Hakeem Olajuwon was recently immortalized as the name associated with the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. What it meant to the Houston Rockets legend, only he could truly put into words.

“That’s the crown. I mean, that sealed my career,” said Hakeem Olajuwon when asked about the honor. “There can’t be anything higher than that.”

The fact that it’s coming from someone who won two NBA championships for the Rockets means the assessment isn’t to be taken lightly. Hakeem may not trade either of his rings for the honor, but it does honor him with the spotlight for defensive excellence for decades to come.

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A few other defensive stalwarts had a case for the trophy, but it’s hard to argue against Hakeem Olajuwon’s resume. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in blocked shots with an eye-popping 3,830 for his career. The gap between The Dream’s total and second-place Dikembe Mutombo is 541. That’s more than the difference between Mutombo and ninth-place Shaquille O’Neal at 2,732. It’s hard to top an 18-year career averaging 3.1 blocks per game.

It goes beyond just the counting stats with Olajuwon. His combination of length, instincts, and lateral mobility gave him an unprecedented defensive presence anchoring the Rockets’ backline for nearly two decades.

There’s been a lot of backlash over the NBA’s decision to immortalize its regular season awards by tying them to a few legends of the game. While some of the pushback does have merit for various reasons, it’s great to see at least one of the players honored share how much it matters to him.