In the late 80s and throughout the 90s, basketball fans my age were treated to a player that was the best at his position and made it virtually impossible for anyone to think we’ll ever see another like him. He has spoiled us to the point where we think every single center and/or power forward should flock to his home over the summer to learn from him.
The man is so talented, so brilliant, so amazing and so in demand that he doesn’t have to move a muscle to get his voice heard; the people come to him. We speak of him with reverence, admiration and respect. We speak of him as the Basketball God that he is. That man is none other than The Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Dream is one of only two players that, in my era of watching basketball, had the ability, mindset and the drive to make all of his contemporaries look foolish. The other, of course, is The Jordan. Hakeem played in an era when big men roamed the earth and he made all of them look beneath him. Shaquille O’Neal, a man who will readily allude to the fact (because by watching the games, it was a fact) that no center wanted it with him, will say that The Dream is the best center he ever played against and the one man who had his way with him when they played.
The Admiral doesn’t have to say it; we’ve all seen it. The same goes for Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Mount Mutombo and any other All-Star center during that time. The Dream could do everything on the court, and no matter how much the game has changed, it’s almost as if we wished The Dream was still on the court. He was truly one-of-a-kind.
One way of observing The Dream’s impact is overhearing a discussion about big men. The Dream may not even be the starting point and, in the recent case of a conversation on Twitter, he wasn’t at all. The discussion was initially about Dwight Howard, David Robinson and if it was a stretch to say that a prime Robinson is equal to today’s Dwight Howard. Well, it went from that to The Dream and how Dwight should continue to learn from The Dream.
All of us forgot that The Admiral was in the discussion and even the people who were saying Robinson is supremely better than Howard weren’t saying Howard should learn from him. No, they were saying he should continue to learn from The Dream.
The Dream was All-World at everything. He was All-World on offense, defense and rebounding. He had his moments when I imagine people wondered if he could ever win a ring, but those same people (hopefully) recognized his second-to-none skill-set and what the NBA truly had.
Think about it: who can you really compare The Dream to? It certainly can’t be another center, because that would be a disservice to The Dream and his ability to make them look foolish on both ends of the court. The Dream was a hybrid of sorts: guard skills, with a center’s body, and played like both. When he took centers out of the paint, it was over for them. When he was on the block, he was just as deadly. How many other big men can we truly say that about?
As maddening as it can be at times to have discussions, debates and exchanges with fellow basketball fans, there’s one thing a majority of us agree on: there is only one Hakeem Olajuwon and there hasn’t been anyone close since, nor will there ever be another and, for that, we appreciate the player we were privileged enough to see.