Houston Rockets: Olajuwon vs. Robinson: Reminiscing the duel of the West

Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon Mandatory Credit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT
Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon Mandatory Credit: Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT /
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Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Challenger: David Robinson

The Admiral

Where could you find a number one draft pick who would change the fortunes of a future dynasty?

Where could you find a seven-footer who was a 10-time all-star and the man who became MVP?

Where could you find a player who had a twin tower and was a defensive player of the year?

Where could you find a champion in scoring and winning with a big, fat cheer?


Yep, David Robinson fits all the criteria of the questions above. The man would be the first pick in 1987, but wouldn’t suit up until 1989 due to a two-year commitment with the Naval Academy. There would be similarities and connections between Robinson and Olajuwon.

When Robinson finally entered the NBA, he opted to wear number 50 in honor of his idol and Hakeem’s first partner in crime in Ralph Sampson. In 1994, Robinson became the fourth player in NBA history to have a quadruple-double, meaning he finished with 10 or more in four of the five major categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks).

That made him join Olajuwon, Alvin Robertson, and Nate Thurmond in the club. Unlike Hakeem, Robinson would be named Rookie of the Year in 1990 and he would be a fixture amongst the NBA greats.

In 1994, the two men would be locked in an MVP battle. You can argue that Hakeem and Robinson were the two best centers in the 1990s. While a young Shaquille O’Neal was starting to build up his reputation, Patrick Ewing would start to be on the downward slide of his career. So that meant the Dream and the Admiral were in the top tier.

There is a case to be made that Robinson was deserving of the 1994 MVP as well. He was locked in a scoring race with Shaquille O’Neal that year and it wouldn’t be until an iconic 71-point performance that would seal Robinson’s scoring title to the disgust of O’Neal. Yet, despite this, it was Olajuwon who got the MVP that season and he was deserving of it.

While Robinson would have his moments, he would transform the Spurs from the original ABA team that featured George “The Iceman” Gervin into an NBA title contender. But, they would have their fair share of heartbreak and playoff exits. In 1991, they were upset by the Golden State Warriors. The following two years would see them lose to Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, with the sixth game in 93 ending with Barkley winning the series on a shot.

In 1994, the Spurs were blindsided by a loss to the Utah Jazz in four games of the first round. Robinson only averaged 20.0 per game while much of the attention dealt with Dennis Rodman was a distraction off the court for his cheap shots and relationship with actress and singer Madonna at the time.

Even so, Robinson would be set in stone for the greatest season of his career to date. It would be a year that would place Robinson as among the elites. But, it would end with the most embarrassing performance against an MVP.