For hardcore fans, the 1995 NBA Finals will be remembered not only as a matchup between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets but also of two legendary centers in Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.
O’Neal, who had averaged 29.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game that season, was set to go head-to-head with The Dream, who was in his prime and fresh off a Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player award the season before.
The ending was a bit anti-climactic, though, as the Rockets handily crushed the Magic via a 4-0 sweep, on the way to their second championship in as many seasons. Olajuwon was also deemed Finals MVP.
Being the competitor that he is, this loss did not sit well with the Big Diesel, as he reportedly challenged Olajuwon to a 1-on-1 match after the series. This episode was rekindled on Reddit by u/Slats7:
“Hakeem – The series may be a done deal, but it ain’t over between you and me. Sure, you’re pretty good with your team behind you, but I want you one on one.”
Since then, there hasn’t been any indication that this battle actually took place, yet it’s something a lot of fans would have loved to see.
While the majority would side with Olajuwon and his defensive prowess, people seem to forget that O’Neal finished second in MVP voting that season and was rapidly evolving into the unguardable powerhouse that we know today.
We’ll never really know who would have won that clash – unless we somehow get them into a gym now – but this is definitely one of the NBA’s best kept what ifs.