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
Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Showdown

The 1995 season had a case where Hakeem Olajuwon could’ve won the MVP again. He and David Robinson posted up similar numbers throughout the year. 

Hakeem Olajuwon: 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 51.7% FG.

David Robinson: 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 53% FG.

So why did the Admiral get the award? It came down to one thing: winning. Today, winning appears to be overrated as the most valuable player is being debated as far as the middle word of the three goes.

Valuable should be changed to outstanding because James Harden was more valuable to the Rockets in 2015 than Steph Curry was in our view. But back in 1995, the more games you won and the better your performance, the more you were deserving of the MVP. There’s no question that David Robinson was deserving of the award and even Hakeem Olajuwon admits that Robinson was deserving.

However, when you hear the stories told of that series and the situation itself by his teammates and the other peers, you would’ve thought that Hakeem Olajuwon was jealous and a savage himself.

Clyde Drexler: “I walk up to him and said ‘Dream you know I think that was your MVP that they just gave to David Robinson.’ He grabbed me in the arm and said, Drex do not worry, we will get the big trophy.”

Robert Horry: “Dream’s looking down there and you could see the steam coming out his ears and he looks saying ‘That’s my trophy.’”

Tracy Murray: They should’ve never given the award out before the series started.

Kenny Smith:

While Hakeem Olajuwon had a temper once upon a team, you never thought of him as a trash-talker. But there was a killer instinct inside that was displayed in this series. There have been some legendary stories about this moment that have come up or just some straight rumors to make this a legend like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, or Pecos Bill. But the truth to this story needs to be told as to why this was the moment for him.

So Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was a close game before Big Shot Robert Horry hit the first big game-winning shot of his career to beat the Spurs. Olajuwon had 27 points in the game. This was a big win because they had home-court advantage for Games 3 and 4.

Then, comes Game 2. This was when the MVP was being presented.

Now, back in the days, the MVP was presented to the player in a pre-game press conference and on the court prior to the start of a playoff series. Nowadays, the MVP is presented after the NBA Finals in an awards show. But, back then, the MVP was presented on the court.

Let’s look back at the past MVP’s and who they were facing then.

1991: Michael Jordan vs. Pistons 

  • MVP’s on-court: Michael Jordan

1992: Michael Jordan vs. Cavaliers

  • MVP’s on-court: Michael Jordan

1993: Charles Barkley vs. SuperSonics

  • MVP’s on-court: Charles Barkley

1994: Hakeem Olajuwon vs. Jazz

  • MVP’s on-court: Hakeem Olajuwon

1995: David Robinson vs. Rockets

  • MVP’s on-court: David Robinson, Moses Malone (Spurs), Hakeem Olajuwon


Now, some of you might think that Michael Jordan should’ve won the 1993 NBA MVP and that is an argument there. But, the difference between the Jordan-Barkley ordeal and the Olajuwon-Robinson ordeal was that Olajuwon was in attendance for the Robinson ceremony.

In a season of yearning for respect, the Houston Rockets had another reason to feel disrespected. The leader, the heart and soul, their MVP, and the best player on the court in 1995, was slighted by David Robinson, a great player, but hadn’t proven himself against the best in the playoffs.

Who in their right mind would have the audacity to present David Robinson with the MVP right in front of the reigning MVP? Did anyone ever think or take into consideration that doing so in front of Hakeem would be a great idea? As much as I miss David Stern, the fact that he forgot to mention Hakeem Olajuwon as a future Hall-of-Famer just only adds fuel to the fire.

Here, you had David Robinson, a patriotic, Christian man, being presented the MVP award for having the best season of his life to date with the Spurs as the top team in the league and favorites to win it all. Although you can’t blame the Admiral, you’re giving him the MVP in front of the most dangerous player in the game than on a team that showed time and time again that they wouldn’t fold when pressure got to them. Houston was Clutch City for a reason. San Antonio? They would have their time to shine. But not this day.

Well, we all know what happened next.

41 points, 13-for-18 from the field, 16 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. The most dominating performance of a player who outplayed the league MVP on the day of his coronation. That’s embarrassing as far as I’m concerned.

But what made it that way wasn’t the points that Hakeem scored, but how he scored. Dream Shake here. Dream Shake here. Post-up, layup, double fake before the layup, behind his head. As Robert Horry said later, they had never seen these moves before.

Watching all these highlights and all these clips of Hakeem outperforming Robinson, you would have to think if you were a Spurs fan, one of two questions:

A)  Did the league choose the wrong player?


B)  Is Hakeem really that good?

Well, the actual answer is both A and B.

Now, of course, lost in all this was Robinson’s play. He would finish with 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and the Spurs were in the game for awhile. In the end, the Rockets would win 106-96 to take a two games to none lead. After the game, Robinson expressed his views on Hakeem.

David Robinson: “He was remarkable. I don’t even know how I can say it with a straight face, but most of the time, I thought I played him pretty well.”