Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle on Olajuwon's first days at the University of Houston, when he was still new to basketball: "Michael Young was a high-flying member of those Phi Slama Jama teams and marvels at how far Olajuwon progressed so fast. 'They told us at the time that he had only been playing basketball for three months and that was tough for me to believe on that first day,' Young said. 'Because the guy could catch and didn't have a bad touch. In our early practices, coach Lewis would put Hakeem at one end of the floor to defend the basket and we would go three-on-one against him. The first few times, we'd go down and dunk on him, because he couldn't recover fast enough. But as we got deeper into the season, we'd go up to dunk and he'd contest that shot. So you'd pass to another guy and before he could go up for a dunk, Hakeem had already closed and was over there to block that shot, too. That's three-on-one and we couldn't score."
A mini-documentary on the Rockets' two title runs. Watch that, and you'll think: When he was presented his MVP award, right before a playoff game against the Rockets, David Robinson really should have named Hakeem Olajuwon among the great players he had played against. Olajuwon became a man on a mission, and the Rockets got a title out of the deal.
Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle tells the story of Olaujuwon's entire career, starting with his first dunk in Nigeria, his discovery a few months later by an American baskteball coach, and his swift arrival at the University of Houston: "It is true that he arrived at Intercontinental Airport and there was no representative from the school to meet him. It is true that a still-doubting Guy V. Lewis told him to take a taxi to campus. It is true that his Nigerian accent caused him to mispronounce the name and asked the cabdriver to take him to the 'University of Austin.' His correct destination at last settled, Olajuwon, wearing a white dashiki, white pants and polished dress shoes, walked into the basketball office to meet Lewis. 'He smiled,' Olajuwon remembered. 'He was happy to see that I was a real 7-footer.' It was September 1980 and the members of the Cougars, including Clyde Drexler, Michael Young, Rob William and Larry Micheaux, were holding informal workouts. Lewis asked Olajuwon if he'd like to get in a pickup game with them. 'You must remember, I was coming into the unknown,' he said. 'All I knew is I could play in Nigeria. I was dominating. But I did not know if I could play in America.' The trainer took Olajuwon to the locker room and gave him a T-shirt and shorts. 'Then he asked about basketball shoes and what size I wore,' Olajuwon said. 'I told him 14 was my usual size. I was shocked that he produced a brand new pair. It wasn't something you could find in Nigeria. I squeezed them on and they were tight. I was going to take off a pair of socks and he said, 'No, let's try 15.' More new shoes. Still tight. He got 16s. I could not believe all of these brand new shoes. I put them on and they fit. For the first time ever, I would play basketball without pain in my feet. It was always a distraction when I was running and jumping. But this was comfortable. I thought, 'Oh, man! They're in trouble out there on the court.'"
Hakeem Olajuwon, real estate magnate.
William Davidson as told by Detroit Free Press news services: "Davidson built The Palace of Auburn Hills two decades ago with a different type of financing: one without a penny from taxpayers. 'There's so much you have to go through to get public funding,' he explains. 'And I'm not big on big government.' He also didn't follow a trend when he bought a plane for the "Bad Boys" to travel in, replaced it with a newer one and built luxury suites into the lower level of his arena. Leading the pack also has made Davidson a rich man. Forbes magazine reports Davidson's net worth is $4.5 billion to rank first in Michigan, tied for 68th in the country and knotted at 227 worldwide. Most of his wealth is tied to Guardian Industries, a family owned glass manufacturing business he joined as president in 1957 and bought three decades ago. Davidson is motivated by winning on and off the court and he's witnessed many victories from his front row seat near the Detroit bench at The Palace. He said circulation in his legs prevented him from being the regular fixture last season, adding that a succession plan is in place for the future of his basketball team and businesses. 'The Pistons won't be for sale,' he said. It's also priceless that Davidson won't be the center of attention when he goes into the Hall of Fame. 'It's more fitting than it is ironic,' said Tom Wilson, an employee of Davidson's for three decades. 'It's how he lives his life. Mr. D loves it when a coach, player or somebody at Guardian gets heaped with praise. I think deep down he knows he makes that possible, but he's very comfortable staying in the background.'"
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Dick Vitale was speechless. He knew what was coming when Pistons owner Bill Davidson's office contacted him on the morning of Nov. 8, 1979. Davidson wanted to meet with him at Vitale's home. Vitale was gone after only 94 games as the Pistons' head coach, his team and his health crumbling at an equally accelerating pace. Vitale understood Davidson had no alternative following a 34-60 record, but that didn't ease the catastrophic sense of failure that sent Vitale into a sullen funk. 'Little did I know then that day would change my life,' Vitale recalled this week. 'Mr. Davidson probably saved my life that day. I would have been dead by 50 if I stayed in coaching because of my bleeding ulcers.'"
Davidson talks to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press about all kinds of things, including his relationship with Isiah Thomas: "Well, I was very, very close to Isiah, and there were times he was almost like a son. But, because of his background, um ... I told him he had to change -- you know, coming from where he came from. I said, 'You've got it made now. Don't keep doing those things that you've been doing.' I won't tell you what they are. But he couldn't change. ... We're the best of friends. ... One day I decided -- this was about five years ago -- that there's only one guy that
I'm really not friendly with. So I called Isiah up, and I said Isiah (chuckling) -- before I go to my grave -- you know, whenever I do -- I want you and I to be friends."
Riley wrote about his college experience for Sports Illustrated: "At Kentucky they didn't need to go out of state -- most of the best basketball players were local. There was a scout in New York who would report to the coaching staff in Kentucky, and that scout recommended me to Rupp, who came to Schenectady to sign me personally. It was my understanding that he rarely did that. [His visit] sealed the deal. When he walked through the door in that brown suit, he was bigger than life. He said to my mother, 'Mrs. Riley, don't worry about your son. We're going to make him an All-American at Kentucky and we're going to take care of him.' I don't think any kid knows the impact a teacher or coach is going to have on him. It was only years later that I realized [playing for Rupp] was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Being in his program for four years and experiencing his no-nonsense approach -- he probably influenced me more than any man I've ever been around, other than my father. I didn't have any problem with hard work or discipline, and I didn't mind somebody calling me out. That's the way I wanted it. I liked to be in that kind of system because I wanted to win. Rupp never played any favorites, and he rarely called you by your first name until you gained his respect. You had to earn it. If you didn't do it, man, would he let you know it. He would let you know verbally and he would put you down on the third team. You did not want to be on that third team. In his system it was the starting team, the second team and then there were the turds. If you were on that third team, you knew where you stood."
Let us never forget Pat Riley's magnificent dance after winning the title in Miami.
Video highlights of Riley's coaching career in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.
Heat players talk about the things Riley has done to motivate them.
Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Between 1980 and 1986, Dantley played 461 regular-season games with the Jazz. He averaged a Jordan-esque 29.6 points, shot 56.2 percent from the field and established himself as one of the game's greatest low-post players, despite being only 6-foot-5. 'I was always fascinated by how he could get his shot off in traffic against bigger guys,' said broadcaster Ron Boone, who was also Dantley's teammate with the Lakers. "The things he could do ... just amazing.' Said Layden: 'Wilt Chamberlain once said Adrian Dantley was the best pivot man he ever saw.' Professionally, the Hall of Fame is as far as a player can get from the Utah Jazz in 1979, when the financially fragile franchise moved from New Orleans and players like Tom Boswell, Paul Dawkins, James Hardy and Jerome Whitehead were good enough to carve out significant roles. Not that many fans noticed. In their first-ever game at the Salt Palace, the Jazz played Milwaukee and drew a crowd of 7,687. Three nights later, the Jazz faced Portland and drew 5,443. On the court, the Jazz also struggled. They finished 24-58 during their inaugural season in Utah. Over the first four years in their new home, the Jazz averaged 26.8 wins and never finished better than 30-52. Still, Dantley legitimized the franchise with his work ethic, focus and ability to produce points. Said Boone: 'I just remember the hard work. ... Professional basketball is all about being prepared, and he prepared himself to succeed every night.' Dantley was 'the consummate pro on the court,' said Eaton. 'The way he handled himself. The way he prepared. His conditioning. ... The guy was basketball-basketball, 24-seven.'"
"He fears no defense." Career highlights.
Traded three times in his first three years in the League, Dantley told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Newman: "Sometimes I think these owners just trade for the sake of trading. Each of those guys I've played for has told me, 'You're going to be here, buy a house, you're going to end your career here.' I've heard that so many times it's ridiculous. They say, 'Trust me, trust me.' But I don't trust anybody anymore. I hate to get close to people now, and I feel bad that I've never had a home, but I think I'm at the point where if I got traded again, it wouldn't bother me. I just go out and play my game and don't bother anybody."
At the time of Ewing's arrival in the NBA, Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum dared to mention Bill Russell: "When William Fenton Russell played his first pro game against the St. Louis Hawks , on Dec. 22, 1956 -- his arrival had been delayed by his participation in the Melbourne Olympics -- the Celtics had a 16-8 record. They went on to finish the season with a 44-28 overall record, the best in the NBA, and beat the Hawks in the championship series for Red Auerbach's first title. Russell was obviously the spark, but he also had a great supporting cast: Cousy, Sharman, Heinsohn, Ramsey. When Patrick Aloysius Ewing strides out to midcourt to make his pro debut Saturday afternoon at the Garden against Philadelphia, he will look around and see such unheralded teammates as Pat Cummings, Gerald Wilkins, Rory Sparrow and Butch Carter. 'Obviously, Ewing has the determination, and he's hardnosed,' says Celtic coach K.C. Jones, a teammate of Russell's. 'But whether or not he can become another Russell may depend a lot on his first year. He's in a make-you-or-break-you town.'"
The draft lottery that led to New York winning the top overall pick that became Ewing.
The NBA Encyclopedia: "The Jamaica-born Ewing arrived in the United States at age 11, and the gangly youth who had reached the height of 6-10 by junior high school was initially awkward on the court when introduced to the game. But by the time he was a senior in high school, the world knew he would be something special. 'He will be the next Bill Russell, only better offensively,' high school coach Mike Jarvis said of Ewing while the budding giant played at Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin School. Many had similar thoughts as he was heavily recruited and was the focal point of media attention throughout his basketball career. He understood the hoopla that came with his stardom but always reserved his right to just play basketball. Perhaps that is why he chose to attend Georgetown, where he blossomed under the mentor-like guidance of coach John Thompson, a 6-10 former NBA backup center to Bill Russell on the Boston Celtics in the mid-1960s. Ewing's pro career was presaged by four superb years at Georgetown. Besides his team accomplishments, he was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player as a junior and as a senior, and his long list of honors included The Sporting News College Player of the Year Award and the Naismith Award. Although many of his contemporaries -- including Olajuwon, Jordan and Charles Barkley -- were leaving college early to join the NBA, Ewing stayed all four years and earned a degree in Fine Arts. His patience paid off as the yearning for his services reached almost epic proportions with the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery in 1985. As recounted in Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Clippers president Alan Rothenberg and GM Carl Scheer joked about enlisting 33 (Ewing's jersey number) Hasidic rabbis to chant Ewing's name in unison to enhance the teams chance of winning his draft rights."
(Hakeem Olajuwon photo: Bill Baptist/Getty Images. Bill Davidson photo: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio. Patrick Ewing photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)