When fans talk about the greatest players to play in the NBA, one of the names that is always mentioned in any list is Hakeem Olajuwon. Nicknamed 'The Dream', Olajuwon dominated the center position in his era, leading his Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships during the 90s. He is often associated with his calm and stoic nature, but that wasn't always the case, Hakeem was quite the hot-head in his early years in the NBA.
One of his co-stars during the Rockets years was Vernon Maxwell, a key piece in the team that won the first title. And while Maxwell was a key teammate, the two didn't always get along. Maxwell once shared a legendary story of a fight he had with Olajuwon, which involved Hakeem slapping him in the face. Speaking on the 'The Right Time With Bomani Jones' podcast in 2021, Maxwell shared the story.
As the story goes, Maxwell spat on the court during a first half in which the Rockets were losing in a frustrating fashion against the Seattle Supersonics. Olajuwon took exception to this and a very intense altercation followed (via Chron.com).
“He said I was being disrespectful spitting on the floor. ‘What the f---- are you talking about? Spitting on the floor? Man, Dream go ahead with that bullsh--, I don’t want to hear that, Dream.’
(In an Olajuwon voice) "‘Maxey, who you talking to, Maxey? Maxey? You talking to me, Maxey?’
"I said, ‘Man, Dream go ahead with all this sh--.’
"We get to the locker room. It’s a long walk from the floor in Seattle - that old-ass place. You walk damn near about a mile to get to the locker room. He’s behind me, I’m in front of him, I’m looking back behind me because I’m thinking he’s getting ready to do something. So this (man) tells me (in his Olajuwon voice) 'Maxey you're disrespectful. I don’t like it.'
"I tell Dream, 'I ain’t doing this tonight with you. We're down 15 points, let's get back in this game.'
"I’m mad that’s why I was spitting. That’s what I used to do when I would get mad, I’d spit a lot on the floor when I'd get mad.
"He wanted to discipline me, we walked in the locker room, I told him, 'F---- you' and all that. I went in the locker room. I had my head down and they used to always put my locker next to his locker. Man we don’t get along like that, why'd you do that anyway? I don’t know why they do that. I know we're both leaders on this team, but I don’t want to be by Dream.
"I went in the locker room and sat down. I got in there first and he was coming in behind me. I put my head down, I’m looking like I don’t want nobody to say (anything) to me, so Dream walked over. I see those two feet in front of me, those Etonics, I see them coming between my feet.
(Again in his Olajuwon voice) "'Maxey what did you say to me? What did you say to me?'
"Bam … out of nowhere.
"I was getting ready to say, 'Man go ahead …' Then bam, he knocked the taste out of my mouth. I went crazy, I ran everybody out of that locker room, Rudy T., the police, everybody came in there, 'You better calm down.' I wanted to get someone. I busted a glass. I had glass in my hands. Cutting my hand up. They're telling me, 'Max, put the glass down.' Man, I’m mad as hell. Man, that motherf----- slapped the sh-- out of me, man."
Maxwell was understandably angry with the situation, and he elaborated on his response at the moment, revealing that he had glass in his hand to take the fight to the next level before others got involved to break it up. He would later go on to say that if he tried to stab anyone on that day, it was out of love.
Maxwell would go on to have a falling out with the Rockets in 1995 as they signed Clyde Drexler, which reduced his playing time. Olajuwon would win another championship and cement his legacy as one of the greatest to ever do it. This story is a great testament to what the NBA was like before modern times, as something like this happening today is almost unthinkable.