Hakeem Olajuwon reminisces about 1994 championship, legendary career

Twenty-five years after Hakeem Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to their first of back-to-back NBA championships, he was a guest on the weekly radio program “The Sporting Life.”

The ESPN program, hosted by Jeremy Schaap, aired over the weekend.

The Rockets defeated the visiting Knicks 90-84 in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals to capture the title on June 22.

In 1995, Houston swept the Orlando Magic in the championship round to defend its title.

Olajuwon received NBA Finals MVP honors both years.

In other words, he cemented his legend in the 1994 and ’95 playoffs.

“What are your most vivid memories” from the 1994 Finals? Schaap asked the Hall of Fame center.

“The memory is still so fresh in my mind,” Olajuwon said. “It’s amazing to say that it’s been 25 years. (he laughs)

“I just remember how physical the game was, especially against Patrick (Ewing) and our matchup with (the late Anthony) Mason and (Charles) Oakley. A very, very physical team.

“And we have Otis (Thorpe) and Robert Horry, so both teams match up so well… It was very, very tough at both ends, defensively and offensively.”

Asked about facing Shaquille O’Neal in an early chapter in his career, Olajuwon said: “He was very active, so strong and confident.”

Broader perspective

Hakeem Olajuwon, drafted No. 1 out of the University of Houston in 1984, wrapped up his legendary career in 2002 with the Toronto Raptors. He played all but his final season with the Rockets.

Reflecting on the challenges of capturing two titles, Olajuwon admitted to Schaap that those championships have become more meaningful to him as the years go by.

“And now I watch how difficult it is to win championships and it makes me appreciate our championships more,” said Olajuwon, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria.

Soccer background

Unlike many big men, Olajuwon possessed remarkably quick footwork. It’s been said many times that his soccer background aided his development as a basketball player.

Naturally, Schaap wanted to discuss this topic.

As a result, the radio host worded the question this way: “How much did soccer contribute to your success in basketball?”

“That was the foundation of the agility,” Olajuwon said. “I don’t really feel like a big man, so I feel very comfortable like a small (guy) in a big man’s body.

“I grew up playing with guys that are very quick and agile, so you think like them. So that really had a huge impact on my movement, my comfort and my footwork.”