Hakeem Olajuwon is a complete legend in the NBA. The Houston Rockets icon is often considered the greatest center of all time after dominating opponents with his incredible footwork and talent to score.
'The Dream' led the Houston Rockets to two straight NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, signing his name on the list of greatest players to ever live. However, once, he gave a bad impression to a rookie player that wanted to see the best of Olajuwon from day one.
Sam Cassell played four years with Olajuwon, becoming a double NBA champion with the Nigerian-American player. One year before they captured their first title together, Cassell learned that some games mattered more to Hakeem. The latter schooled him during their first preseason.
“In my rookie year, we go 0-7 in the preseason,” Cassell said on Point God with Baron Davis. “We lose by 40 to GP [Gary Payton] and Seattle [Supersonics]. I remember calling my boy and saying, man, Hakeem Olajuwon, sorry as s–t. He was 3-12 and only got 3 rebounds in 15 minutes. He got 3 rebounds, not knowing veterans didn’t take preseason serious[ly], they used the preseason to get in shape. [Because] Back then, the preseason was a full month.”
Once the regular season started, things changed for the center and point guard. Olajuwon taught Cassell a lesson that he still remembers; some games will take you further than others.
“Opening night comes, we play the Golden State Warriors; Hakeem Olajuwon is out there handling his business!,” he recalled. “I’m sitting back, saying, where did this come from? Why didn’t he do this in the pre-season? I mean he gave those boys the business. He comes out of the game, I say ‘way to work Dream.’ He says, ‘Son, preseason don’t count, the popcorn is popping now. Pre-season stat sheets?, they don’t send to New York, these stats sheets, they send to New York.’ He put on a show. He had like 37 and 15 in 3 quarters.”
Olajuwon is really one of the greatest ever, and this shows how incredible he was when he put in the work. Cassell knew he had a big leader in Hakeem and confirmed that in the next two seasons, winning back-to-back championships with one of the most surprising teams in NBA history.