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Greg Anthony singles out the most underrated part of Hakeem Olajuwon's on-court skillset

Everyone praises Hakeem's footwork. Greg Anthony praised his God-given instincts for the game.
Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon

Many fans of modern basketball are quick to label centers from previous eras as dinosaurs. But whoever does that didn’t do their homework and study these legendary big men. 

Killer skills

In case some of these “fans” manage to dig a little deeper, they might come across highlights of Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, David Robinson, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Among these icons, the Dream had the flashiest and perhaps even the deadliest offensive arsenal. Unlike Shaq, he didn’t dominate with power, but with skills -- most notably, his hypnotizing footwork.

Still, even this does not paint the complete picture of how amazing of a player Hakeem was. To truly understand that, it is necessary to go beyond his trophies and accolades and listen to what his contemporaries and especially opponents had to say about him.

In one of the videos produced in honor of Hakeem’s inclusion on the NBA 75 team Greg Anthony praised the legendary big man. But in the process of mentioning everything we already know about Olajuwon's greatness, Anthony singled out the most underrated part of his on-court skillset.

“The Dream, man, was kind of a freak of nature," Greg said. "I had never seen a human being that big with his footwork, his quickness and his instincts. He had the best ball instincts of any big man I'd ever seen and he also had incredible hands. You know the footwork is legendary but his instincts, the ability to get deflections, steals, blocks…he was a game changer in so many ways and he really in a lot of ways redefined that position. We talk a lot about positionless basketball in today's era and the Dream was one of the first that really brought that to the forefront."

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Hakeem actually confirmed this point about positionless basketball in an article for the Players Tribune where he talked about his summer before college when he first came to the United States. Among other things, he said that it was “boring” to play in the key and that he would watch the guards and be inspired by them.

"I wanted to dance in and out of the paint, all over the court. I saw guards handling the ball and I’d say, “'Man, I want to do that stuff,'" Hakeem said.

Greatest of all time?

Many would describe Olajuwon as the greatest big man, at least in the modern era. Should some label that as a hot-take, things were turned up by a few additional proverbial notches by the aforementioned Shaq. 

It happened during a TNT halftime broadcast where Kenny Smith was making comparisons between Klay Thompson and Demarcus Cousins. “The Jet” then elevated the debate even higher by bringing up Michael Jordan and saying that MJ is better than any big man that ever played the game. The Big Diesel would have none of it.

“Better than which big? Michael Jordan is better than what big? He ain’t better than Hakeem Olajuwon. He is a guard. Kenny, you’re a guard, stay in your category. You can’t compare bigs and guards, stop it,” Shaq said.

This bold claim is not be considered a part of Shaquille’s humorous persona, meaning that all fans should be well advised that Hakeem Olajuwon was a truly unique player who terrified his opponents while also setting the foundations for the evolution of the game. 

Needless to say, The Dream is still closely following the game. He'd even want to play in the era today. "I would love today’s NBA. It’s like when I was a freshman in college and didn’t know what a center should act like — so I pretended I was a guard. I didn’t want to have a position at all," Olajuwon said.

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