Just A ‘Dream’
An in-depth look at why Olajuwon would not have defeated Jordan in the Finals.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
It seems that ever since Michael Jordan was elected into the Hall of Fame almost two years ago, and after delivering his infamous induction speech that was neither humble nor gracious and instead made him seem like a belligerent bully, it changed people’s perception of the gentleman that Nike and Gatorade told us he was and all of sudden being “Like Mike” meant being an arrogant and insufferable a-hole instead of the best basketball player who ever lived.
Since then, shots have been taken at Jordan the man (he’s an old has been whose time is up) and at Jordan “The Legend” (he wouldn’t be able to do this or that in today’s NBA) and there has been what seems to be sort of an underground movement to attempt to “demystify” the MJ mystique.
Fifteen years ago, you would find almost no opposition to anyone holding to the belief that Jordan was the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Hell, five years ago you couldn’t find anyone to say that he wasn’t the GOAT. But since that fateful day in Springfield, MA, the love that people once had for Jordan began to fade, questions were raised, and the “what ifs” started.
The latest “what if” concerning MJ is this: What if Michael Jordan had not briefly retired from basketball to try his hand at being a professional baseball player, would he (or could he) have led the Chicago Bulls to an unprecedented eight-straight NBA titles during the ‘90s?
The notion of the Bulls winning eight straight seems ridiculous now, unlike before, to some people – many of whom reside outside of Chicago – and lately there has been a lot of speculation that had Jordan’s Bulls and Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets met in the NBA Finals, Olajuwon could’ve potentially defeated Jordan for the NBA crown. The primary base of logic for this line of thinking is that for all of Jordan’s accomplishments as a professional, he never had to go up against a “dominant” center to win any of his titles.
Hakeem Olajuwon is without question the best big man I’ve ever seen, but the question that no one ever seems to ask when making that assertion is this: As good as Olajuwon was, why wasn’t he leading his team to the NBA Finals during the same time that Jordan did? That’s not a knock on Hakeem, but a legitimate question that people need to ask themselves before engaging in this debate.
It’s not like there weren’t multiple opportunities for Hakeem to try and knock MJ off his pedestal in the NBA Finals.
During the Bulls two three-peat championship runs in ’91-93 and ’96-98, Olajuwon’s Rockets lost in the first and second round of the Playoffs twice, made it to the Western Conference Finals once, and missed the postseason altogether in ‘92. In fact, Hakeem’s playoff resume since coming into the NBA is littered with first and second round playoff exits. So all of a sudden people are making assumptions that Dream would’ve knocked off Jordan for a ring? I don’t think so.
And I’d be remiss for not saying this, but the fact that the Rockets had the best record against the Bulls of any other team in the ’90s means nothing. The teams only met twice a year and the Finals are a different animal entirely.
If Michael Jordan is considered to be the most dominant player of his era, then Olajuwon is holding down the No. 2 spot for sure. If Jordan is considered to be the best player at his position during the ‘80s and ‘90s, then Olajuwon is clearly wearing the crown for the best center during the same time period. Year after year he destroyed some of the best big men of his time from David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, and a young Shaquille O’Neal. His dominance among centers was inarguable, but the theory that his squad could’ve defeated MJ’s, is.
Both players came into the NBA at the same time and by the end of their careers there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they couldn’t be f***ed with. By anybody. But I think the angst that people hold against Jordan now and especially against those who are still hardcore fans, has caused some people to talk as if they fell and bumped their heads or something.
I mean, come on, this is Michael freaking Jordan we’re talking about, people.
Yes, I’m a hardcore Jordan and Chicago Bulls fan, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t lay aside my personal biases and take an objective look at this ridiculous theory and debunk it with actual evidence. So let’s take a closer look…