We have had 30+ years to think about it. Did the Houston Rockets make the best choice in 1984 when they selected Hakeem Olajuwon first overall? I’m not questioning whether it was a GOOD choice, because we can all agree that it was. I’m questioning whether it was the BEST choice.
Now, some will say yes. Olajuwon is widely considered the best center to ever play the game. However, the Chicago Bulls also struck gold just two picks later when they selected Michael Jordan with the third overall selection. Not only is Jordon regarded as the best to play the guard position, but he’s regarded as the best to ever play the game. So, there is a bit of a debate to be had here. Let’s give a quick rundown of both playing styles and stats before we go any further.
Let’s start with the number one pick. “The Dream”, as he’s affectionately known as, was highly skilled on both ends of the court. His rare combination of strength of quickness allowed to block a wide variety of players and his shot blocking ability was amazing. He was also able to steal the ball better than most frontcourt players. He is the only player in NBA history to record more than 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season and averaged 3.09 blocks per game and 1.75 steals per game in his career. Hakeem is the only center to rank top 10 in career steals.
On offense, he was a prolific scorer and his footwork was second to none. He used a combo of fakes and spins to create space and looks, which became known as the “Dream Shake”. He averaged 21.8 PPG and was an above average rebounder, averaging 3.3 RPG. He was a skilled dribbler and had the ability to score in face-up situations. He is one of only for players to record a quadruple double in a game in NBA History and is a two time NBA Champion.
MJ was a versatile player who could play both guard positions and the small forward position. He was an incredibly clutch player, deciding 25 games with field goals with in the last 30 seconds in the game, including two NBA finals games and five other playoff contests. He was well known for his impeccable work ethic and competitiveness. The Bulls even had to trade away players who weren’t “tough enough” to practice with MJ. He also never missed four or more games a season in his career.
MJ could aggressively drive the basket and draw fouls. He developed the ability to post up and score with his fadeaway jump shot. He wasn’t bad defensively either. MJ is one of two players to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and MVP Award in the same season (Olajuwon was the other). He also set season and career records for blocked shots by a guard. He ranks third in NBA history in total steals with 2,514, trailing John Stockton and Jason Kidd.
Alright, so we’ve got a feel of how they played. Now the question: who would YOU select number one overall? Who would YOU build your team around? Michael Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon?
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