kevin johnson on hakeem olajuwon

Originally published in SLAM 4

The Suns were still stacked with the crew that had taken the Bulls deep into the Finals the season before. (’Til Paxson hit the trey, remember?) At home and feelin’ real good about themselves, especially given the fact that Jordan was busy whiffin’ and stiffin’ in Birmingham, Ala., the Suns were lookin’ forward to fulfilling the promise Chuck made when he first hopped off the plane from Philly: a title and nothing less.

So with two-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Suns down 96-85, they needed a lift, bigtime. With Charles and his achin’ back on the bench and Thunder Dan throwin’ serious mess at the rim, it was up to Kevin Johnson to get it on. So KJ pulled up for a three, and rimmed it. The rebound kicked out to Danny Ainge. KJ was chillin’ over in the corner, spottin’ up, waitin’ for another launch, and Ainge wisely flipped the rock to him. At that point in the game, everybody was thinkin’ three, including Kenny Smith who headed to the corner. Too late, Kenny. KJ was already goin’ baseline, blowing past him. And Rudy T covered his eyes ‘cause he knows what happens when you give up the base. (You grab some pine.)

Meanwhile, MVP Hakeem had left AC Green and was heading for a meeting with the 6-1 guard at the hole. Hakeem probably thought that the little man was dreaming: Nobody goes up that strong on The Dream, especially not a one guard. But KJ’s got mad ups. Hakeem met him at the rim, and KJ took the seven-footer to school. KJ rose, dipped his shoulder toward the tin, cupped the ball in his right, and threw it down on Hakeem—real hard.

KJ was so high that his knee was planted on Olajuwon’s chest, forcing Olajuwon to back pedal all the way to the Suns’ bench. Charles got up off his back, Oliver Miller went crazy, the crowd was back in the game, and KJ let out a primal scream that popped more than a few eardrums. The dunk—which didn’t change the outcome of the game or the series (the Suns lost both)—shoulda been worth more than two points. Then again, it probably was to KJ.