Shaquille O’Neal says Hakeem Olajuwon was his toughest opponent

Hakeem Olajuwon, left, and Shaquille O'Neal were teammates for the U.S. in the 1996 Olympics.
(Susan Ragan / Associated Press)

It’s not often you hear humility from former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal. But the TNT analyst displayed some Monday night when he said that former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon was unflappable.

“Hakeem Olajuwon was the only guy that I couldn’t intimidate,” O’Neal said. “When I would say something, if you say something back, I had you. If I elbow you and you complain, I had you.

“Right before the 1995 Finals ... I was in my own zone and wasn’t really worried about anybody else. First play of the game, I gave him the patented Shaq elbow, jump hook, 2-0. He just smiled at me. And then he came down and gave me a move, shot a jumper and said, ‘Right back at you, Big Fella.’


“So I came down and did it again, but I could never get to him. I could never intimidate him.”

Apparently so. Olajuwon’s Rockets swept Shaq’s Magic in those Finals.

O’Neal also said that Olajuwon was almost impossible to defend.

“He’s a guy that you couldn’t study. Like Alonzo [Mourning] and Patrick [Ewing] and all the Georgetown guys, they would fake left and go hard right with that dumb, running jump hook. Hakeem Olajuwon, he would go left, he would go right, so you really couldn’t study for him. The best defense was put your hands up and hope he misses.”


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