"I don’t think Hakeem can hold the Lakers Shaq" - Quentin Richardson believes prime Shaquille O'Neal would have destroyed Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon outplayed the young Shaquille O'Neal in the 1995 NBA Finals. [Photo: Essentially Sports]
Hakeem Olajuwon outplayed the young Shaquille O'Neal in the 1995 NBA Finals. [Photo: Essentially Sports]

Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon were two of the best big men to ever play in the NBA. Both iconic centers lorded it over their opponents in vastly different ways. In their prime, they were nearly unstoppable.

The man-mountain Shaquille O'Neal was freakishly athletic and mobile for his size. Short of fouling him, and sometimes that would not be enough, no defense can stop him when he’s deep in the paint. Olajuwon, on the other hand, had better footwork than most guards and was gifted with range, timing and anticipation. Who is better between the two is a constant debate that lingers long after they have retired.

Former NBA player Quentin Richardson, who co-hosts the podcast The Knuckleheads with Darius Miles, weighed in on Shaq’s overpowering game during his time with the Lakers:

“I don’t wanna disrespect the other centers in the history of the game, but Shaq like how dominant he was. Like I keep telling them, I don’t think Hakeem can hold the Lakers Shaq like how he did the Orlando Magic Shaq. I feel like he’d foul out to do what he supposed to do because there’s nothing you can do with him…You’re gonna be in a stretcher!”

When Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon met in the 1995 NBA Finals, Shaq was only 22 years old. Meanwhile, “The Dream” was 32 and just throttled Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Championship. The Shaq vs Olajuwon mouthwatering matchup overshadowed their respective team’s rightful top billing.

The young Orlando Magic, who eliminated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the semifinals, will face the veteran Houston Rockets. It was the Magic’s first finals appearance as a franchise, while the Rockets have already been there a few times already. Shaquille O'Neal and his team were heavy underdogs against the battle-scarred Western Conference champions.

Hakeem (35 PTS & 15 REB) shut Orlando down 😤Magic vs. Rockets, 1995 NBA Finals Game 4 - 1:30pm ET on NBA TV!

Shaquille O'Neal more than held his own, averaging 28 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.5 blocks. Hakeem Olajuwon, who was named the Finals MVP, averaged 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals.

Houston’s strategy of consistently sending in double teams somewhat flummoxed O'Neal in the series. But when they played against each other one-on-one, it was a fairly even matchup, which really was very impressive for the Magic center.

Not only was Hakeem Olajuwon a great scorer, but he was also one of the best defenders in the NBA for most of his career. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and led the league in shot blocks three times. Shaquille O'Neal was facing a defensive whiz at the peak of his career and Shaq still managed to give Olajuwon serious trouble.

#2. Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995 Finals vs Orlando Magic🏆Finals MVP32.8 PTS 11.5 REB 5.5 AST 4 STL+BLK on 48.7% eFG and 69.2% FT⭐️35 points 15 rebounds and 6 assists in closeout Game 4⭐️Out-dueled Shaquille O’NealRockets won series 4-0.

After the '95 NBA Finals, O'Neal challenged Hakeem Olajuwon to a mano-a-mano duel. "The Dream" accepted the dare but eventually backed out due to an injury. It would have been a slambang affair that the basketball world would have thoroughly enjoyed.

LA Lakers Shaquille O'Neal would undoubtedly be more dominant than Hakeem Olajuwon

The LA Lakers version of Shaquille O'Neal was likely the most dominant in NBA history. [Photo: Steiner Sports]
The LA Lakers version of Shaquille O'Neal was likely the most dominant in NBA history. [Photo: Steiner Sports]

The keyword here is dominance. Hakeem Olajuwon was arguably more skilled but the LA Lakers' O'Neal was just so physically and athletically imposing.

Ty Lue, the LA Clippers head coach who played with O'Neal during the Lakers’ title run in the early 2000s’ agreed with Quentin Richardson’s assessment:

“We ain’t seen Wilt [Chamberlain], coming in too young but as far as dominance, nobody can guard Shaq. You gonna be in the bonus in 5 minutes. It’s gonna be four fouls, four wrap-ups, nobody can guard him. The things he did, like pushing the basket, can handle, can pass, agile, athletic. He was just so powerful and explosive. You cannot guard him.”
Incomparable power. Technique and agility in the post. Underrated shotmaking and court vision.@LakerFilmRoom breaks down a legendary Finals performance by the Most Dominant Ever and 3x Finals MVP - @SHAQ.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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