[7] did not play in enough games (56) to qualify for the rebounding title. Otherwise he would have won it for a third consecutive year, averaging 13.8 a game (league leader Robinson averaged 13.0 rpg). He also averaged a league-leading 3.95 blocks per game.[27][28] However, the Rockets were swept in the playoffs by the LA Lakers.

The following season was a low point for the Rockets during Olajuwon's tenure. They finished 42–40,[20] and missed the playoffs for the first time in Olajuwon's career. He missed two weeks early in the season due to an accelerated heart beat.[29] Despite his usual strong numbers, he could not lift his team out of mediocrity. Since making the Finals in 1986, the Rockets had made the playoffs five times, but their record in those playoff series was 1–5 and they were eliminated in the first round four times. Following the season, Olajuwon requested a trade in part because of his bad contract; his salary was considerably low for a top center, and his contract specifically forbade re-negotiation.[30] He also expressed displeasure with the organization's efforts to surround him with quality players. He felt the Rockets had cut corners at every turn, and were more concerned with the bottom line than winning.[31] Management had also infuriated Olajuwon during the season when they accused of him of faking a hamstring injury because of his unhappiness over his contract situation.[32] His agent cited his differences with the organization as being "irreconcilable",[33] and Olajuwon publicly insulted owner Charlie Thomas and the team's front office.[30][34] With the 1992–93 season approaching, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle said that Olajuwon being dealt was "as close to a sure thing as there is."[35]

Nonetheless he was not traded and the Rockets began the season with a new coach, Rudy Tomjanovich. Olajuwon improved his passing in 1992–93,[36] setting a new career high of 3.5 assists per game.[24] This willingness to pass the ball increased his scoring, making it more difficult for opposing teams to double and triple-team him. Olajuwon set a new career high with 26.1 points per game.[24] The Rockets set a new franchise record with 55 wins,[20] and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, pushing the Seattle SuperSonics to a seventh game before losing in overtime, 103–100. He finished second in the MVP race to Charles Barkley with 22 votes to Barkley's 59.[37] The team rewarded him with a four-year contract extension toward the end of the regular season.[38] In stark contrast to the previous year, the Rockets entered the 1993–94 season as a team on the rise. They had a solid core of young players and veterans, with a leader in Olajuwon who was entering his prime.

Championship years

Olajuwon gained a reputation as a clutch performer and also as one of the top centers in history based on his performances in the 1993–94 and 1994–95 seasons.[3] He outplayed centers such as Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Dikembe Mutombo, and other defensive stalwarts such as Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone. Many of his battles were with his fellow Texas-based rival David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.[39] In the 30 head–to–head match-ups during the seven seasons from the 1989 to 1996, when both Olajuwon and Robinson were in their prime, Olajuwon averaged 26.3 points per game, shooting 47.6% from the field, while Robinson averaged 22.1 and 46.8%.

Olajuwon led the Rockets to a championship in the 1994 NBA Finals in a seven-game series against the New York Knicks, the team of one of Olajuwon's perennial rivals since his collegiate days, Patrick Ewing. After being down 2–1, the Knicks took a 3–2 lead into Game 6. The Rockets were defending an 86–84 lead when in the last second, Knicks guard John Starks (who had already scored 27 points) went up for what would have been a Finals-winning three. Olajuwon pulled off a clutch play by blocking the shot as time expired.[40] In Game 7, Olajuwon posted a game–high 25 points and 10 rebounds, which helped defeat the Knicks, bringing the first professional sports championship to Houston since the Houston Oilers won the American Football League championship in 1961. Olajuwon dominated Ewing in their head–to–head match-up, outscoring him in every game of the series and averaging 26.9 points per game on 50% shooting, compared to Ewing's 18.9 and 36.3%.[41] For his efforts Olajuwon was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

Olajuwon was at the pinnacle of his career. In 1994, he became the only player in NBA history to win the MVP, the Championship, the Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.[42] He was also the first foreign-born player to win the league's MVP award.[43]

Despite a slow start by the team, and Olajuwon missing eight games toward the end of the season with anemia,[44] the Rockets repeated as champions in 1995. They were bolstered in part by the acquisition of Clyde Drexler, Olajuwon's former University of Houston "Phi Slama Jama" teammate, in a mid-season trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. Olajuwon averaged 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game during the regular season.[27] Olajuwon displayed perhaps the most impressive moments of his career during the playoffs. San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson, recently crowned league MVP, was outplayed by Olajuwon in the Conference Finals: Olajuwon averaged 35.3 points on .560 shooting (Robinson's numbers were 23.8 and .449) and outscored Robinson 81–41 in the final two games.[45] When asked later what a team could do to "solve" Olajuwon, Robinson told LIFE magazine: "Hakeem? You don't solve Hakeem."[7] The Rockets won every road game that series. In the NBA Finals, the Rockets swept the Orlando Magic, who were led by a young Shaquille O'Neal. Olajuwon outscored O'Neal in every game,[41] scoring more than 30 points in each and raising his regular season rate by five while O'Neal's production dropped by one.[46] Olajuwon was again named Finals MVP. He averaged 33.0 points on .531 shooting, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.81 blocks in the 1995 Playoffs.[7] As in 1994, Olajuwon was the only Rockets All-Star.[47]

Post-championship period

The Rockets' two-year championship run ended when they were eliminated in the second round of the 1996 NBA Playoffs by the eventual Western Conference Champion Seattle SuperSonics. Michael Jordan had returned from an 18-month hiatus in March 1995, and his Chicago Bulls dominated the league for the next three years (1996–98). The Bulls and Rockets never met in the NBA Playoffs. The Rockets posted a 57–win season in 1996–97 season when they added Charles Barkley to their roster. They started the season 21–2,[48] but lost the Western Conference Finals in six games to the Utah Jazz. After averaging 26.9 and 23.2 points in 1995–96 and 1996–97 respectively, Olajuwon's point production dipped to 16.4 in 1997–98.[24] After the Rockets lost in the first round in five games to the Jazz in 1998,[49] Drexler retired. In 1998–99 the Rockets acquired veteran All-Star Scottie Pippen and finished 31–19 in the lockout-shortened regular season. Olajuwon's scoring production rose to 18.9 points per game,[24] and he made his twelfth and final All-NBA Team.[25] However, they lost in the first round again, this time to the Lakers.[50] After the season, Pippen was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Toronto Raptors

Houston began to rebuild, bringing in young guards Cuttino Mobley and 2000 NBA co-Rookie of the Year Steve Francis. On August 2, 2001,[51] after refusing a $13 million deal with the Rockets, Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors for draft picks (the highest of which was used by Houston to draft Boštjan Nachbar at #15 in the 2002 NBA draft), with the player having a three-year contract that would give him $18 million. Olajuwon averaged career lows of 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in what would be his final season in the NBA, as he decided to retire in the fall of 2002, due to a back injury.[51][52] Olajuwon retired as the all–time league leader in total blocked shots with 3,830, although shot blocking did not become an official statistic until the 1973–74 NBA season.

Shortly after his retirement, his #34 jersey was retired by the Rockets.

For his NBA career, Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points on 51% shooting, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.1 blocks in 1238 career games.[53]

National team career

In 1980, before arriving in the US, Olajuwon played for a Nigerian junior team in the All-Africa Games. This created some problems when he tried to play for the United States men's national basketball team initially.[54] FIBA rules prohibit players from representing more than one country in international competition, and players must go through a three-year waiting period for any nationality change. Olajuwon was ineligible for selection to the "Dream Team" as he hadn't become a US citizen.[54]

Olajuwon became a naturalized American citizen on April 2, 1993.[54] For the 1996 Olympics, he received a FIBA exemption and was eligible to play for Dream Team III. The team went on to win the gold medal in Atlanta. During the tournament, he shared his minutes with Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson. He played 7 out of the 8 games and started 2. He averaged 5 points and 3.1 rebounds and had 8 assists and 6 steals in seven games.

Player profile

Olajuwon was highly skilled as both an offensive and defensive player. On defense, his rare combination of quickness and strength allowed him to guard a wide range of players effectively. He was noted for both his outstanding shot-blocking ability and his unique talent (for a frontcourt player) for stealing the ball. Olajuwon is the only player in NBA history to record more than 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season. He averaged 3.09 blocks and 1.75 steals per game for his career.[51] He is the only center to rank among the top ten all time in steals.[51] Olajuwon was also an outstanding rebounder, with a career average of 11.1 rebounds per game.[51] He led the NBA in rebounding twice, during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. He was twice named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and was a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection.

On offense, Olajuwon was famous for his deft shooting touch around the basket and his nimble footwork in the low post. With the ball, Hakeem displayed a vast array of fakes and spin moves, highlighted in his signature "Dream Shake" (see below). He was a prolific scorer, averaging 21.8 points per game for his career,[7] and an above average offensive rebounder, averaging 3.3 offensive rebounds per game.[7] Additionally, Olajuwon became a skilled dribbler with an ability to score in "face-up" situations like a perimeter player.[56] He is one of only four players to have recorded a quadruple-double in the NBA, which have only been possible since the 1973–74 season, when blocked shots and steals were first kept as statistics in the NBA.

Dream Shake

The best footwork I've ever seen from a big man.

Olajuwon established himself as an unusually skilled offensive player for a big man, perfecting a set of fakes and spin moves that became known as his trademark Dream Shake. Executed with uncanny speed and power, they are still regarded as the pinnacle of "big man" footwork.[10] Shaquille O'Neal stated: "Hakeem has five moves, then four countermoves – that gives him 20 moves."[7] Olajuwon himself traced the move back to the soccer-playing days of his youth. "The Dream Shake was actually one of my soccer moves which I translated to basketball. It would accomplish one of three things: one, to misdirect the opponent and make him go the opposite way; two, to freeze the opponent and leave him devastated in his tracks; three, to shake off the opponent and giving him no chance to contest the shot."[10] The Dream Shake was very difficult to defend, much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's sky-hook.[10]

One notable Dream Shake happened in Game 2 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. With David Robinson guarding him, Olajuwon performed a cross-over, drove to the basket and faked a layup. Robinson, an excellent defender, kept up with Olajuwon and remained planted. Olajuwon spun counterclockwise and faked a jump shot. Robinson, who was voted the 1995 NBA MVP, fell for the fake and jumped to block the shot. With Robinson in the air, Olajuwon performed an up-and-under move and made an easy layup.[57]

Olajuwon has referred to basketball as a science, and described his signature move in vivid detail: "When the point guard throws me the ball, I jump to get the ball. But this jump is the set-up for the second move, the baseline move. I call it the 'touch landing.' The defender is waiting for me to come down because I jumped but I'm gone before I land. Defenders say 'Wow, he's quick,' but they don't know that where I'm going is predetermined. He's basing it on quickness, but the jump is to set him up. Before I come down, I make my move. When you jump, you turn as you land. Boom! The defender can't react because he's waiting for you to come down to defend you. Now, the first time when you showed that quickness, he has to react to that quickness, so you can fake baseline and go the other way with your jump hook. All this is part of the Dream Shake. The Dream Shake is you dribble and then you jump; now you don't have a pivot foot. When I dribble I move it so when I come here, I jump. By jumping, I don't have a pivot foot now. I dribble so now I can use either foot. I can go this way or this way. So he's frozen, he doesn't know which way I'm going to go. That is the shake. You put him in the mix and you jump stop and now you have choice of pivot foot. He doesn't know where you're gonna turn and when."[58]

Personal life

Olajuwon married his current wife Dalia Asafi on August 8, 1996 in Houston.[59] They have two daughters, Rahmah and Aisha Olajuwon. Abisola Olajuwon, his daughter with Lita Spencer, whom he met in college, represented the West Girls in the McDonald's All American Game and played in the WNBA.[60]

In addition to English, Olajuwon is fluent in French, Arabic, and the Nigerian languages of Yoruba and Ekiti.[43] He wrote his autobiography, Living the Dream, with co-author Peter Knobler in 1996. During his 18-year NBA career, Olajuwon earned more than $107,000,000 in salary.[61]

Olajuwon, who earlier in his career signed a shoe endorsement deal with LA Gear, later became the face of Spalding's athletic shoe line and endorsed The Dream, a sneaker that retailed in various outlets (such as Payless ShoeSource) for $34.99.[62] This made him one of the very few well-known players in any professional sport to endorse a sneaker not from Nike, Reebok, Adidas, or other high-visibility retail brands. As Olajuwon declared: "How can a poor working mother with three boys buy Nikes or Reeboks that cost $120? ... She can't. So kids steal these shoes from stores and from other kids. Sometimes they kill for them."[63]

Higher education

Attending college was also an important priority to Olajuwon. At the University of Houston, Olajuwon was a physical education major.[64]

Muslim faith

In Olajuwon's college career and early years in the NBA, he was often undisciplined, talking back to officials, getting in minor fights with other players and amassing technical fouls. Later, Olajuwon took an active interest in spirituality,[65] becoming a more devout Muslim. On March 9, 1991, he altered his name from Akeem to the more conventional spelling of Hakeem, saying, "I'm not changing the spelling of my name, I'm correcting it".[66] He later recalled, "I studied the Qur'an every day. At home, at the mosque ... I would read it in airplanes, before games and after them. I was soaking up the faith and learning new meanings each time I turned a page. I didn't dabble in the faith, I gave myself over to it."[66] "His religion dominates his life", Drexler said in 1995.[67] Olajuwon was still recognized as one of the league's elite centers despite his strict observance of Ramadan (i.e., abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours for about a month), which occurred during the playing season throughout his career. Olajuwon was noted as sometimes playing better during the month of Ramadan, and in 1995 he was named NBA Player of the Month in February, even though Ramadan began on February 1 of that year.[7][68]

Post-NBA life

Olajuwon played for 20 consecutive seasons in Houston, first collegiately for the University of Houston Cougars and then professionally with the Houston Rockets.[7] He is considered a Houston icon and one of city's most beloved citizens.[69] Olajuwon has had great success in the Houston real estate market, with his estimated profits exceeding $100 million. He buys in cash-only purchases, as it is against Islamic law to pay interest.[70] Olajuwon splits his time between Jordan, where he moved with his family to pursue Islamic studies,[10] and his ranch near Houston.

In the 2006 NBA offseason, Olajuwon opened his first Big Man Camp, where he teaches young frontcourt players the finer points of playing in the post. While Olajuwon never expressed an interest in coaching a team, he wishes to give back to the game by helping younger players. When asked whether the league was becoming more guard-oriented and big men were being de-emphasized, Olajuwon responded, "For a big man who is just big, maybe. But not if you play with speed, with agility. It will always be a big man's game if the big man plays the right way. On defense, the big man can rebound and block shots. On offense, he draws double-teams and creates opportunities. He can add so much, make it easier for the entire team." He runs the camp for free.[71] Olajuwon has worked with several NBA players, including power forward Emeka Okafor,[72] and center Yao Ming.[73][74] In September 2009, he also worked with Kobe Bryant on the post moves and the Dream Shake.[75] More recently he has been working with Dwight Howard, helping him diversify his post moves and encouraging more mental focus.[76] In the 2011 offseason, LeBron James flew to Houston and spent time working with Olajuwon.[77][78] Olajuwon has also worked with Ömer Aşık, Donatas Motiejūnas, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried.

Olajuwon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2008. On April 10, 2008, the Rockets unveiled a sculpture in honor of him outside the Toyota Center.

Olajuwon attended the 2013 NBA draft to bid farewell to retiring commissioner David Stern as Stern made his announcement for the final pick of the first round. Olajuwon was the first pick announced by Stern back in 1984.[79]

On August 1, 2015, Olajuwon made a special appearance for Team Africa at the 2015 NBA Africa exhibition game.[80] He became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2016.[81]

Awards and achievements

NBA career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which Olajuwon won an NBA championship
* Led the league
double-dagger NBA record
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1984–85 Houston 82* 82* 35.5 .538 .613 11.9 1.4 1.2 2.7 20.6
1985–86 Houston 68 68 36.3 .526 .645 11.5 2.0 2.0 3.4 23.5
1986–87 Houston 75 75 36.8 .508 .200 .702 11.4 2.9 1.9 3.4 23.4
1987–88 Houston 79 79 35.8 .514 .000 .695 12.1 2.1 2.1 2.7 22.8
1988–89 Houston 82* 82* 36.9 .508 .000 .696 13.5* 1.8 2.6 3.4 24.8
1989–90 Houston 82* 82* 38.1 .501 .167 .713 14.0* 2.9 2.1 4.6* 24.3
1990–91 Houston 56 50 36.8 .508 .000 .769 13.8 2.3 2.2 3.9* 21.2
1991–92 Houston 70 69 37.7 .502 .000 .766 12.1 2.2 1.8 4.3 21.6
1992–93 Houston 82 82* 39.5 .529 .000 .779 13.0 3.5 1.8 4.2* 26.1
1993–94 Houston 80 80 41.0 .528 .421 .716 11.9 3.6 1.6 3.7 27.3
1994–95 Houston 72 72 39.6 .517 .188 .756 10.8 3.5 1.8 3.4 27.8
1995–96 Houston 72 72 38.8 .514 .214 .724 10.9 3.6 1.6 2.9 26.9
1996–97 Houston 78 78 36.6 .510 .313 .787 9.2 3.0 1.5 2.2 23.2
1997–98 Houston 47 45 34.7 .483 .000 .755 9.8 3.0 1.8 2.0 16.4
1998–99 Houston 50* 50* 35.7 .514 .308 .717 9.6 1.8 1.6 2.5 18.9
1999–2000 Houston 44 28 23.8 .458 .000 .616 6.2 1.4 .9 1.6 10.3
2000–01 Houston 58 55 26.6 .498 .000 .621 7.4 1.2 1.2 1.5 11.9
2001–02 Toronto 61 37 22.6 .464 .000 .560 6.0 1.1 1.2 1.5 7.1
Career 1,238 1,186 35.7 .512 .202 .712 11.1 2.5 1.7 3.1 21.8
Playoffs 145 140 39.6 .528 .222 .719 11.2 3.2 1.7 3.3double-dagger 25.9
All-Star 12 8 23.2 .409 1.000 .520 7.8 1.4 1.3 1.9 9.8

See also

References

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Sources

  • Harris, Othello, Nolte, Claire Elaine, and Kirsch, George B. Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States, Greenwood Press. 2000 ISBN 0-313-29911-0
  • Heisler, Mark. Big Men Who Shook the NBA. Triumph Books. 2003 ISBN 1-57243-766-9
  • Olajuwon, Hakeem with Knobler, Peter. Living the Dream: My Life and Basketball. Little, Brown and Company. 1996 ISBN 0-316-09427-7
  • Simmons, Bill, The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, ESPN 2009 ISBN 0-345-51176-X

External links

1992–93 NBA season

The 1992–93 NBA season was the 47th season of the National Basketball Association. The season ended with the Chicago Bulls winning their third-straight NBA Championship, beating the Phoenix Suns 4 games to 2 in the NBA Finals.

1993–94 Houston Rockets season

The 1993–94 NBA season was the Houston Rockets' 27th season in the National Basketball Association, and their 23rd season in Houston. During the offseason, the Rockets acquired Mario Elie from the Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets went off to a great start, winning their first fifteen games to tie the 1948–49 Washington Capitols for the best unbeaten record to open a season, before the Golden State Warriors surpassed it in 2015. After losing to the Atlanta Hawks on December 3, the Rockets won the next seven games as well, falling just one victory shy of tying the 1969–70 Knicks (23–1) for the best record with one defeat in NBA history. However, the Rockets would cool off as the season progressed, at one point losing four games in a row. Still, they finished first place in the Midwest Division with a 58–24 record, a franchise record that stood until the 2017-18 team recorded their 59th win.

Hakeem Olajuwon won the league's Most Valuable Player award, ahead of David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls. Anchoring one of the league's best defenses, Olajuwon also won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive year, also beating out Robinson by a narrow 23 to 22 votes. He was also selected for the 1994 NBA All-Star Game.

In the playoffs, the Rockets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 3–1 in the first round, then defeated the Phoenix Suns 4–3 in the semifinals, and the 5th-seeded Utah Jazz 4–1 in the Western Conference Finals. In the 1994 NBA Finals, they defeated the New York Knicks in seven games, and won their first championship in franchise history. It was the Rockets' third NBA finals appearance, after 1981 and 1986. Olajuwon was the only player of the 1985–86 Rockets to still be on the 1993–94 team. The Rockets also became the first team from the Midwest Division since the Milwaukee Bucks 23 years prior to win the NBA title.

1994 NBA Finals

The 1994 NBA Finals was the championship round of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1993–94 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Houston Rockets played the Eastern Conference champion New York Knicks for the championship, with the Rockets holding home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series. The Rockets defeated the Knicks 4 games to 3 to win the team's first NBA championship.

This matchup was Hakeem Olajuwon's second NBA Finals appearance, his other being in 1986, where Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets four games to two. The series was Patrick Ewing's first NBA Finals appearance. The Rockets came in with strong determination to win not only the franchise's first NBA championship, but the city's first championship in a league that still existed, while the Knicks were looking to add a third NBA championship trophy, as the Knicks' last trophy came from the 1973 NBA Finals. The Knicks also hoped to impress their new owners Viacom, who had just bought Paramount Communications (formerly Gulf+Western), their longtime owners (after the series however, Viacom sold the Knicks and the rest of the Madison Square Garden properties).

The series was hailed as a meeting of the two great centers who had previously played for a championship in college. In 1984 while Olajuwon was with the University of Houston and Ewing was with Georgetown University, Georgetown had beaten Houston 84–75 in the 1984 NCAA Championship game. In this series, however, Olajuwon outperformed Ewing, outscoring him in every game of the series and posting numbers of 26.9 ppg on 50.0% shooting compared to Ewing's 18.9 ppg on 36.3% shooting. However, Ewing set an NBA finals record in the series with a total of 30 blocks, and he tied the single-game record of 8 blocks in Game 5. Tim Duncan would later set the record for most blocks in a Finals series (2003) with 32 blocks in six games while Dwight Howard would set the record for most blocked shots in a Finals game with 9 blocked shots in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals while with the Orlando Magic.

During the series, the Houston Rockets played seven low-scoring, defensive games against the New York Knicks. After splitting the first two games in Houston, the Knicks won two out of three games at Madison Square Garden, which also hosted the Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years during the series.

In Game 6, however, Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon blocked a last-second championship-winning shot attempt by John Starks, giving the Rockets an 86–84 victory and forcing a Game 7, which made Knicks Coach Pat Riley the first (and to this date, the only) coach in a Game 7 NBA Finals on two teams, having been with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984 and 1988. In addition, the Knicks set a record for most playoff games played in one season, with 25. The Detroit Pistons tied this record in 2005. The Boston Celtics, coached by Doc Rivers, would surpass it during their championship season of 2008 when they played 26.The Rockets beat the Knicks in Game 7, 90–84, enabling the city of Houston to not only celebrate its first NBA and fifth professional sports championship (first in an existing league), but also deny New York from having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year (Chicago had suffered this fate two years earlier in 1992, with the Bulls winning their second NBA championship and the Blackhawks losing in the Stanley Cup Finals). For his efforts Olajuwon was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. For the Knicks, Riley had the unfortunate distinction of having become the first (and to this date, the only) coach to lose a Game 7 NBA Finals on two teams, having lost to the Celtics in 1984. It also denied him the distinction of being the first coach to win a Game 7 NBA Finals with two teams, having defeated the Detroit Pistons in 1988.

NBC Sports used Ahmad Rashād (Knicks sideline) and Hannah Storm (Rockets sideline).

Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Clutch City for NBA Entertainment.

1994–95 Houston Rockets season

The 1994–95 NBA season was the Rockets' 28th season in the National Basketball Association, and 24th season in Houston. After winning their first championship, the Rockets went on to win their first nine games of the season. However, with increased competition in the West, management felt a change was needed to win another title. On February 14, the Rockets traded Otis Thorpe to the Portland Trail Blazers for All-Star guard Clyde Drexler, a former teammate of Hakeem Olajuwon at the University of Houston. However, after the trade, the Rockets struggled in the second half of the season posting a record of 17–18 on their way to finishing third in the Midwest Division with a 47–35 record. Olajuwon was selected for the 1995 NBA All-Star Game.

In the playoffs, the Rockets faced the 3rd-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round. The Jazz would take a 2–1 series lead, but the Rockets went on to win the series in five games. In the semifinals, they faced the Phoenix Suns for the second consecutive year. The Rockets managed to defeat the 2nd-seeded Suns in seven games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. In the all Texas Western Conference, they faced the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Both teams lacked home court advantage in the series, only winning on the road until the Rockets won Game 6 at The Summit and advanced to the NBA Finals. In the Finals, they swept the Orlando Magic in four straight games, and won their second consecutive championship. Following the season, Vernon Maxwell signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia 76ers, and Tracy Murray left in the 1995 NBA Expansion Draft.

1995 NBA Finals

The 1995 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1994–95 National Basketball Association (NBA) season. The series pitted the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic against the Western Conference champion Houston Rockets. The pre-series hype and build-up of the Finals was centered on the meeting of the two centers opposing each other: Shaquille O'Neal of the Magic and Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rockets. Going into the series the matchup was compared to the Bill Russell–Wilt Chamberlain matchup of the 1960s.

The Rockets became the first team in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason en route to the championship. The Rockets would win a playoff-record nine road games in the 1995 playoffs. It was the second NBA Finals sweep in the 2–3–2 Finals format (after the Detroit Pistons did so against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989). The Rockets also became the first repeat NBA Champion in history to keep the title with a sweep. In addition, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to win the title without having home-court advantage in any of the four playoff rounds since the playoffs was expanded to a 16 team format in 1984. Coincidentally, this feat would also be achieved by the New Jersey Devils that same year, when they won the Stanley Cup over the Detroit Red Wings.

The Orlando Magic (making their first ever NBA Finals appearance) began the 1995 NBA Finals at home, hosting the defending champion Houston Rockets. With the Magic up 110–107 late in Game 1, Nick Anderson missed four consecutive free throws in the closing seconds of the game, and Kenny Smith hit a three-pointer, tying the game and sending it to overtime as well as setting a new record with the most three-pointers in an NBA Finals game with seven. The more experienced Rockets went on to win in overtime and eventually swept the Magic, winning their second consecutive NBA Championship. In achieving this, they earned the distinction of being the only team to win both championships during Michael Jordan's first retirement (although Jordan did return in the closing months of the 1994–95 season), as well as the only one outside Chicago to win multiple championships in the 1990s.

The season-ending documentary Double Clutch by Hal Douglas, was released by NBA Entertainment to coincide with the Rockets' championship season.

2001–02 Toronto Raptors season

The 2001–02 NBA season was the Raptors' 7th season in the National Basketball Association. During the offseason, the Raptors acquired All-Star center and 2-time NBA Champion Hakeem Olajuwon from the Houston Rockets. Throughout the season, All-Star guard Vince Carter struggled with a left knee injury, and only managed to play 60 games. Despite the injury, Carter was still voted to play in the All-Star Game for the third consecutive year, but he did not play due to injury. The Raptors played solid basketball with a 29–21 start 50 games into the season. However, the team then suffered a 13-game losing streak, losing 17 of their next 18 games. They would then post a nine-game winning streak between March and April.

Despite losing their team captain for the rest of the season and the playoffs, the Raptors finished with a 42–40 record, and finished third place in the Central Division, which allowed them to clinch a playoff spot behind the efforts of their other team captain Antonio Davis. Toronto's season ended in the first round with a heartbreaking defeat to the Detroit Pistons in five hard-fought games. Following the season, Chris Childs re-signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Nets, Keon Clark signed with the Sacramento Kings, Tracy Murray was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Olajuwon and Dell Curry both retired.

Assist (basketball)

In basketball, an assist is attributed to a player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads to a score by field goal, meaning that he or she was "assisting" in the basket. There is some judgment involved in deciding whether a passer should be credited with an assist. An assist can be scored for the passer even if the player who receives the pass makes a basket after dribbling the ball. However, the original definition of an assist did not include such situations, so the comparison of assist statistics across eras is a complex matter.

Only the pass directly before the score may be counted as an assist, so no more than one assist can be recorded per field goal (unlike in other sports, such as ice hockey). A pass that leads to a shooting foul and scoring by free throws does not count as an assist in the NBA, but does in FIBA play (only one assist is awarded per set of free throws in which at least one free throw is made).

Point guards tend to get the most assists per game (apg), as their role is primarily that of a passer and ballhandler.

Centers tend to get fewer assists, but centers with good floor presence and court vision can dominate a team by assisting. Being inside the key, the center often has the best angles and the best position for "dishes" and other short passes in the scoring area. Center Wilt Chamberlain led the NBA in assists in 1968. A strong center with inside-scoring prowess, such as former NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon, can also be an effective assistor because the defense's double-teaming tends to open up offense in the form of shooters.

The NBA single-game assist team record is 53, held by the Milwaukee Bucks, on December 26, 1978. The NBA single-game assist individual record is 30, held by Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic on December 30, 1990.

The NBA record for most career assists is held by John Stockton, with 15,806, Stockton also holds the NBA single season assist per game record with 14.5 during the 1989-1990 regular season. The highest career assist per game average in NBA history is held by Magic Johnson, with 11.2 assist per game.

Basketball in Africa

Basketball in Africa is run by the FIBA Africa. The major competitions FIBA Africa runs for national teams is AfroBasket and

FIBA Africa Clubs Champions Cup. The NBA is investing millions to increase a foothold in the African market. Hakeem Olajuwon is considered instrumental in developing and popularizing Basketball in Africa.

Best NBA Player ESPY Award

The Best NBA Player ESPY Award is an award presented annually since 1993 to a National Basketball Association (NBA) player adjudged to be the best in a given year, typically the NBA season contested during or immediately before the holding of the ESPY Awards ceremony.

Between 1993 and 2004, the award voting panel comprised variously fans; sportswriters and broadcasters, sports executives, and retired sportspersons, termed collectively experts; and retired sportspersons, but balloting thereafter has been exclusively by fans over the Internet from amongst choices selected by the ESPN Select Nominating Committee.

Through the 2001 iteration of the ESPY Awards, ceremonies were conducted in February of each year to honor achievements over the previous calendar year; awards presented thereafter are conferred in June and reflect performance from the June previous. Six players have won the award more than once; Michael Jordan won the inaugural award and a total of four across his career. LeBron James has won the award a total of seven times, the most by any player, while Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O'Neal have claimed two each.

Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award

The Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award (formerly known as the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award) is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award given since the 1969 NBA Finals. The award is decided by a panel of eleven media members, who cast votes after the conclusion of the Finals. The person with the highest number of votes wins the award. The award was originally a black trophy with a gold basketball-shaped sphere at the top, similar to the Larry O'Brien Trophy, until a new trophy was introduced in 2005 to commemorate Bill Russell.Since its inception, the award has been given to 31 players. Michael Jordan is a record six-time award winner. Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and LeBron James won the award three times in their careers. Jordan and O'Neal are the only players to win the award in three consecutive seasons (Jordan accomplished the feat on two separate occasions). Johnson is the only rookie ever to win the award, as well as the youngest at 20 years old. Andre Iguodala is the only winner to have not started every game in the series. Jerry West, the first ever awardee, is the only person to win the award while being on the losing team in the NBA Finals. Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant won the award twice. Olajuwon, Durant, Bryant, and James have won the award in two consecutive seasons. Abdul-Jabbar and James are the only players to win the award for two teams. Olajuwon of Nigeria, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1993, Tony Parker of France, and Dirk Nowitzki of Germany are the only international players to win the award. Duncan is an American citizen, but is considered an "international" player by the NBA because he was not born in one of the fifty states or Washington, D.C. Parker and Nowitzki are the only winners to have been trained totally outside the U.S.; Olajuwon played college basketball at Houston and Duncan at Wake Forest. Cedric Maxwell is the only Finals MVP winner eligible for the Hall of Fame who has not been voted in.On February 14, 2009, during the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, then-NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the award would be renamed the "Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award" in honor of 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell.

Fadeaway

A fadeaway or fall-away in basketball is a jump shot taken while jumping backwards, away from the basket. The goal is to create space between the shooter and the defender, making the shot much harder to block.

The shooter must have very good accuracy (much higher than when releasing a regular jump shot) and must use more strength (to counteract the backwards momentum) in a relatively short amount of time. Also, because the movement is away from the basket, the shooter has less chance to grab his own rebound.

The shooting percentage is lower in fadeway (because of the difficulty of the shot) and the shooter cannot get his own rebound. This leads many coaches and players to believe it is one of the worst shots in the game to take. However, once mastered, it is one of the hardest methods of shooting for defenders to block. The threat of a fadeaway forces a defender to jump into the shooter, and with a pump fake, the shooter can easily get a foul on the defender.

Only a handful of great NBA players have been successful shooting fadeaways. Michael Jordan was one of the most popular shooters of the fadeaway. Wilt Chamberlain, Patrick Ewing, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dwyane Wade, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Carmelo Anthony, DeMar DeRozan, and LaMarcus Aldridge are also well known for using this move. The even more difficult one-legged fadeaway has become Dirk Nowitzki's signature move and has been called by LeBron James the second most unstoppable move ever, only behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team based in Houston, Texas. The Rockets compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA), as a member of the league's Western Conference Southwest Division. The Rockets are one of three NBA teams based in Texas. The team plays its home games at the Toyota Center, located in downtown Houston. The Rockets have won two consecutive NBA championships and four Western Conference titles. The team was established as the San Diego Rockets, an expansion team originally based in San Diego, in 1967. In 1971, the Rockets moved to Houston.

The Rockets won only 15 games in their debut season as a franchise in 1967. In the 1968 NBA draft, the Rockets selected power forward Elvin Hayes first overall. Led by Hayes, the team made its first playoff appearance in his rookie season. The Rockets did not finish a season with a winning record until the 1976–77 season, when they traded for all-star center Moses Malone. Malone went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award twice and led Houston to the conference finals in his first year with the team. He also led the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1981 where they were defeated in six games by the Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird and future Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

In the 1984 NBA draft, the Rockets drafted center Hakeem Olajuwon, who would be paired with 7 feet 4 inches (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson, forming one of the tallest front courts in the NBA. Nicknamed the "Twin Towers", they led the team to the 1986 NBA Finals—the second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history—where Houston was again defeated by the 67-win Boston Celtics. The Rockets continued to reach the playoffs throughout the 1980s, but failed to advance past the first round for several years following a second-round defeat to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1987. Former Rockets forward Rudy Tomjanovich took over as head coach midway through the 1991–92 season, ushering in the most successful period in franchise history. The Olajuwon-led Rockets went to the 1994 NBA Finals and won the franchise's first championship against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. The following season, reinforced by another all-Star, Clyde Drexler, the Rockets repeated as champions with a four-game sweep of the Orlando Magic, who were led by a young duo of Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. Houston, which was seeded sixth in the Western Conference during the 1995 playoffs, became the lowest-seeded team in NBA history to win the title.

The Rockets acquired all-star forward Charles Barkley in 1996, but the presence of three of the NBA's 50 greatest players of all-time (Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley) was not enough to propel Houston past the Western Conference Finals. In 1998, the Rockets acquired all-star Scottie Pippen, though like Barkley, his superstar presence would prove not enough for the Rockets to make a serious playoff push. Each one of the aging all-stars had left the team by 2001. The Rockets looked to return to serious playoff contention in the mid-2000s, led by superstar pair Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, although the next several seasons would be followed by the trend of consistent regular season respectability followed by playoff underachievement, failing to advance past the first round, as both players struggled with injuries. After Yao's early retirement in 2011, the Rockets entered a period of rebuilding, completely dismantling and retooling their roster. The acquisition of franchise player James Harden in 2012 has launched the Rockets back into championship contention in the mid-2010s.

Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and James Harden have been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player while playing for the Rockets, for a total of four MVP awards. The Rockets, under general manager Daryl Morey, are notable for popularizing the use of advanced statistical analytics (similar to sabermetrics in baseball) in player acquisitions and style of play.

List of Houston Rockets statistics and records

The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball franchise based in Houston, Texas. The team plays in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The team was established in 1967, and played in San Diego, California for four years, before relocating to Houston. They have made the playoffs in 25 of their 42 seasons, and won their division and conference four times each; they also won back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. They won 22 straight games during the 2007–08 season, the third-longest streak in NBA history.Hakeem Olajuwon, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in both of the Rockets' championship seasons, played for the Rockets for 17 years, and is the career leader for the franchise in 9 categories. He also holds the NBA records for blocks in a playoff game, and most points and blocks in a 4-game playoff series. Moses Malone, who played 6 of 19 seasons for the Rockets, had the most points, rebounds, and free throws made in a season for the Rockets, and he also holds the NBA records for most offensive rebounds in a regular season and playoff game.

The individual player records section lists the Rockets career leaders in major statistical categories, as well as franchise records for single seasons and games. The team section lists the Rockets' teams that have recorded the highest and lowest totals in a category in a single season and game, and any NBA records that the Rockets have set as a team.

List of National Basketball Association single-game blocks leaders

This is a complete list of National Basketball Association players who have blocked 10 or more shots in a game.

44 different players have blocked 10 or more shots in a game. It has occurred a total of 159 times (including the playoffs) in NBA history. Mark Eaton accomplished the feat more times than anyone else in league history (19), followed by Manute Bol (18). Eaton, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Andrew Bynum are the only players to block 10 or more shots in a playoff game, with Bynum being the only player to do so with a victory.

The NBA did not record blocked shots until the 1973–74 season. Unofficially, Wilt Chamberlain blocked 23 shots for the LA Lakers in a game against the Phoenix Suns on December 25, 1968 and is reported by NBA historian Harvey Pollack to have blocked 25 shots in a playoff game against the Detroit Pistons.

List of first overall NBA draft picks

The National Basketball Association's first overall pick is the player who is selected first among all eligible draftees by a team during the annual National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. The first pick is awarded to the team that wins the NBA draft lottery; in most cases, that team had a losing record in the previous season. The team with the first pick attracts significant media attention, as does the player who is selected with that pick.

Eleven first picks have won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award: Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (record six-time winner), Bill Walton, Magic Johnson (three-time winner), Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan (two-time winner), LeBron James (four-time winner), and Derrick Rose (youngest winner).

Since the advent of the draft lottery in 1985, seven number one overall picks have won an NBA title. They are David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Glenn Robinson, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Andrew Bogut, and Kyrie Irving.

China's Yao Ming (2002) and Italy's Andrea Bargnani (2006) are the only two players without competitive experience in the United States to be drafted first overall. Eleven other international players with U.S. college experience have been drafted first overall—Mychal Thompson (Bahamas) in 1978, Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) in 1984, Patrick Ewing (Jamaica) in 1985, Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) in 1997, Michael Olowokandi (Nigeria) in 1998, Andrew Bogut (Australia) in 2005, Kyrie Irving (Australia) in 2011, Anthony Bennett (Canada) in 2013, Andrew Wiggins (Canada) in 2014, Ben Simmons (Australia) in 2016, and Deandre Ayton (Bahamas) in 2018. Duncan is an American citizen, but is considered an "international" player by the NBA because he was not born in one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. Ewing had dual Jamaican-American citizenship when he was drafted and Irving and Simmons had dual Australian-American citizenship when they were drafted.

Note that the drafts between 1947 and 1949 were held by the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The Basketball Association of America became the National Basketball Association after absorbing teams from the National Basketball League in the fall of 1949. Official NBA publications include the BAA Drafts as part of the NBA's draft history.

NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award

The NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award given since the 1982–83 NBA season to the best defensive player of the regular season. The winner is selected by a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada, each of whom casts a vote for first, second and third place selections. Each first-place vote is worth five points, second-place voted are worth three points, and a third-place vote is worth one. The player with the highest point total, regardless of the number of first-place votes, wins the award.Since its inception, the award has been given to 21 different players. Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace have each won the award a record four times. Dwight Howard is the only player to have won the award in three consecutive seasons. Sidney Moncrief, Mark Eaton, Dennis Rodman, Hakeem Olajuwon, Alonzo Mourning, and Kawhi Leonard have each won it twice. The most recent award recipient is Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

Although five of the first six winners were perimeter players, the award has traditionally been given to big men who rebound and block shots. Only seven perimeter players have been honored: Moncrief, Alvin Robertson, Michael Cooper, Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Ron Artest (known now as Metta World Peace), and Kawhi Leonard. Payton is the only point guard to have won. Jordan, Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Kevin Garnett are the only Defensive Player of the Year winners to have won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) during their careers; Jordan and Olajuwon won both awards in the same season. In Olajuwon's case, he is the only one to have also won the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award and the NBA championship in the same season. On four occasions, the Defensive Player of the Year recipient was not voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in the same year. Robertson in 1986, Mutombo (1995), Tyson Chandler (2012), and Marc Gasol (2013) were instead named to the second team. Whereas the Defensive Player of the Year is voted on by the media, the All-Defensive teams were voted on by NBA coaches prior to 2014.Frenchman Rudy Gobert is the only winner who was trained completely outside the U.S. Out of the other three winners born outside the U.S., Mutombo and Olajuwon both played U.S. college basketball, and Gasol played U.S. high school basketball. Joakim Noah, who has played for the French national team, was born in New York City and played both high school and college basketball in the U.S.

NBA Most Valuable Player Award

The National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award given since the 1955–56 season to the best performing player of the regular season. The winner receives the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, which is named in honor of the first commissioner (then president) of the NBA, who served from 1946 until 1963. Until the 1979–80 season, the MVP was selected by a vote of NBA players. Since the 1980–81 season, the award is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada.

Each member of the voting panel casts a vote for first to fifth place selections. Each first-place vote is worth 10 points; each second-place vote is worth seven; each third-place vote is worth five, fourth-place is worth three and fifth-place is worth one. Starting from 2010, one ballot was cast by fans through online voting. The player with the highest point total wins the award. As of June 2018, the current holder of the award is James Harden of the Houston Rockets.

Every player who has won this award and has been eligible for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has been inducted. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award a record six times. He is also the only player to win the award despite his team not making the playoffs back in the 1975–76 season. Both Bill Russell and Michael Jordan won the award five times, while Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James won the award four times. Russell and James are the only players to have won the award four times in five seasons. Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson each won the award three times, while Bob Pettit, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Stephen Curry have each won it twice. Only two rookies have won the award: Chamberlain in the 1959–60 season and Wes Unseld in the 1968–69 season. Hakeem Olajuwon of Nigeria, Duncan of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nash of Canada and Dirk Nowitzki of Germany are the only MVP winners considered "international players" by the NBA.Curry in 2015–16 is the only player to have won the award unanimously. Shaquille O'Neal in 1999–2000 and James in 2012–13 are the only two players to have fallen one vote shy of a unanimous selection, both receiving 120 of 121 votes. Since the 1975–76 season, only two players have been named MVP for a season in which their team failed to win at least 50 regular-season games—Moses Malone (twice, 1978–79 and 1981–82) and Russell Westbrook (2016–17).

NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player

At the conclusion of the NCAA men's and women's Division I basketball championships (the "Final Four" tournaments), the Associated Press selects a Most Outstanding Player. The MOP need not be, but almost always is, a member of the Championship team, especially since the third-place game was eliminated after 1981. The last man to win the award despite not being on the Championship team was Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston) in 1983. Dawn Staley (Virginia) was the only woman to do so, when she won the award in 1991.

Steal (basketball)

In basketball, a steal occurs when a defensive player legally causes a turnover by his positive, aggressive action(s). This can be done by deflecting and controlling, or by catching the opponent's pass or dribble of an offensive player. The defender must not touch the offensive player's hands or otherwise a foul is called.

Steals are credited to the defensive player who first causes the turnover, even if he does not end up with possession of the live ball. To earn a steal, the defensive player must be the initiator of the action causing the turnover, not just the benefactor. Whenever a steal is recorded by a defensive player, an offensive player must be credited as committing a turnover.

Stealing the ball requires good anticipation, speed and fast reflexes, all common traits of good defenders. However, like blocked shots, steals are not always a perfect gauge of a player's defensive abilities. An unsuccessful steal can result in the defender being out of position and unable to recover in time, allowing the offense to score. Therefore, attempting to steal is a gamble. Steals, though risky, can pay off greatly, because they often trigger a fastbreak for the defensive team.

There is no prototypical position from which a player may get many steals. While smaller, quicker guards tend to accumulate the most steals, there are many exceptions. For example, forward Rick Barry led the NBA in steals in 1974-75, and for many years center Hakeem Olajuwon led his team in the category, consistently ranking among the league's leaders, and is the only center ranked in the top 10 all-time in steals. Karl Malone, a power forward, is currently number ten.

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