Legendary. That’s what it was, all it was. That’s how everyone chooses to remember it. That’s the only word Rudy Tomjanovich used to describe it. It was a performance, a six-game odyssey that shocked nearly everyone. Before the championships, before the odd-year title runs, before Tim Duncan, there was a harsh judgment and that attitude was forming here. Too timid. Soft. Sound familiar? One team, but more specifically one man, reshaped history, changed time.
It was a dream. It was The Dream.
Why bring all of this back up now? First of all, there’s never a bad time to highlight Hakeem Olajuwon. In the 1995 Western Conference Finals, he averaged 35.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.1 blocks and 1.3 steals a game against the man the NBA named it’s most valuable player at the start of the series, David Robinson. Olajuwon’s response was a right-hand hook to the chin. This is my award, he was scolding Robinson all series long. You’re lucky to have it.
“It was the most dominating performance by a player that I was ever witness to,” Spurs’ forward Sean Elliott said later. It also altered history; if that series never happens, no one is arguing whether or not Robinson deserved the MVP award that year. And that’s just sad, considering the series was an entirely different animal than what the award was based on. The award was his. He earned it. The two entities aren’t brothers. They aren’t even distant cousins. It’s all unrelated.
More importantly, this season’s MVP race, which has boiled down to Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard (LeBron has already dug his own grave), could end up mirroring that incredible 1995 Western Conference Final. Why? Let me explain.
No two players are more different than Rose and Howard. They will never guard each other. They will never have the same role. The opposites are too obvious to dwell on. But, they are both finishers and they are both leaders of two of the best Eastern Conference teams, and will meet up in the second round of the playoffs if the Bulls hold onto the No. 1 seed and the Magic beat up on the Hawks in the first round.
What happens if Howard goes out and starts dropping 40-20 games against the Bulls in that series? What if he ends it with a 36 and 17 line in a Game 7 win in Chicago? Rose fails to deliver the goods, and the Magic catch fire and all of a sudden, the Bulls are going home as Orlando heads to a third straight Eastern Conference Finals. It’s entirely possible. Orlando has overachieved the last two years they’ve been in the playoffs. And the Bulls? They aren’t exactly experienced, and there are quite a few parallels you can make between this team and the Cleveland teams of the two previous years.
Still, even if this hypothetical were to come true, it won’t confirm or refute anything. Olajuwon did not deserve the 1995 MVP just because he was a monster in the conference finals. Robinson was the best player all year (27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks a game), and played for the best team (62-20). It was his year.
Howard channeling the Nigerian this spring could happen. The question though is why will it matter in this argument?
You know what though? I kind of want it to happen, not because of anything to do with Chicago or Derrick Rose. I feel bad for Dwight, for maybe no other reason than he can’t ever get any love. When he couldn’t score and had the post moves of the Tin Man, people said he couldn’t win. Then, the Magic went to the Finals. Now, because his team hasn’t reached expectations, he is automatically locked out of winning the MVP (I’m not even going to start in on this issue). He isn’t the reason Orlando has underachieved. Actually, he is perhaps the sole reason they are even in the playoffs, and bound to win at least one round. Yes, he’s probably been the best player in the NBA, so we will throw him in at two or three on the candidate list. But winning the whole thing? Nope.
Derrick Rose deserves the MVP, but Dwight Howard might deserve it more. Might. The debate over who will actually win it is pretty much over. Rose has it locked, according to Stan Van Gundy, and us, and everybody. It has been his year. But maybe the big man gets some retribution in the playoffs.
Just remember, if that does happen, don’t alter history.
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