Shaq: I could never intimidate Olajuwon… best defense was to put hands up and hope he misses


Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'NealJust recently, legendary NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon turned 50, so TNT’s “Inside the NBA” ran a tribute to the Houston Rockets legend.

Following the piece, which showed Olajuwon mentoring and training select big men, Shaquille O’Neal was full of praise for the man who outplayed him.

“Hakeem Olajuwon was the only guy that I couldn’t intimidate,” Shaq said of Hakeem.

Shaq then talked about his intimidation tactics and how they didn’t work on Olajuwon.

“When I would say something, if you say something back, I had you. If I [elbow] you and you complain, I had you,” Shaq explained.

“Right before the (1995) finals — we had beaten Houston twice that year in Houston and in Orlando — Hakeem was good, but I didn’t know that he was that good. I was in my own zone and wasn’t really worried about anybody else. First play of the game, I gave him the patented Shaq ‘bow, jump hook, 2-0. He just smiled at me. And then he came down and gave me a move, shot a jumper and said, ‘right back at you, Big Fella,” Shaq recalled.

“So I came down and did it again, but I could never get to him. I could never intimidate him,” he said.

Shaq then went on to explain how the variety in Olajuwon’s moves made him so difficult to guard.

“He’s a guy that you couldn’t study. Like Alonzo (Mourning) and Patrick (Ewing) and all the Georgetown guys, they would fake left and go hard right with that dumb, running jump hook. Hakeem Olajuwon, he would go left, he would go right, so you really couldn’t study for him. The best defense was put your hands up and hope he misses.”

Olajuwon won two titles during his career, and they came in back-to-back seasons when Michael Jordan took time off to purse a professional baseball career. He was toward the prime of his career when he squared off against Shaq in the ’95 finals.

Shaq didn’t have many players who could stop him during his career. Hakeem was probably the only big man ever who got the best of him. Now that Shaq’s retired, it’s nice to see him recognize that.

Olajuwon established himself as an unusually skilled offensive player for a big man, perfecting a set of fakes and spin moves that became known as his trademark Dream Shake.

Executed with uncanny speed and power, they are still regarded as the pinnacle of “big man” footwork.

He led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.

In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Olajuwon is a 12-time NBA All-Star, and has been named the 1994 NBA MVP.

Olajuwon is considered one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. Some say, he was the best.

Olajuwon played in 1238 NBA games (1186 started), averaging 21.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.5 apg and 3.1 bpg in 35.7 minutes of action.

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