Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olajuwon Now Walks in Land of NBA Giants

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Olajuwon Now Walks in Land of NBA Giants

Article excerpt

Is Hakeem Olajuwon the greatest center in National Basketball Association history? The Dream would certainly win the voting in this precinct. Houston is hot and delirious. The Rockets have won two consecutive NBA championships, and Hakeem is the favorite son.

Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich pushes his guy: "He's right in there, and you could make the argument that he's above that level. He's so versatile. He goes inside, outside. He's a defender. He's a passer. He just does everything."

In my manual, the debate is limited to five centers: (1) Wilt Chamberlain. (2) Bill Russell. (3) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (4) Hakeem Olajuwon. And let's not forget (5) Moses Malone.

(And don't talk to me about George Mikan; we're ignoring the prehistoric age. If Mikan came along now, he'd be getting slapped around by Luc Longley).

Here's a snapshot of each contender:

Chamberlain: You want stats? He averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game in 1961-62. He led the NBA in scoring seven times. He holds 29 NBA records. He was named league MVP four times, first-team All-NBA seven times. But critics say the Big Dipper was a dunker. And not a team player.

They say his game was an offensive dunk-a-thon. They point out how Russell won the important matchups. Wilt's teams only won two NBA titles.

Russell: Respectable offensive game, superb defender, a team leader. Won 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics. Won five MVP awards but, curiously, was All-NBA, first team, only three times. In 1980, the Basketball Writers voted him as the greatest player in league history. Wilt's defenders say Russell was surrounded by superior personnel.

Abdul-Jabbar: He scored the most points and had the most blocks in NBA history. He was the league MVP six times, first-team All-NBA 10 times, second-team All-NBA seven times. And his teams won six championships. Detractors say he didn't play hard every night. Wasn't strong rebounder. Had that glorious LA Laker talent around him.

Malone: OK, we can't really make a case that he's No. …

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