The Dream Shake - a Houston Rockets blog: Jordan v. Hakeem - who wins?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jordan v. Hakeem - who wins?

So, yesterday I was patrolling the blogosphere as I usually do on Mondays during lunch...

Where I stumbled into an article on The Big Lead about the Lakers/Cavs game from Sunday (i.e. Kobe v. LeBron). In the article, there was a backhanded statement about Michael Jordan being "the greatest winner in the modern era." Which I thought was rather presumptuous.

Naturally, I felt compelled to immediately comment that Robert Horry - and not Michael Jordan - is the greatest winner of the modern era. Last I checked 7 rings is more than 6 rings. Seems like simple math to me.

(Yes it kills me to link to a picture of him in an evil Spurs jersey, but... uhh...)

My comment for some reason started a "Robert Horry? Are you kidding me?" level of response from fellow commenters. To which I said, "hell yes, I am serious!"

I do not dispute that Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of the modern era. I'm not even sure who else would be in the discussion with him if the modern era is the mid-60s and beyond. But Jordan is NOT the greatest "winner" of the era. Of course, this led some random Bulls fan to post the following comment:

"I point out that if Jordan had not retired twice in the 90’s, the Bulls would have swept that decade."

Yeah, we all know that is b.s. Everyone wants to dilute the awesomeness that is/was the '94 and '95 Houston Rockets back-to-back championship teams. You know, the Heart of a Champion and all that good stuff. Damn I miss Rudy T. Anyway, my counter-argument was this:

"If Kenny Smith could make a f--kin’ jumpshot against Seattle in Game 7 in 1993, the Jordan-era Bulls only two-peat the first time around."

The early to mid-90s Bulls were great, no doubt. But the Rockets were a nightmare matchup for Jordan and Pippen. In 1990/1991 through 1992/1993 (i.e. the first three-peat Bulls teams), the Rockets went 5-1 against Chicago. Yes, Jordan played each game. Mad Max did an admirable job keeping Jordan below his seasonal averages and forcing MJ to take more shots than he normally did. Meanwhile, Pippen (as usual) could not win important games by himself and no one on the Bulls roster could contain Hakeem or Otis Thorpe.

Really, look for yourself:

Game 1 (1991): Rockets 114, Bulls 92
Game 2 (1991): Rockets 100, Bulls 90
Game 3 (1992): Bulls 114, Rockets 100 (dammit!)
Game 4 (1992): Rockets 105, Bulls 102 (Jordan held to 22)
Game 5 (1993): Rockets 110, Bulls 96
Game 6 (1993): Rockets 94, Bulls 83

Rockets were 5-1 versus the intial three-peat era Bulls. And only one of the victories was "close" and could be deemed a toss-up. Like I said, Mad Max could match up with MJ (not "stop" him per se, but just keep him from treating the Rockets like he did LaBradford Smith). Meanwhile, Hakeem would be able to run wild versus the Bulls lack of size and talent in the middle. Then again, NO ONE could stop Hakeem from 1991 through 1995. Or do I need to link to the David Robinson clip again? I think I do.

The problem with the Rockets in the early 1990s was that we matched up *horribly* with the Seattle Supersonics. Gary Payton routinely abused Kenny Smith. Shawn Kemp routinely abused Otis Thorpe, Carl Herrera and whatever other tall body we threw at him. Detlef Schrempf always made clutch shots against us, and so did Derrick McKey. We just had major problems with that one particular team. And yet we somehow extended the series in 1993 to Game 7...

where Kenny Smith somehow failed to remember that his only job was to make open shots. Naturally he missed and sent the game to overtime whereby we'd end up losing. In high school I was asked to write an essay on my "most disappointing moment in life" - Kenny Smith missing that jumpshot was my Moment. I once saw the Jet at a movie theater a few years later and my mom had to prevent me from taunting him about that shot.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Bulls. If Kenny somehow makes that shot - the Rockets would have made it to the NBA Finals (please... we'd have beaten Barkley and the Suns just like we ended up doing in '94 and '95). Where we'd have matched up perfectly with the Bulls and been able to stop the first three-peat from ever happening.

1992/1993 Houston Rockets roster:

The 1992/1993 Chicago Bulls roster:

Starting lineups of G: Kenny Smith, G: Mad Max, F: Robert Horry, F: Otis Thorpe, C: Hakeem Olajuwon v. G: BJ Armstrong, G: Michael Jordan, F: Scottie Pippen, F: Horace Grant, C: Bill Cartwright.

It would be an epic matchup. I've already explained how Mad Max would check MJ. Kenny Smith and BJ Armstrong is a wash. Horry scored enough and was athletic enough to stay with Pippen (though Pippen would likely outscore him a little, and out-jackass him by a lot). Otis Thorpe and Horace Grant were basically the same player. And no one could stop Hakeem. Who, oh by the way, SHOULD have been the MVP in 1993. Check the stats.

The only true empirical evidence we have proves that the Rockets were a nightmare matchup for the Chicago Bulls. A 5-1 record with only one close game. The only thing going for the Bulls would be that Sam Cassell would not arrive in Houston until the 1993/1994 season. That's why Jordan retired. He knew the run was inevitably over!

I still can't believe that's been 15 years ago. Wow.

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