Nikola Jokić is the first center MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. If we look even further back, since Moses Malone in ’82/’83, only four centres have won MVP – that’s 4 times in almost 4 decades. Hakeem Olajuwon in ’93/’94, David Robinson in ’94/’95, Shaq in ’99/’00, and now Nikola Jokić in ’20/’21. The one in ’94/’95 was particularly entertaining because Hakeem pulled an MJ, “took it personal,” and showed everyone who should’ve won the MVP that year.
So with all due respect, between Hakeem, Robinson, and Shaq, The Admiral ranks no.3 in my book. But who should I put no.1 when choosing between Hakeem and Shaq? Robert Horry played with both guys in their MVP season, and he has no doubt which of the two is the better player. Immediately after being asked the question, Horry said this.
“Hakeem was better. Shaq was more dominant, but Hakeem was better.”Robert Horry, The Ryen Rusillo Podcast
Rusillo, who asked this question, just stared at the camera for a moment – the answer came a lot quicker than you’d think. Horry knew he’d going to have to expand on that a little bit.
“I think Dream had more talent. Shaq had handles, but Dream had a little bit better handles. Dream could shoot free throws, and we all know about Shaq’s free throws. He had a fadeaway. Shaq was just brute strength, just dunk on you, and get out of the way.”Robert Horry, The Ryen Rusillo Podcast
100% agree. Hakeem didn’t get to play against Shaq in his prime, but we saw the Dream play against physically dominant centers – Robinson and Ewing – and have his way with them. Take a moment and think about the fact that all the great players from 2000 on went to Hakeem, a center, to develop their footwork! Olajuwon wasn’t just skilled for a center; at 7 feet, he was one of the most skilled players in the NBA period.
That makes Hakeem one of the best players of his era and in NBA history. Given the fact how little we talk about him, it also makes him one of the most underrated ones.
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