“I’m scared of the BIG African” – Michael Jordan was petrified of massive rival, claims Robert Horry

The Jordan-Olajuwon era and the 1984 NBA Draft's enduring legacy


“I’m scared of the BIG African” – Michael Jordan was petrified of massive rival, claims Robert Horry

Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon (images via NBA)

The 1984 NBA Draft is widely celebrated as the best in the league’s history. It not only featured the legendary Michael Jordan, frequently referred to as the best basketball player in history, but also NBA legends like John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and the first overall pick, Hakeem Olajuwon.

While Jordan’s on-court achievements have often overshadowed his fellow players, Olajuwon’s unique combination of speed and skill for a big man made him stand out. With a legacy as possibly the premier defender the NBA has ever seen, Olajuwon has left an unfading mark on basketball history.

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Even Robert Horry, a former teammate, famously mentioned, “If you ask Michael Jordan what one guy he ever feared, it was Hakeem Olajuwon. He used to say ‘I’m scared of the big African’.”

Drafting Hakeem ahead of Jordan may have raised eyebrows then, but history now praises the decision as a genius. Olajuwon went on to bring two NBA championships to Houston in 1994 and 1995, amidst the Jordan era, solidifying his place as one of basketball’s greats.

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A thrilling on-court battle between Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon (image via Getty Images)

However, when these two legends collided on the floor, the show was nothing short of captivating. Jordan, known for his competitiveness and unbreakable nature, averaged an impressive 30.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 3.0 steals in the 23 games he faced off against Hakeem. But statistics rarely tell the whole story.

Despite Jordan’s individual ability, it was Hakeem’s Rockets who often emerged victorious, winning 13 out of the 23 duels. Olajuwon, an unshakable presence at the basket, managed an average of 21.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, and a formidable 3.3 blocks in their encounters.

When Jordan took a brief break from basketball to try his hand at baseball, Olajuwon’s Rockets surged and won the title. In the subsequent year, when Jordan’s comeback was halted by Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic, Olajuwon’s Rockets once again ruled the NBA, sweeping the Magic to claim back-to-back championships.

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Both legends have left behind distinctive legacies. Jordan may have an undefeated Finals record, but Olajuwon’s career, which is filled with awards and accomplishments, is proof of his superior talent and supremacy.

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