When the Chicago Bulls won their third straight NBA championships, people thought they were pretty much unbeatable. The majority of fans and analysts thought they would win even more titles in the upcoming seasons. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Michael Jordan decided to retire at the end of the 1993 season and started playing baseball, leaving the team without their best player. After he came back in 1995, they eventually won another three in a row, but during those two years when Jordan was absent, Houston Rockets, led by their superstar Hakeem Olajuwon was the best team in the NBA.
Robert Horry recently spoke with the ‘Bleacher Report’ about the potential matchup between the Bulls and the Rockets and believed Rockets would win even if Jordan played those two seasons. He thinks the main advantage would be Hakeem dominating the paint against a squad that never liked to double-team opposing players. It was known that Jordan respected Hakeem quite a bit and understood he would be a real threat against the Bulls in the NBA finals.
“We played the Bulls, and we had a winning record against the Bulls, and people don’t understand that. People forget we had a guy named Hakeem Olajuwon for whom they had no answer for. Me understanding Phil doesn’t like to double-team, so I know Dream would just kill the Bulls. I think if you ask MJ who he feared and I don’t know how true it is, but I think the only guy he really worried about that Nigerian nightmare Hakeem Olajuwon.”Robert Horry, via The Bleacher Report
Horry played with several Hall of Fame players throughout his career but stated there would never be a player like Hakeem, especially on the center position. Even though he played with Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Davis Robinson in his career, in his mind, Hakeem is still the best out of all of them. Horry also made a good point by saying players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and others often asked advice and trained with Hakeem to improve their skills in the post and footwork. That means a lot when you think that he set a very high standard on what an actual center needs to be.
“Damn, he was good. Some of the things he was doing, there is no one in the league to this day who can do that. His footwork was incredible, his ability to shoot. He is the best center to ever play the game in this day of age. You also know you are the best when there are people going to him so he can teach them the footwork he used. Both Kobe and LeBron went to Dream to learn about footwork.”Robert Horry, via The Bleacher Report
In one of the episodes of ‘The Last Dance,’ we saw how tired Jordan was towards the end of his first three-peat. That was one reason why he left the game on top of several problems from his personal life. Horry believes there isn’t a lot of teams that can handle the pressure of playing the entire regular season and playoffs throughout several years in a row. In Horry’s opinion, the Rockets would use that to their advantage if they faced off the Bulls in the 1994 finals.
“I’m not saying that because I was on that team, but because I truly believe that. As an athlete, me going back to back and winning two championships before I got to the Los Angeles Lakers, and in my last year as a Laker, fatigue set in. So I don’t care what you say, no way the Bulls won 8 championships in a row because your body breaks down. Look at what happened to the Golden State Warriors, look at KD, Klay turns his ACL. The body can sustain so much. Going for more than 82 games is a grind.”Robert Horry, via The Bleacher Report
These debates are often complex, and it’s impossible to give a valid answer because of numerous factors that affect the outcome. However, everything Horry mentioned makes sense, and, indeed, the Bulls always had problems when facing Hakeem in the regular season. It’s also true it’s hard to win more than three championships in a row without taking an enormous toll on the player’s body. Unfortunately, NBA fans never saw Hakeem and Jordan go face-to-face on the world’s biggest basketball stage.