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"Kenny, I’m going to his house to get my award" - Kenny Smith describes how Hakeem Olajuwon took his revenge after David Robinson won the MVP in '95

When the smoke has finally settled, Olajuwon confirmed to Smith that there was a silent war between him and Robinson…and he won.
Kenny Smith, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson

Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, David Robinson

Most NBA fans remember the 1994/95 season as the year Hakeem Olajuwon, and the Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic in the Finals. However, many of them also remember it for San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson preventing Olajuwon from winning back-to-back MVP awards.

Fueling the fire

In retrospect, Olajuwon indeed registered MVP numbers that season, averaging 27.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game. Meanwhile, Robinson tallied almost identical numbers with 27.6, 10.8, and 3.2 rebounds. However, the Spurs’ 62-20 record dwarfed the Rockets’ 47-35. Atop that, San Antonio edged Houston five times in their six duels. The league figured it was enough basis to hand the MVP award to Robinson.

As expected, Olajuwon’s teammates felt “The Admiral” stole it from him. And what happened when Robinson received the award could be described as more fueling the fire than consoling.

“I said something to him. I’m sure everybody said something,” Hakeem’s former Rockets co-star Clyde Drexler said via Houston Chronicle. “‘Dream, you had another great year. You probably should be MVP. Let’s win this series and show them.’”

The fact that Robinson, who was known for his humility and commendable sportsmanship, gave props to his fellow MVP candidates but not Olajuwon certainly did not help.

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“[Robinson] He gets the award and I said, ‘Doesn’t that bother you?’ He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘He didn’t say your name.’ He goes, ‘No Kenny, no, no, no. He deserves it. He is the best player this year. No problem’,” former Rockets guard Kenny Smith recalled.

“I’m like, ‘Damn, OK.’ But it bothered me,” he continued. “When Hakeem won the award, he told us he felt uncomfortable going to get the award if we didn’t come with him. If you look at that trophy presentation of the (1994) MVP, Otis Thorpe is holding that award more than he is. We thought it was our MVP… I felt slighted by him [Robinson] not recognizing Hakeem, too. Mario felt slighted. Everyone who was involved felt slighted for him not recognizing Hakeem, not recognizing us.”

Payback time

Robinson’s awarding ceremony occurred in Game 2 of the Spurs vs. Rockets Conference Finals clash. It was a tense moment, and Houston players could tell “The Dream” was just downplaying the burning anger inside of him.

“I just remembered when the starting five was being called, he smacked my hand so hard, he was a very focused and driven man at the time. It was one of the most focused times I’ve ever seen Dream,” former Rockets shooting guard Mario Ellie recounted. “We all said, ‘Somebody is in trouble.’”

The Rockets were proven right. Olajuwon thumped Robinson and exploded for 41 points and 16 rebounds. In Game 3, “The Dream” followed it up by dropping 43 on the Spurs. However, the Rockets lost both games in Houston. But Game 5 sent a powerful message. Olajuwon outscored Robinson 42-22, and the Rockets took it away from that point on.

When the smoke finally settled, Olajuwon confirmed to Smith that there was a silent war between him and Robinson; a war that he won.

“I’m already on the bench. And [Olajuwon] he looks over and goes, ‘Kenny, I’m going to his house to get my award.’ I said, “I knew it bothered you.’ And we started laughing.”

Kenny Smith, Houston Chronicle

After the epic battle with the Spurs, Olajuwon finished with a staggering 35.4 points per game in that conference finals series. The Rockets carried on and never lost a game for the rest of the post-season, completing a back-to-back NBA championship. Of course, Olajuwon was hailed the MVP.

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