Friday, May 6, 2011
Shaq vs Hakeem: Who Would Have Won?
This imagined one on one tournament of NBA players past and present over at Deadspin got us here at PTU to wondering about who would win such a thing. After much deliberation over the merits of Magic Johnson's defense and LeBron James's lack of a post-up game we decided on either Jordan or the dark horse sleeper candidate: Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon. With his soccer player quick feet, height and shot-blocking ability and moves that could make even the most athletic former Naval officer look stupid, Hakeem was the ideal one-on-one player. The only person who could combat the total package of a player like that would be another unstoppable force like Shaquille O'Neal in his prime, right? The good folks at Taco Bell had this same idea in 1995 in the fall after the Rockets had dominated Shaq's Magic in 4 games (3 and a quarter if you count the epic collapse that Nick Anderson will never forget). Sure, everyone had seen what two of the game's best big men could do against each other in a team context, but strip away pick and rolls and Kenny Smith and you'd be left with two dominant offensive monsters with decidedly different games. To hammer home the "two very different tastes that are equally great" theme, America's favorite bastardized Mexican food chain pulled out all the stops on a marketing campaign (who could forget this goofy gem?). Promoted like a prize fight, complete with up and coming point guard undercard (America hating fellow Muslim Mahmoud Abdul Rauf vs. Queens product Kenny Anderson), the event promised to be a more worthwhile pay per view event than most prize fights ever end up being. Sadly, an injury forced the Dream to drop out, and there was never another date scheduled for some reason, so we were all left to wonder what if?
Let's assume the rules would be typical playground stuff: half-court, winner takes out, 1 point each basket to 21, etc. The coin flip would be pretty important to see who got the ball first, especially in the case of Shaq. A much younger Diesel would seem to have no problem repeatedly backing down and dunking over a still spry yet aging Dream should he get the ball first (something tells me the rules might have had to be adjusted to ensure such a thing not happening). Even in his later years dominating the league with the Lakers, O'Neal had a fairly limited offensive repertoire, but in his Fu-Shnicken collaborating days, he was pretty much a one trick pony. A super athletic, brutally strong pony, but one-dimensional nonetheless. Hakeem, on the other hand, could face up and play back to the basket with equal success, tossing in fadeaways and drop step hook shots along with sick spin moves that made Ewing look like a statue. If he could strip Shaq or elevate to block him on an inside move, it would be fun to see how Shaq would try to keep up with him.
I could see the game playing out like this:
After an inspiring rendition of the national anthem by Jodeci (which Abdul-Rauf would of course sit through), Shaq wins the Pepsi sponsored coin toss (the traditional playground foul shot for ball would be unfair in this case) and proceeds to back down Hakeem for an early 7-0 lead on an assortment of two-hand slams and tomahawks, with a couple of short hook shots and bankers thrown in. Finally (after Shaq tires himself out almost taking down the basket) Olajuwon is able to poke the ball away and show off his moves. Wowing the crowd with ball fakes, spin moves, crossover dribbles and other moves no 7 footer from Nigeria should be able to do, Hakeem jumps out to a 3 point lead. Shaq would get the ball back on a rejection of a Dream jumper and the two centers would go back and forth until Hakeem would win the game on a patented Dream shake fadeaway that hits nothing but bottom.
Michael Buffer would announce Hakeem as the new Taco Bell champion, Shaq and Hakeem would awkwardly hug and promise to see each other in the Finals the coming June. Double Decker tacos for everyone!