The Dream turned 50 on Monday, so TNT’s “Inside the NBA” ran a tribute to the Houston Rockets legend. Following the piece, which showed Olajuwon mentoring and training select big men, Shaq was full of praise for the man who outplayed him.
“Hakeem Olajuwon was the only guy that I couldn’t intimidate,” Shaq said of Hakeem.
Shaq then talked about his intimidation tactics and how they didn’t work on Olajuwon.
“When I would say something, if you say something back, I had you. If I [elbow] you and you complain, I had you,” Shaq explained.
“Right before the (1995) finals — we had beaten Houston twice that year in Houston and in Orlando — Hakeem was good, but I didn’t know that he was that good. I was in my own zone and wasn’t really worried about anybody else. First play of the game, I gave him the patented Shaq ‘bow, jump hook, 2-0. He just smiled at me. And then he came down and gave me [a move], shot a jumper and said, ‘right back at you, Big Fella.’
“So I came down and did it again, but I could never get to him. I could never intimidate him.”
Shaq then went on to explain how the variety in Olajuwon’s moves made him so difficult to guard.
“He’s a guy that you couldn’t study. Like Alonzo (Mourning) and Patrick (Ewing) and all the Georgetown guys, they would fake left and go hard right with that dumb, running jump hook. Hakeem Olajuwon, he would go left, he would go right, so you really couldn’t study for him. The best defense was put your hands up and hope he misses.”
Olajuwon won two titles during his career, and they came in back-to-back seasons when Michael Jordan took time off to purse a professional baseball career. He was toward the prime of his career when he squared off against Shaq in the ’95 finals. Shaq was still young and much thinner back then. Though Shaq would lose in those finals, he went on to win four titles.
Shaq didn’t have many players who could stop him during his career. Hakeem was probably the only big man ever who got the best of him. Now that Shaq’s retired, it’s nice to see him recognize that.
We’ll also leave you with this classic Taco Bell commercial between Shaq and Hakeem that played on the rivalry between them:
Bonus – Here’s video from Game 1 of the ’95 finals (the Nick Anderson game) where Shaq and Hakeem go head-to-head: