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"I know Michael Jordan did rule in the 90s but..." - 3-Time NBA champ names the second-best player in the 90s

The 90s had a lot of spectacular players, but accoring to Mario Ellie, the no.1 spot isn't the only no-brainer choice - Michael Jordan is 1A, and Hakeem Olajuwon is 1B.
Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan

When the University of North Carolina’s Michael Jordan arrived in the league in 1984, not many were convinced that he would be the face of the NBA in the next couple of years. At the time, most hoops fans were raving about the crafty and athletic big man from the University of Houston that goes by the name of Hakeem Olajuwon.

The second best there was

Unsurprisingly, the Houston Rockets made Olajuwon that year’s No. 1 overall pick. On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls landed Jordan at No. 3. Both youngsters swiftly made their presence felt on basketball’s biggest stage. Olajuwon posed a new threat in the West with his savvy post moves, while Jordan took the entire league by storm, recording an exceptional 28.2 points per game in his debut season with the Bulls.

MJ and “The Dream” went on to dominate their competition for the next several years. Jordan  But in 1991, Jordan put himself one level ahead of Olajuwon by copping his first NBA championship. From then on, “His Airness” never looked back and became the greatest player of the 90s.

Of course, an array of outstanding players also had their moments, and some broke into the scene. Those were guys like Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Penny Hardaway, and Gary Payton. This made the conversation about who the second-best player is a debate for years. And though it was seldom talked about back then, former Rockets guard Mario Ellie believed it has always been Olajuwon.

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Olajuwon’s footwork, fadeaway jumper, jump hook… he can face you up, can put it on the floor. He shot 85 (percent) from the line and was an outstanding defensive player,” Ellie pointed out via Rockets Wire. “He was always in top of the league in steals. [He’s] the package. This guy doesn’t get enough credit for how good he was. I know Michael Jordan did rule in the 90s, but I think the guy sort of second to him, 1B, was Olajuwon.

In 1994 and 1995, Olajuwon ended that debate when he led the Rockets to two consecutive championships, making Houston the only team that won NBA titles during the so-called Jordan era (1991-98).

Most skilled teammate

Ellie was fortunate to have been alongside Olajuwon when the Rockets won back-to-back championships. He even edged “The Dream” when he won another one with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 after Jordan left the NBA.

In San Antonio, Ellie witnessed different types of beasts in David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but he still put Olajuwon on top of them.

“I played with him [Olajuwon], I played with [David] Robinson, and I played with Duncan,” Ellie explained. “I know numbers do matter, and championships and all that. But if you’re telling me skill-wise between Duncan and Olajuwon, you have to give the edge to Olajuwon.

Some may say Ellie was right, while others would surely refute it. But one thing we can’t deny about it was the fact that Olajuwon was able to do what others couldn’t during the 90s.

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