It's one of the NBA's greatest highlights that still draws “oohs” and “aahs” every time it's shown, particularly during a Houston Rockets tribute before home games at the Toyota Center.
In the 1995 Western Conference Finals, Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon gets the ball in the left corner while being defended by David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, who before that series was given the NBA Player of the Year trophy and three years earlier had been selected Defensive Player of the Year.
Olajuwon takes one dribble to his right; crosses over to the left with the next dribble; has a full head of steam headed toward the basket; puts on the brakes just inside the lane; pivots on his left foot; spins away from the basket and gives a pump fake to shoot. Robinson bites and jumps to contest the shot; Olajuwon dips under an airborne Robinson and finishes by gently banking in what now has become an uncontested layup.
The entire sequence takes less than four seconds. Shown at regular speed, it's a blur. Only when it's shown in slow motion do the moves seem closer to regular speed by any other player's standard.
In 2006, Olajuwon held his first Big Man Camp to help frontcourt players with their footwork and to develop some go-to offensive moves in the post.
Last summer, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was said to be considering working with Olajuwon, but Ibaka didn't have adequate time. Ibaka was busy playing for silver medalist Spain at the Olympic Games in London and then returned to OKC to hammer out the details of a four-year contract extension worth at least $49 million that begins next season.
Multiple times during his exit interview session on Thursday, Ibaka said his primary focus this offseason will be to find ways to “create my own shot.” Might this include a trip to Houston to work with Olajuwon?
“Yes, it's a possibility,” the 23-year-old Ibaka said. “It depends on how the summer goes. If there's time, I would like to go (work with Olajuwon). I'm not just focused to go see Hakeem, I'm focused to work on my game. From what I've heard, it's a good option for me. … I really, really want to get better and create my own shot. So it's something I will focus on this summer.”
NBA players who have worked with Olajuwon include Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Olajuwon also has worked with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks is friends with Olajuwon and was his teammate for 2 1/2 seasons (1992-95) in Houston.
Although Brooks willingly endorses his centers working on their offensive skills during the offseason, Brooks said he doesn't necessarily believe the answer lies in trying to duplicate the skills of the 7-foot, 255-pound and freakishly athletic Olajuwon, who finished with career averages of 23.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals.
“What he was able to do, I will never see in my lifetime,” Brooks said of Olajuwon, “but if he can somehow, some way (teach that) … I don't think it's possible, what he was able to do. You don't see that. He was seven feet tall, he's as quick as most guards, (has) better footwork than most guards. He's a freak of nature. He was one of the best players ever.”
Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins is on the same wavelength as Brooks.
“I think the Olajuwon thing is overrated to me,” Perkins said. “He was a guy that just had a special gift. Some things you can't teach. I was a Houston Rockets fan and I was an Olajuwon fan growing up. If you go back and watch Olajuwon and all the moves he used to make and all that, a lot of guys try to go work with him and you see a lot of guys try to even do the ‘Dream Shake' and they be falling on they face.
“So at the end of the day, I think that's a special gift. Like, seriously. I think nowadays you just got to have a go-to move, a counter and then if you want to add a couple of other moves. But the things he (Olajuwon) had in his game you can't really teach that. That's just my opinion.”