Here's a start (very brief mention of Moses), I'll see what else I can find:
Originally Posted by MICHAEL MURPHY, Staff
THE DREAM SHAKE/Legendary, elusive move earns place in history
Houston Chronicle - Sunday, May 28, 1995
It was the NBA's version of the old shell game, right there for millions of fans to see on a national television audience.
Hakeem Olajuwon turned, ready to make his move to the basket. David Robinson crouched low, muscles tensed as he readied himself for what was to come.
Perhaps if Robinson had known at the time, he might have just gotten out of the way. Maybe there could have been a way to avoid being made the pigeon in what so far has become the defining moment of the Western Conference finals. But there was no such foresight for Robinson.
Olajuwon took a hard dribble, pump-faked left, showed the ball, spun, pumped right and showed the ball again. Robinson, not biting on the first move, finally went airborne as he fell for the second. Yeah, now you see it, now you don't. The sucker play had worked again.
As Robinson flew by, Olajuwon went back to his left, ducked under and kissed the ball off the glass for two of his 41 points as the Rockets took Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in the series. The Spurs responded Friday night, winning 107-102 to cut the Rockets' lead to 2-1, but Olajuwon had another huge game with 43 points.
Indeed, there's trouble in Mr. Robinson's neighborhood and the reason is a nasty little move by Olajuwon called the "Dream Shake."
"Oh, it's just a move," said Olajuwon with a shrug, attempting to describe the maneuver.
No, the master con artist wasn't about to spill the beans and tip off all the unwitting dupes on what goes into this so-called Dream Shake.
There would be no detailed analysis of this mass of twitches, tics, feints, fakes and drop-steps that lead to so many hook shots, dunks and fallaway 15-footers. But would it help? Even those who are used to seeing Olajuwon 's athletic shell game are baffled.
"I don't know if I can describe it," said Clyde Drexler, who has been watching the move develop since the two played together at the University of Houston in the early 80s. "I really don't know if I'd want to describe it because I don't want people to be able to defend it."
Olajuwon just laughed when approached about the move that looks a bit like Houdini struggling to get out of a straitjacket (which isn't a bad analogy, considering the defenses Olajuwon faces every night).
According to Olajuwon , to find the genesis of the Dream Shake, you have to go back two decades to the dusty soccer fields of Lagos, Nigeria. Back before Olajuwon dreamed of playing basketball for a living, he played sports such as team handball, field hockey and his true love, soccer.
"Many people do not know this, but it's not really a basketball move," he said. "It's a soccer move. In a soccer game, when you're running to the ball and somebody's chasing you from behind, you have to misdirect them and control the ball. When they kick the ball towards your goal, you are chasing the ball, trying to stop it and go back the other way. So you have to fake the ball to misdirect him so you can control the ball and go the other way.
"So how can you control the ball and go the other way when somebody's chasing you at full speed? You have to misdirect him. It's much the same (in basketball) because there's somebody behind you. You want to confuse them."
Olajuwon stopped and looked up, his hands spread in a see-how-easy-it-is gesture. "I realized that in basketball, you have the man behind you, just like in soccer," he said. "I just translated it over to basketball. It's nothing much."
No, not much. Only the most effective weapon in basketball today.
In the history of the NBA, there have been few of what can be called signature moves -- unstoppable scoring maneuvers that are associated with a particular player.
If you dust off the old black-and-white films of the Minneapolis Lakers you'll find the first real signature move in the NBA. George Mikan, big No. 99, used to have a sweeping hook that was as automatic as any shot in the history of the league. Later years saw the arrival of Wilt Chamberlain's powerful Dipper Dunk and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's soft, graceful Sky Hook.
Then came the Dream Shake.
"Hakeem has probably combined parts of all of those (other shots)," said LA Lakers scout Stan Albeck. "That makes him completely different from any center in the NBA. He's a master of footwork, and footwork is what enables you to get your shot off in this league. It's not the shot itself and it's not the fake, it's the footwork that creates the situation where you get the shot off."
Pete Newell, the former Cal coach who runs an annual big-man's camp for the NBA, agreed. Olajuwon has attended Newell's camp twice, once as an observer before his junior year at the University of Houston and again the following year, right before being drafted by the Rockets. Newell was impressed by Olajuwon 's footwork, which he said is the best in the league because of the soccer background.
"I'm a great believer that soccer can help a basketball player because it gives him ambidexterity in his feet," Newell said. "If you're righthanded, then usually you're right-footed and if you're lefthanded, then you're left-footed. So many players don't develop their off foot. But in soccer, the pace of the game forces you to get ambidextrous with your feet. That's probably the main reason he has such tremendously advanced footwork."
Even with the sophisticated video breakdowns every team has at their disposal, the Dream Shake is a marvelous mystery. Albeck, who has worked with Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar among others in a career that stretches back to the old American Basketball Association, just shakes his head and smiles when he discusses Olajuwon 's Dream Shake.
"That move is unique to Hakeem," Albeck said. "I don't know who got ahold of him early, but they really did a great job of teaching him post moves. Like I said, I don't know who it was, but I'd sure be interested in finding out."
Guy Lewis, that's who. Lewis, Olajuwon 's coach at the University of Houston, taught a three-part system called the "Big Step" program to every big man who played for the Cougars. Elvin Hayes learned it. Ken Spain learned it. And Olajuwon learned it.
"It's easy to say, but so hard to teach," Lewis said. "When I name the steps, people will say, "Good gosh, anybody can do that,' but not everybody can do it. I've seen lots of college players who can't do it and I've seen pros -- centers -- who can't.
"It starts with a simple thing like catching the ball. You've seen a lot of big guys not pay attention to where the ball is and when the guards throw it in to them, they're not ready for it and they fumble the ball away. Hakeem very, very seldom fumbles the ball away.
"Step No. 2 is check the defense. Don't try to do something before you know where the defense is. And Step No. 3 is step to the basket. I always added a fourth thing to it. I always told them to step to the basket and dunk it."
Which is exactly what Olajuwon did in college. Often. But over the years, which included daily workouts at Fonde Recreation Center against Moses Malone, the Dream Shake has grown as Olajuwon learned the nuances of playing in the NBA.
Pump fakes that were successful on the college level didn't always work against pros such as Malone, Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Patrick Ewing. Along the way, adjustments had to be made, the biggest of which led to his most potent move.
Instead of turning towards the basket and the inevitable double teams, Olajuwon began spinning away, toward the baseline. The drop-step power move became a fallaway finesse move that usually resulted in a midrange jumper -- a shot that has become as accurate as any in the game.
"It's like when Moses (Malone) used to do all of his stuff," said Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich . "You can't stop it. There's no defense for that shot. He's fading away from 15 feet. What do you do?"
"In these last two years he has gotten so many moves that trying to guard him man-on-man is literally impossible," Newell said. "His fallback jumpshot on the baseline is almost automatic. He's so comfortable shooting that shot that he doesn't miss it very often."
The baseline fadeaway is just another example of Olajuwon 's offensive genius, Albeck said. The difference between good players and great ones is the ability to stay one step ahead of the league's defenses.
"He's expanded the move over the years," Albeck said. "The more you play in the league, the more concerned you become about how to create space between you and the defender. So he's creating that space with the same movement, only he's moving it out a bit farther.
"And when he has the ball around the free-throw line area, what makes him also dangerous is that he can face up. Now he puts the ball on the floor and he gets you going in one direction, but his offensive footwork is going to be better than your defensive footwork.
"You look at centers like Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson. Those guys have monumental tasks every night, but Hakeem is so consistent and so steady that you say he's going to get his 28 points and 10 rebounds, and you're like in a state of shock if he doesn't. That's what makes him unique and separates him from the other great centers."
What's next? Over the years, the Dream Shake has slowly migrated out to 17-foot range, so what's next for Olajuwon ? Lewis said to stay tuned.
"Pro scouts asked me when he came out, "Will he improve in the pros?' " Lewis said. "I said, "Good gosh, he'll improve for the next seven or eight years.' Well, last year he got the MVP, and that was his 11th year, so he improved for 11 years.
"And I'll tell you something -- I think he was a better player this year than he was last year. I really do. I see no reason why he won't be better next year, either."
But one day, Olajuwon will join Mikan, Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain, not only in retirement, but into the Hall of Fame. But before he does, could Olajuwon pass on the move that frustrated so many an NBA opponent to a young, up-and-coming center? Indeed, can the Dream Shake be coached?
"You can teach him the basics," said Olajuwon , stroking the small wisp of a goatee. "What he then has to develop is the reaction and the quickness. I can teach him the basic footsteps -- how you can misdirect and the principal of how you can use it effectively.
"But he would have to make it his own. You have to develop it to be yours."
Albeck had a suggestion for Olajuwon :
"People will pay a million dollars to learn that move," he said. "He'd better patent that move, put it on a tape and sell it. They'd sell a million of those." ____________
Evolution of a dream.
The five steps in which Hakeem Olajuwon 's offensive game -- and the "Dream Shake" -- evolved:
1 -- The footwork in the Dream Shake was, according to Olajuwon , originally a soccer move. As a youth, Olajuwon developed superior footwork playing soccer.
2 -- At the University of Houston, coach Guy V. Lewis taught Olajuwon the "Big Step" method for big men that also helped develop such players as Elvin Hayes and Ken Spain. This gave Olajuwon a power move to the basket in the paint.
3 -- Late in his career at UH, Olajuwon began playing against veteran Moses Malone and other pros at the Fonde Rec Center in Houston, which allowed Olajuwon to develop fakes and moves to the basket that would be effective in the NBA.
4 -- Olajuwon began to develop a fallaway, baseline jumper that complemented his power moves.
5 -- Olajuwon has developed more shooting range at this stage of his career, making his other moves more effective. __________
What they say about the Dream Shake
Stan Albeck, LA Lakers scout -- "It's not the shot itself and it's not the fake, it's the footwork that creates the situation where you get the shot off."
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich -- "You can't stop it. There's no defense for that shot. He's fading away from 15 feet. What do you do?"
Pete Newell -- "In these last two years he has gotten so many moves that trying to guard him man-on-man is literally impossible. His fall-back jumpshot on the baseline is almost automatic. He's so comfortable shooting that shot that he doesn't miss it very often."
Clyde Drexler -- "I don't know if I can describe it. I really don't know if I'd want to describe it because I don't want people to be able to defend it."
Hakeem Olajuwon -- "Oh, it's just a move." ___________
Hakeem Olajuwon has two 40-point games in this series. Here is a list of his career 40-point playoff games:
1987..Seattle ....49..L 128-125..
1984..Portland ....46..W 114-104..
1995..Utah ....45..L 102-100..
1995..San Antonio....43..L 107-102..
1988..Dallas ....41..W 104-99..
1994..Utah ....41..W 104-99..
1995..San Antonio....41..W 106-93..
1995..Utah ....40..W 104-99..
-Game 1, first-round; -Game 3, Western Conference finals; -Game 2, Western Conference finals; -Game four, first round
Another (not great, but there's some mention of each)...
Originally Posted by FRAN BLINEBURY, STAFF
NBA ALL-STAR GAME - Moses Malone - If the blue collar fits, he'll wear it - and go about his business like no player before or since
Houston Chronicle (TX) - Friday, February 17, 2006
NOBODY ever worked harder on a basketball court than Moses Malone.
Maybe longer. Maybe prettier. Occasionally better. Never harder.
It is trite to say that Malone was the ultimate blue-collar worker. To describe him as carrying a lunch pail doesn't begin to scratch the surface. What he carried mostly was his team.
"More than any player I've watched or worked with closely, nobody did more to fulfill his responsibility to try to win a game than Moses ," said Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson. "He absolutely loved to play the game and did it to his physical limits every time he ever played."
He jumped from high school in Petersburg, Va., straight to the old ABA as a 19-year-old and played six seasons with the Rockets from 1976 to 1982, winning two Most Valuable Player awards and leading the club to the NBA Finals in 1981.
Doing his work quietly
"It was amazing to see Moses ' development in those years," said former teammate Rudy Tomjanovich . "I've been so lucky to have been a part of Hakeem Olajuwon 's career as a coach. But to watch Moses ' development up close, as one of his peers, was really something unique and special.
"I remember when he first came into the league, he was just a skinny kid who wanted to get the ball and face up to the basket and shoot jumpers. At that time, he wanted to be Dr. J and get by people with his quickness. He was so skinny. You wondered if he was even going to survive.
"But what none of us knew in those early days, even playing with him, was the kind of pride Moses had, the willingness to work and really work hard. One day I went into a gym just off the Southwest Freeway, where I'd occasionally go to get in a little extra workout with the weights. I got to talking to one of the trainers, and he said, ?Oh yeah, Moses is in here every morning, pumping the iron.' He was conscious of his body. He was working his butt off to get bigger and stronger. He just never said anything. I don't think he wanted any of us to know it."
It wasn't long before it was obvious. From 1978 to 1982, Malone never averaged fewer than 24.8 points and 14.5 rebounds for the Rockets.
Just as important, it was Malone who took a young Olajuwon downtown to Fonde Recreation Center and taught him what it meant to be a pro.
"The times I spent with Moses at Fonde were like going to basketball college," said Olajuwon . "He pushed me to get better. He tested me all of the time. He challenged me. He showed me how he worked."
Dawson just shakes his head.
Leaving it all on the floor
"Idealistically, you'd like to think that everybody in the NBA could be like Moses ," he said. "But realistically, you know that's not possible. I used to sit on the bench and watch him work like nobody else to get rebounds, to put in follow shots. I'd see him play 48 minutes and then come into the locker room and literally collapse in his locker. It would actually take five or 10 minutes before he could even move."
Malone played 19 NBA seasons, won his third MVP award in 1983, when he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the championship, and finished as the league's fifth all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 2001.
At age 50, Malone can still be found in the gym playing ball most days, and he's currently acting as an unofficial rebounding coach for the Sixers.
"When you look back over the 25 years that I played, the game did me good," Malone said. "The opportunity to be an All-Star, to be one of the 50 greatest players and then to get the call to the Hall of Fame."
According to Rudy T, the coming-out party for Malone was the 1977 first-round playoff series when the Rockets beat the Washington Bullets.
"Actually, it was Moses beating the Bullets," Tomjanovich said. "They had Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld, a pair of Hall of Famers, on the front line, and he beat them both. Nothing fancy. No strategy. No secrets.
This seems to be the last one I can find, not ideal either:
Originally Posted by Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle
This was old school, with whine SOLOMON: Big matchup
Houston Chronicle (TX) - Saturday, March 7, 2009
LISTENING to the talk this week, you might wonder if Shaquille O'Neal received a pacifier for his 37th birthday.
Perhaps Yao Ming re-gifted one of his. Yep, the two big ol' 7-foot-plus stars gathered on the floor Friday night at Toyota Center to wrap up Whiner's Week in the NBA.
That lesser-known annual celebration comes after All-Star weekend, typically with about 20 games left in the regular season.
Shaq (7-1) and Yao (7-6) led the way this week, whining about how they are officiated differently than the normal-size players.
"It's not my fault I ate my Frosted Flakes when I was little, and you ate Wheaties," O'Neal joked about the little fellas in the league before the Rockets' 116-112 victory.
Yao, following the script, agreed there is a double standard. They are right. Every now and then they get hacked and it isn't called, but unless Wrestlemania breaks out in the paint, who besides biased home fans wants to hear the whining?
Well, it's not just for them.
"(Big men have) been doing it for 50 years," Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler said. "It's to get an edge. They know the officials watch the news and read the newspaper."
Rudy Tomjanovich , who played with Moses Malone and coached Hakeem Olajuwon , recognized the whining.
"It's one of those things," Tomjanovich said. "I'm telling you, 10 years from now, the next group of really good big guys will be saying the same thing. I don't think it's a conspiracy. It's just basketball."
This was fun basketball. Every bump and grind, every twist and shout, every hack of a Shaq and every pow of a Yao.
"Tonight was a lot of weightlifting for me," Yao said. "It was a 400-pound guy, I'm playing. He always says, ‘You're probably 7-foot-10.' I say, ‘You're probably 400 pounds.'
"Guarding Shaq will never be an easy job in this league."
Guarding Yao isn't easy work, either. The two were going at it pretty good, though neither dominated - Yao finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks; Shaq countered with 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
"It's always like that with Yao and me," O'Neal said. "True warriors playing basketball. He is a great player, and he always plays tough against me."
This was classic old-school big man vs. big man. You can't get that every night in the NBA. Not in this "what type of range does he have" 21st century basketball world.
Actually, two of the littlest men played the best, as Aaron Brooks (30 points) and Steve Nash (32 points, 13 assists) put on a show.
But rare is the day when you see a big man, a bigger man, wrap up O'Neal so he could not move. Rare do you see a big man, a bigger man, stuff an O'Neal shot while standing flat-footed.
That was Yao playing "big-man" basketball and helping the Rockets claim their 11th straight home win.
Shaq powered his way to a three-point play with three minutes left to pull Phoenix within 105-102, then he blocked a Brooks drive to start a break, and all of a sudden the Suns were within a point.
Yao? Hello, Yao?
He responded with a lefthanded jump hook that was off-target, but he grabbed the rebound and drew a foul.
In the end, Yao was a major reason Nash misfired on a potential game-winning 3 in the final seconds. Yao stepped around a screen O'Neal was setting on Brooks to pressure Nash.
The shot was just short. It's a game of inches.
And often the men with the most inches do a little whining, and there's nothing wrong with that.
This one doesn't talk much about Moses, but here Rudy puts Hakeem alongside Wilt/Russ (and therein ahead of him):
Originally Posted by KELLY CARTER ; The Orange County Register
PLAYING LIKE A DREAM - NBA FINALS: While lesser lights become heroes for a day, the Rockets' Olajuwon rarely turns in anything less than a stellar performance.
The Orange County Register - Tuesday, June 13, 1995
In Game 1, it was Kenny Smith. Game 2, it was Sam Cassell. Game 3, it was Robert Horry. In every game, it is Hakeem Olajuwon .
Rarely does Olajuwon get to play the hero's role. When you are as consistently great as he is, you tend to get overlooked by the media, always on the lookout for a fresh story. But there is no ignoring Dream.
He is the real reason the Rockets can sweep the Magic on
Wednesday for its second consecutive NBA title. Houston leads the best-of-seven series, 3-0. Smith, Cassell, Horry and mostly Clyde Drexler have played major roles in The Finals, but they would not be playing for the title if not for Olajuwon , at 32 arguably the best center in the league.
"I don't really like to be compared to others," said Olajuwon , who is averaging 32.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in The Finals. "It's very difficult to say `the best' because everybody has a style of play that is their own."
Olajuwon definitely has his own style. Jump hook, drop-step fadeaway, spin move, 18-foot spot-up jumper, pass. He can do it all.
"Guarding Hakeem is like having one of my worst nightmares," Orlando forward Horace Grant said. "He has so many moves in the post, it's unbelievable. You can't compare him to anyone. He's the best in my book, and he has been for a long time."
It's hard to believe he didn't start playing basketball until he was 15. Is it any wonder " Olajuwon " in one Nigerian language translates into "always being on top"? Blessed with coordination and footwork, basketball came pretty easy to the guy who excelled in soccer, field hockey and team handball. All he had to do was learn the rules.
Forced to develop an inside game when his college coach, Guy Lewis, instructed the other players not to pass to Olajuwon unless he was in the paint, Olajuwon looked forward to summers when he could play his outside game. Once in the pros, going up against Moses Malone built his confidence.
Now Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich ranks Olajuwon with Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
"And you could make the argument that he may be even above that level," Tomjanovich said. "He's so versatile. He goes inside, outside. He's a defender. He's a passer. He just does everything. I've been with him since his first day here. I scouted him for the draft, and he still amazes me."
Olajuwon was most amazing in the Western Conference finals against San Antonio's David Robinson. After what Olajuwon did to Robinson, the Spurs center should have considered handing over his MVP trophy. Assistant Rockets coach Carroll Dawson had seen the moves before _ at various times.
"But for him to constantly do it time and time and time again, to stay up as high as he did, I had never seen that before," Dawson said. "If he missed a shot, it was almost surprising."
Never has Dawson seen Olajuwon 's concentration or confidence higher. Perhaps, it has to do with Olajuwon 's spirituality.
"He has an inner peace about him that's just changed his whole game," Dawson said. "I thought, at times, he would get a little too excitable and it would affect his overall game. It doesn't happen now. He stays within himself."
There was no single thing that made Olajuwon , Nigerian-born but a U.S. citizen since 1993, return to his Islamic faith. Just a part of maturing, he said. His spirituality has helped him put everything in perspective and helped him to understand life.
"You are more mature. You have inner peace. It makes your job so much easier and fun," Olajuwon said.
Olajuwon seems to reach his objective every time out. Sunday's 31-point performance marked the 15th time in 21 games this postseason he has scored 30 or more points. He likely will join Michael Jordan as the only other player to win back-to-back Finals MVP trophies, if he can beat out sentimental favorite Drexler.
Whoever gets it, Drexler is glad to see former college teammate Olajuwon getting so much long-deserved attention.
"It has taken a long time," Drexler said. "This guy has been great for a very long time. I mean great, not just good, great. It's good to see him get the recognition that he deserves. He's certainly worthy of it and has been for a long time."
Better than Jordan - But is it enough for Houston?
Sun Herald, The (Sydney, Australia) - Sunday, June 11, 1995
HAKEEM Olajuwon acknowledges that only a few players inspire him to read the small print scores in the newspaper and that Shaquille O'Neal is one of them.
So as Olajuwon sat at his locker last week in Houston, brushing his hair and trying to be humble about the way he had just humbled David Robinson, it was not surprising that the brush stopped in midstroke when he was asked about O'Neal.
"My task is going to be even bigger," Olajuwon said with a smile of anticipation. "I'm jumping from the frying pan into the fire."
But Olajuwon has no intention of being cooked.
As the defending champion Rockets were preparing to open the National Basketball Association finals against O'Neal's Orlando Magic, Olajuwon 's game had ascended to a level reserved for legends. His dominance of Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs was so extraordinary in the Western Conference finals that people stopped arguing about which centre was better.
Instead, he was being compared to the great centres of all time, not only for his numbers, but for his combination of speed, agility, and improvisation that make him perhaps the most athletic and graceful centre ever.
The challenge of facing Robinson inspired Olajuwon to new heights. Will the challenge of O'Neal do the same? The Rockets hope so. Because when Olajuwon is at his best, the Rockets believe that nobody is better. Not even No 45, or No 23, who plays for the Chicago Bulls.
"Michael Jordan is a close second right now," said Rockets guard Kenny Smith when asked to assess who is the best player in basketball. "But in terms of right this second, Hakeem is the best basketball player. He's on a different level. Jordan's the only one I've seen take it to that level. Right now, Hakeem is there. It makes the game easy for everybody."
Olajuwon has averaged 33 points a game in the playoffs. And while he will be tested by O'Neal, that is what Olajuwon wants. At 23, Orlando's gifted centre has reached the finals in his third NBA season. He is trying to do what Olajuwon could not - win a championship in his first finals appearance.
OLAJUWON has been where O'Neal is. The Rockets reached the finals in Olajuwon 's second season in 1986, but were beaten by Boston. There were flaws in Olajuwon 's game then, the same way that free-throw shooting is a flaw in O'Neal's game.
But while O'Neal's awesome game is still unfinished, Olajuwon , at 32, is a complete work of art. A devout Muslim, he rededicated himself to the Islamic religion in 1991, and he has found the peace and contentment he did not have earlier in his career. A well-liked player who is affectionately called "Dream" by his teammates, Olajuwon laughs easily and enjoys the game more than ever. He is an intelligent player who studies his opponents, and playing with an unselfish team has allowed him to maximise his skills.
After winning the league's most valuable player award last year, as well as his first championship, Olajuwon hired a trainer to improve his strength and stamina. As a result, his already remarkable endurance became even better.
He averaged 43.5 minutes during the conference finals, yet he rarely appeared to be breathing hard. Even when he missed eight games in late March and early April with anemia, he turned that into a positive. He lifted weights and worked out until he was cleared to play.
It is hard to fathom, but possible. Olajuwon may still be getting better.
"One of my biggest pet peeves with some players is that they don't work on their game," said Leslie Alexander, the Rockets' owner. "Some guys are the same player five years later. But Hakeem never stops working. Sometimes when you watch him on the court, you'll catch him smiling. He just seems so happy."
Any player with moves like Olajuwon 's would be happy. Footwork is the key to his game, and many of his moves are based on principles of soccer, the sport that he played growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. Teammates argue about which Olajuwon move is their favourite.
There is no way to guess what he may do when he catches the ball in the low post. He has up-and-under moves, a patented fadeaway jumper, head fakes, a variety of spin moves, and a deadly mid-range jumper.
His shot is rarely blocked because defenders rarely time his moves. Dave Cowens, one of San Antonio's assistant coaches and formerly a great centre with the Celtics, played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Moses Malone. So Cowens knows a thing or two about pivot play.
But in dismantling Robinson, Olajuwon showed Cowens things he had never seen. It was not so much that Robinson played poorly. It was that Olajuwon played so well.
"No question about it, he's a phenomenal player," Cowens said. "If you look at the way he's built, he's a big guy, but his centre of gravity is remarkable. He doesn't really have long legs or a long torso. It's great for balance. Plus he has the soccer background as well as a great amount of concentration."
THAT will be Orlando's job during the finals. O'Neal will have one advantage over Olajuwon that he enjoys against everyone he faces - strength. But avoiding foul trouble will be a major challenge for O'Neal against a player with so many moves. Meanwhile, Olajuwon fouled out of just three games this season.
The Rockets have needed more than just Olajuwon to get this far, and they will need more to beat Orlando. But the Rockets are confident.
The mid-season trade that brought Clyde Drexler was a shrewd move, giving the Rockets a versatile, experienced player who improved their running game, their passing, their defence, and their perimeter game. And as the defending champions, the Rockets, coached superbly by Rudy Tomjanovich , have shown great character by beating the teams that had the top three regular-season records - San Antonio, Phoenix, and Utah.
And Olajuwon has been sensational. The Rockets believe he should have won the MVP award again. Instead, he finished fifth.
When asked who he believed to be the best player in the game, Olajuwon would not say. But he did say: "I'm happy with myself. I like my game."
He would also like another championship. And so far during the play-offs, no one has stopped him from getting what he wants.
Originally Posted by Martin McNeal Bee Staff Writer
OLAJUWON JOINS THE NBA LEGENDS
SACRAMENTO BEE - Friday, June 9, 1995
If there is one player in these 1995 NBA Finals wholly equipped to recognize greatness, it could be Orlando forward Horace Grant.
He has played with Michael Jordan, generally regarded as the best player in the world. He currently plays with Shaquille O'Neal, generally regarded as the NBA's center of the next decade.
But ask Grant about Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon , and the 6-foot-10 power forward has little difficulty making his feelings known.
"He is the best center out there and you don't compare the best to anyone," said Grant, who likely will spend another very uncomfortable part of tonight's pivotal Game 2 attempting to defend Olajuwon .
"Guarding him is like one of my worst nightmares," Grant said. "He just has so many moves in the low post."
These NBA playoffs have been a pseudo-emergence for Olajuwon . That in itself is a fairly strong feat.
Consider that the 7-foot Nigerian native is coming off a 1993-94 season in which he became the first player to win the NBA regular-season Most Valuable Player award, the Defensive Player of the Year award and the NBA Finals MVP award. He also led the Rockets to their first league championship.
This season, Olajuwon 's 11th, he appears to be even better. It came as no surprise that Olajuwon just happened to be in the right place at the right time Wednesday night, tipping in the game-winning shot in overtime in Game 1. He had 31 points, six rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and two steals.
"Hey, we double-and triple-teamed him and he still scored 31 points," said Wayne (Tree) Rollins, Orlando's backup center and assistant coach. "What are" we supposed to do, shoot him?"
Olajuwon has played at such a high level during the playoffs that many ar beginning to believe he belongs in the class of legendary NBA centers - a list currently occupied only by Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Next season, Olajuwon 's 96th point will make him the ninth player to accumulate 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Elvin Hayes, Bob Pettit, Moses Malone, Walt Bellamy and Robert Parish are the others.
"Anybody who cannot see that ( Olajuwon ) has more tools than all of those guys doesn't know the game," said former Kings guard Reggie Theus, who played with and against Olajuwon . "Kareem had the best hook in the history of the game. Russell was the best defender and Wilt did it all inside. Each one had his own one or two areas of specific dominance.
"But Hakeem Olajuwon dominates in so many different areas. And none of them could take you out to 18 feet, shake you and bake you, use the crossover dribble, spin and fake you and either go up and under you or fade away. On top of that, he's a great defensive player and a great team player."
To think, just three seasons ago, Olajuwon was being suspected of a professional athlete's worst offense - feigning an injury. The Rockets suspended him during the 1991-92 season for failing to render services.
But Olajuwon went through a major personal change when he reaffirmed his dedication to the Islamic faith, under which he had grown up in Nigeria. He made his first pilgrimage to Mecca during the summer of 1992.
"Going back to Islam has given me the ability to put everything into perspective," Olajuwon said. "It has given me a better vision of life. You are more mature and your life has new meaning.
"Life without Islam for me was like being without a foundation, and if you don't have a foundation, you can't be whole. I was short-tempered and would react to situations without thinking."
Olajuwon 's focus now is unparalleled.
"I've been with him since the first day," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "I scouted him before we drafted him, and he still amazes me. He has to be right up there with the best because he can do so many things. He's so versatile offensively. He can score inside and outside. Defensively, he's great and he has been passing out of the double-teams so effectively during the past couple of seasons."
All-time great centers
Here's how Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston and Shaquille O'Neal of Orlando stack up against the three best centers of all time:
Another fun article (a year early with the prediction):
Originally Posted by FRAN BLINEBURY: Staff
NBA '93 - Why not the Rockets as champs?
Houston Chronicle - Sunday, OCTOBER 31, 1993
IN the days since Michael Jordan stunned the world with the sudden news of his retirement, the film librarians and the print archivists have been working overtime. Newsweek puts out a special collectors edition, newspapers turn out more retrospective words than greeted the conclusion of World War II, and the highlight reels show us such a numbing succession of dunks and dunks and dunks that we begin to wonder how the game of basketball was ever played before this bald-headed extraterres trial beamed down from another planet.
No more Air Jordan. No more takeoffs from the foul line, levitating along the baseline, double-pumping, 360-spinning miracles. No more over the freeway, through the window, off the scoreboard, nothing but net. It is a time to be a bit wistful.
But there are two ways to look at Jordan's now-I'm-here-and-now-I'm-gone departure: as either the door closing on a wondrous era of running and soaring with the Bulls or a gaping window of opportunity opening for the rest of the NBA.
So why not the Rockets?
The team that has teased us and tormented us, dazzled us and disappointed us, streaked and struck out, cruised and cratered, risen and fallen more times than a schizophrenic souffle is now in the best position in the history of the franchise to go all the way.
Better than after the 1981 playoffs when Moses Malone and the gang pulled their upstart wagon into the NBA Finals against the Celtics? Yes, because that group was strictly a one-year wonder that finished with a losing record in the regular season, then rode on the back of their tireless center through a magical spring.
Better than after the 1986 playoffs when the Twin Towers lineup of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson fast-forwarded its maturation process and pushed into the Finals once more against the Celtics? Yes, because while the Rockets had so many young and talented pairs of legs, Boston still had Larry Bird in his prime, LA still had a hungry Magic Johnson and Detroit under Chuck Daly was coming together as an irresistible force that would not be denied.
But now the dance floor is clear as the NBA opens a season for the first time since the late 1970s without a defending champion intact and a dominant superstar in residence.
Why not the Rockets?
It may have taken a gutsy 3-point basket by Vernon Maxwell late in the fourth quarter to get the Rockets past the Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series last May and enable them to shed their long-running label of underachievers. Yet the Rockets also came within a whisker of having Mad Max's desperation shot in Game 7 beat Seattle, which would have propelled them into the Western Conference finals and made them very credible overachievers.
Why not the Rockets?
They are anchored by Olajuwon , who used last season to put the charges of selfishness and malcontent behind him and re-established himself as the best center in the game. Were it not that the balloting becomes a popularity poll and Charles Barkley gained votes simply for being outrageous and a member of the Olympic Dream Team, Olajuwon would have justly been named the league's MVP in 1993. Now he is content to be in Houston, has confidence in his teammates and has learned how to use the pass-off to elevate his game and his team to the next level. If he stays healthy, we can expect more of the same.
Why not the Rockets?
With Otis Thorpe and Robert Horry holding down the forward spots, the Rockets have unquestionably the best starting frontline in the league. There are individuals who do some things better than Thorpe and other things better than Horry. But when combined with Olajuwon there is no team that can match them in terms of overall athleticism and ability to run the floor. All that's missing up front is depth.
Why not the Rockets?
You might like to see more stability at guard. You might like to see Kenny Smith grow a spine. But Maxwell toned down some of his wild streak last season, and he demonstrated his dedication to winning while playing with a broken wrist in the playoffs. With the addition of Mario Elie and Sam Cassell and the usual feistiness from Scott Brooks, there just might be enough quality minutes among the whole group to make this a formidable backcourt.
Why not the Rockets?
In Rudy Tomjanovich , the Rockets have their best coach in history and one of the sharpest minds in the NBA. You can't overestimate his contribution to bringing the Rockets together as a cohesive unit that went 55-27 a year ago.
The contenders are everywhere, but they all have their flaws. Can the Suns duplicate last season without Richard Dumas and with questions concerning the health of Barkley? Can the Sonics and George Karl keep from tearing each other apart? Can Clyde Drexler and the Blazers get up off the floor? Can the Knicks stop talking and do the job? Can Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway work what will have to be big magic with the Magic? Can the young Hornets sting in the heat of the playoffs? Can Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant and Toni Kukoc carry on for the Bulls?
In a few more years, the NBA might be in the era of Shaq or Alonzo or Penny or Chris or Larry Johnson. But for now it is a league in transition that is seeking a new identity.
Jordan is gone and, for the first time in more than a decade, the window is wide open for the next NBA champion to fly in.
'94 NBA FINALS/RUDY'S TEAM/Plain and simple, Tomjanovich has transformed Rockets into winners
Houston Chronicle - Wednesday, June 8, 1994
A year ago, when the Rockets finally had been bounced out of the playoffs by the Seattle SuperSonics in a grueling seven-game series, Rudy Tomjanovich retreated to his house near Lake Conroe to work out his frustrations
The plan was to immerse himself in household repairs to take his mind from the bitter defeat, and so it was off to a building supply store to pick up materials. Tomjanovich was looking through bins, gazing up at shelves like any other weekend handyman, when he heard the click of the loudspeaker coming on and then the voice echoing down from the ceiling.
"Attention, shoppers!," said the voice. "We are proud to announce we have a celebrity in aisle seven. . . . No, now he's in aisle eight . . . now nine . . . "
The celebrity was headed for the door.
A year later, on the day after the Rockets eliminated the Utah Jazz and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in eight seasons, Tomjanovich and his 10-year-old son, Trey, were trying to relax and unwind from the playoff pressure with a guys' day out, shopping and hanging around the mall.
They eventually made their way to the food court, ordered lunch and were beginning to settle into a conversation, maybe about the Knicks, maybe about the Pacers, maybe about conning Dad into buying one more T-shirt or another pair of shorts, when it happened.
Clapping. Applause. Soon a rousing ovation for a couple of fellas who had to take napkins and wipe the fast food grease from their chins before they could look up into the faces of admiring strangers.
"For the first couple of seconds, we looked around to see if somebody famous had come in," said Tomjanovich . "Then we looked at each other and we started to laugh. It was like, "Who me?' "
Yes, him. Rudy T. Just Rudy.
The guy next door has the Rockets ready to cross the threshold and deliver Houston its first major sports championship, yet you get the feeling he'd be just as happy with hot sand between his toes, a cold one in his hand and the reggae rhythms of Bob Marley filling the air. That's because he would.
"Hey, I'm as dedicated to my job as the next guy," Tomjanovich said. "I just don't want my whole identity to be wrapped up in being a coach. I'll put in the hours and give it everything I've got. I'll live and I'll die with the players on my team who have done all this. But at home, I want to be Dad, and everywhere else, I'd like to be the same guy I've always been."
After 24 years with the Rockets organization as a player, scout, assistant coach and now head coach, it's like waking up one day to discover the old clock sitting on your grandmother's mantel actually is a priceless antique.
In only two full seasons on the job, Tomjanovich has transformed the same nucleus of Rockets from fakers into favorites to win it all. He's compiled a franchise-best 115-49 regular-season record in back-to-back seasons and guided the Rockets to consecutive Midwest Division titles for the first time.
Tomjanovich has had a hand in everything from the full flowering of Hakeem Olajuwon into the league's MVP to the speedy emergence of rookie Sam Cassell as a vital cog in the machinery. His fingerprints are everywhere, and now he's close to putting them in a place where Del Harris, Bill Fitch and Don Chaney could not with the Rockets -- on the NBA championship trophy.
Harris, Fitch and Chaney all had MVP talent -- either Moses Malone or Olajuwon -- in the middle of their lineups. But none of them could blend the elements to produce the proper mix. So while the rest of the country probably still thinks first of Rudy T being on the receiving end of the near-fatal punch from Kermit Washington on Dec. 9, 1977, in Houston he's become the most well-known chemist since Madame Curie.
It is about 30 minutes after the Rockets have equaled the NBA record for consecutive wins to start a season -- 15 -- by whipping the Knicks 94-85, and Tomjanovich is standing in a hallway outside the locker room at Madison Square Garden answering questions.
His lucky black suit is so damp, you'd think it had been squirted with a garden hose, and the knot in his tie is pulled off to one side. His hair is disheveled. There are dark circles under his eyes. He is alternately taking sips from cans of beer in each hand as a cigarette dangles from his mouth.
"It's a tough job," Tomjanovich repeatedly told his family and friends through the years when they pushed him to make a bid to become head coach. He knew the commitment and the toll it would take on him physically and mentally if he made the step up from being an assistant.
"He'd become a tyrant just talking about it," said his wife, Sophie. "Rudy would say that he was happy doing what he was doing. He was working hard and getting satisfaction from basketball, and he wasn't comfortable taking on all of the rest of the stuff that goes with being the head coach.
"Rudy knew that once he stepped across the line and into that job, there was no turning back. He wasn't going to do it halfway. He told us all that, me and the three kids. He said it wasn't going to be easy.
"There are two things you have to know about Rudy -- he hates losing, and he's direct."
Since Tomjanovich took the job, the Rockets have done little of the former in large part because of the latter.
In two years, he has turned a fractured cast of characters into a solid unit that feeds off the strength of the whole by being uncomplicated and unscheming.
"He made us a team," said Olajuwon .
Look no further than Olajuwon , who deserves the praise for raising his game to the level of an MVP. But it was Tomjanovich who assisted in the heavy lifting. It was Tomjanovich who convinced Olajuwon it would benefit everyone if he trusted and relied more on his teammates.
It is no coincidence that in two years under Tomjanovich 's system, Olajuwon has shot the ball better than at any time in his career and finished two straight seasons with more assists than turnovers.
Tomjanovich also went to work on Vernon Maxwell, convincing the lightning rod in the backcourt that he frequently could be effective in the role of a playmaker, and it has worked. Maxwell's shots-per-game have been cut drastically, and though the progress may seem, at times, as imperceptible as watching grass grow, Mad Max hasn't been quite so off-the-wall this season.
Tomjanovich dealt with the bizarre episode of the midseason trade that wasn't and turned what could have been a negative with Robert Horry into one of the biggest positives of the postseason. He told Horry he had actually been traded because the Rockets felt the young forward could do so much more.
This reluctant coach has even managed to get the most out of the perpetually pouting Kenny Smith, who in the first half of the season didn't like riding the bench while Scott Brooks played the fourth quarters and who now gives up significant minutes to the rookie Cassell.
Perhaps most important of all has been Tomjanovich 's ability to get the unheralded Otis Thorpe to give up most of his offense in order for the Rockets' inside-outside game from Olajuwon -to-the-bombers to work. On many other teams, Thorpe would be getting 15 to 18 shots a night. There are games when Thorpe doesn't get five with the Rockets. Yet he gives them stout defense and solid rebounding.
The true measure of a leader is not in how he is regarded by the men he favors and who reap the spoils but by those who give up individual glory in the name of the greater good. Players like Thorpe. Players like Brooks, who played a key role in the 15-0 start and is now strictly a cheerleader.
"I have nothing but respect for Rudy and his system," Brooks said. "He didn't play games with me. He never tried to lie to me. At the middle of the season, he said Kenny and Sam were on a roll, they were playing well together, and something had to give. It eats at me, sure. I want to play. But the guy was honest. He was direct."
He's taken the black hole that was the Rockets' ability to mine the college draft and hit a rich vein that's produced back-to-back winners in Horry and Cassell. He's assembled a team filled with long-range shooters in his own image as a player -- a 3-point bomber before the NBA painted a line on the floor -- and turned them loose.
Yet he's gone from being one of the worst defenders to ever lace up a pair of sneakers to being a coach who prefers suffocating the other guy with defense than drowning him in offense. Maybe you respect most the things you can't do.
What he has done is worked and worried and fretted and frowned and done all of the things he told his family and his friends he would do if he ever took this job. What he's also done is brought the Rockets to the very brink of a championship without the self-absorption of Pat Riley, the professorial aura of Larry Brown, the philosophical mysticism of Phil Jackson or the look-at-me-I'm-a-genius attitude of Don Nelson.
"I don't know if I'm in this thing for the long term," Tomjanovich said. "Right now, I'm only trying to get through one more series. I love the job, but I'm not comfortable being the celebrity. I can go to Galveston or go to Lake Conroe, and I can't get away. I like to go to a club, have a beer and listen to music, and it's getting tougher for me to do that all the time. Man, I've been missing my music.
"I accept the attention and I try to treat people graciously, and still it does take a toll. It would be the greatest thing if I could coach and still be able to go to the grocery store.
"You know, I want this championship real bad. But once in a while, I want to go out someplace, get something to eat, bite into it and then let all the grease run down my chin and not even worry about wiping it off. That's me."