Hakeem Olajuwon emigrated from Nigeria to play under Guy Lewis at the University of Houston despite never playing basketball until the age of 15. After red-shirting as a freshman, the seven-footer teamed with Clyde Drexler to lead the Cougars to three consecutive Final Fours, including appearances in the 1983 and 1984 title games. Olajuwon's Houston teams went by the semi-official nickname Phi Slama Jama, a tribute to their fast-breaking style and explosive slam dunks.
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Hoping to play professionally in his adopted home, Olajuwon elected to leave college a year early upon learning the Rockets would participate in the coin flip for the first overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Houston won the toss and selected Olajuwon ahead of future NBA stars Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.
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Western Conference Champions
On the heels of a promising rookie campaign, Olajuwon averaged 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots during his second pro season. Houston won the Midwest Division and advanced to a Western Conference Finals showdown with reigning league champion Los Angeles. The Rockets dominated the Lakers, four games to one, but dropped a six-game NBA Finals to a Boston team frequently mentioned among the best teams in history.
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Center of Attention
Olajuwon continued to post ridiculous numbers into the 1990s though the Rockets kept falling short of a return trip to the NBA Finals. Hakeem became the third player after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton to lead the league in rebounding (14.0) and blocked shots (4.6) during the '89-90 campaign. He also became the third of four players in NBA history to log a quadruple-double, finishing with 18 points, 16 boards, 10 assists and 11 blocked shots against Milwaukee on Mar. 29, 1990.
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We Have A Problem
Despite typically strong averages of 21.6 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots, the Rockets missed the playoffs for the first time in Olajuwon's career during the '91-92 season as management struggled to build a championship contender around their prized post man.
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First NBA Championship
The Rockets won their first 15 games during the 1993-94 season and never looked back, storming their way to a 58-24 record and another division crown. Hakeem put together perhaps the greatest single season for a big man in league history, averaging 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots while becoming the first player to win the awards for MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Finals MVP in the same season. The Rockets edged the Knicks in seven games for Houston's first NBA championship.
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Defending Title and Honor
Reunited with college teammate Clyde Drexler thanks to a March trade, Houston began the defense of their NBA title as a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. After modest upsets of Utah and Phoenix, the Rockets drew San Antonio in the conference finals: a clash of Texas titans between Olajuwon and David Robinson, the league's Most Valuable Player in 1995. Robinson accepted the MVP trophy in a ceremony before Game 2 -- but Olajuwon abused the Admiral for 41 points and 16 rebounds as the Rockets took a commanding 2-0 series lead. Houston would eventually win the series in six.
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Second NBA Championship
The Rockets swept the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals to bring home their second consecutive title with Olajuwon repeating as Finals MVP. Houston became the first team in league history to defeat the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds in the same postseason. Olajuwon's numbers from the 1995 playoff averages remain astounding: 33.0 points on 53.1 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots.
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Dream Team III
Olajuwon, having become a naturalized American citizen following the 1993 season, was selected to compete for the United States at the Summer Olympics in 1996. With another assembly of NBA stars determined to sustain the Dream Team legacy, the Americans finished 8-0 in the tournament as Olajuwon collected his first and only Olympic gold medal.
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After Seattle ended Houston's bid for a three-peat during the 1996 NBA Playoffs, the Rockets stormed out of the gate with a 21-2 start during the '96-97 season. Olajuwon led the way with averages of 23.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks and Houston finished with 57 wins -- but John Stockton's three-pointer to clinch the Western Conference Finals marked the end of Clutch City's contending years.
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With Houston in full-blown rebuilding mode in the twilight of Olajuwon's career, the Rockets sent their beloved center to Toronto in a trade for draft picks. Hakeem averaged 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds for the middling Raptors -- career lows both -- and retired following the 2001-02 season. He ended his 18-season career as the league's all-time leader in blocked shots with 3,830.
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Hall of Famer/Entrepreneur
Roughly six years after calling it quits, Olajuwon was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame alongside fellow legends including Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing and Adrian Dantley. Since his retirement, The Dream has split his time between living in Amman, Jordan, with his wife and kids, and advising current NBA stars -- including Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Rashard Lewis and Emeka Okafor -- and hosting camps in Houston. And in 2010, he even developed his own clothing line, called DR34M.
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