The NBA has had some great centers throughout its 75 years, and Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the greatest. In showing off how unstoppable he could be 26 years ago, Olajuwon dominated the Boston Celtics, putting up 51 points and 14 rebounds.
The Celtics could do nothing to stop Olajuwon, who got to the paint with ease through double teams and help defense. He spun off defenders for easy dunks with his famous "Dream Shake," took defenders on straight up and faded away into a midrange jumper or just went over them with a skyhook.
Olajuwon was an unstoppable force at times, and on this day, 26 years ago, that was very much true. Despite his massive effort, the Houston Rockets lost to the Celtics 108-106. Only two other Rockets scored into double digits: Clyde Drexler with 21 and Eldridge Recasner with 13 off the bench.
Hakeem Olajuwon’s great career
The Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon first overall in the 1984 draft. In hindsight, that decision may look controversial since Michael Jordan was selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls. Nevertheless, the Rockets still landed a Hall Famer, and he helped the franchise cash in to win back-to-back NBA Finals when Jordan took nearly two seasons away from basketball.
(Also, the selection was made during an era dominated by powerful centers, Jordan was still considered an unpolished prospect and Olajuwon starred for the hometown University of Houston.)
The Nigerian native averaged 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks for his career, playing 17 seasons with the Rockets before playing his final season with the Toronto Raptors. He was the Finals MVP twice and the 1993-94 MVP and landed 12 All-Star and All-NBA selections, with two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
For the first 12 seasons of his career, Olajuwon averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds a season. Even though his rebounds decreased later in his career, he still averaged over 20 points in his first 13 seasons. He was also selected to the All-Star game in 12 of his first 13 seasons, only missing in 1990-91.
Olajuwon was also dominant in the playoffs, averaging 25.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. In his second season in the league, the Rockets made it to the NBA Finals and lost (to the Boston Celtics). But he made it back to win back-to-back titles in 1994 and '95.
Olajuwon was one of the best big men in NBA history. He was dominant from the beginning, initially teaming with Ralph Sampson to form the "Twin Towers," and didn’t stop until late in his career.