Hakeem Olajuwon on the Toronto Raptors? It happened, and it was ugly


It might be easy to forget that Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the NBA’s all-time best centers, has adapted for the Toronto Raptors. Olajuwon played 18 seasons in the NBA, winning two championships and 12 NBA All-Star appearances. Seventeen of those seasons were spent with the Houston Rockets. He ended his career playing 61 games for the Raptors, and this is a situation the player and the team likely wished it had never happened.

Is Hakeem Olajuwon one of the top five centers of all time?

Toronto Raptors center Hakeem Olajuwon stretches before the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

Forget the position for now, but Olajuwon turned out to be one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. The 7-foot all-round center led the league in bouncing twice and was the best on blocks for three seasons while showing he could score as well. In his 18 years of professional basketball, Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds and earned a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While he was one of the greatest of all time, where does Olajuwon rank among the centers? It was part of the last group of traditional centers to return to the basket. As his career progressed, the NBA changed. These dominant centers were gradually removed from their normal roles in the painting, as they relied more on their athleticism and mastered the mid-distance jump shot.

Comparing centers from different eras is difficult, but it’s fair to say that Olajuwon is among the top five centers in NBA history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell would likely be the top three centers placed on most lists. Shaquille O’Neal is next, then Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Moses Malone would probably follow, not necessarily in that order.

In today’s game, these pure centers have disappeared. Olajuwon has made his mark and is in the top five centers of all time.

Hakeem Olajuwon ended his career with the Toronto Raptors

Olajuwon will always be linked to the Rockets, and rightly so. He spent 17 of his 18 NBA years with the team that drafted him and guided them to two championships and made a Hall of Fame career. He’s also one of those guys you can’t imagine in another team’s uniform. It’s a bit like Pete Rose who played for the Montreal Expos. It happened, but it’s hard to remember.

Olajuwon left the Rockets after 17 years and ended his career with the Raptors. The center rejected a deal with the Rockets that would have paid him $ 13 million over three seasons. After that rejection, the Rockets traded their big man to Toronto, securing a first and second round pick in return.

The move was not the one the Rockets had hoped to make. They wanted Olajuwon to end his brilliant career in Houston.

“Hakeem’s decision is disappointing for the entire Rockets organization,” Rockets owner Les Alexander said at the time, according to USA Today. “Hakeem Olajuwon has meant more to this franchise and this city than any other athlete in Houston history.”

Olajuwon’s stay in Toronto was lousy and short-lived

In 17 seasons with the Rockets, Olajuwon accumulated 22.5 points per game and lost 11.4 rebounds. Houston liked him, but decided to start over after averaging 11.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in the 2000-01 season. Things did not go as planned for either party.

Olajuwon played 61 games in his freshman year with his new team, starting 37 of them. He averaged 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Raptors in that first season. Unfortunately for Olajuwon and the Raptors, his time in Toronto only consisted of those 61 games. A back injury forced him to abandon the match.

“It was a gamble, and I think we lost,” Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald said at the time. “It did not go as we had hoped.

Olajuwon was also disappointed but chose to look to the future.

“I don’t see this as the end, it’s the start of the next phase of my life,” Olajuwon at a halftime ceremony in Houston in 2002. “You know what you’ve accomplished over the years. years, and now it’s time to sit down and watch.

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