Commentary

Greatest Finals performances: No. 5

Updated: June 15, 2011, 10:52 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

Hakeem OlajuwonNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesWhy is Olajuwon entering the Hall of Fame in 2008? Start with his 1994 Finals domination of Ewing.

Editor's note: We're ranking the best Finals performances since the NBA-ABA merger.


Rankings: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50

5. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston, 1994

This series didn't strike a chord with casual fans, except when the O.J. Simpson car chase interrupted Game 5. But Olajuwon's performance was unquestionably historic.

The 1993-94 Knicks were one of the best defensive teams of all time; you could argue, in fact, that no team has ever defended better than those Riley-era Knicks. Furthermore, Olajuwon was going up against not only a great D, but also its linchpin in fellow 2008 Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing. Their matchup was one of the few times in recent history that two all-timers went head-to-head in a Finals and guarded each other nearly the entire time.

And Olajuwon absolutely crushed Ewing. The Dream hardly came off the floor, averaging 43.1 minutes per game for the series, and his freakish stat line included 26.9 points, 9.1 boards, 3.9 blocks and 3.6 assists.

Included in those numbers were a game-saving block of a John Starks jumper in Game 6, and an assist on the series-clinching 3-pointer by Vernon Maxwell in Game 7. Given the level of the competition and the defensive nature of the series, Olajuwon produced an amazing effort that transcended his 27.1 PER.

As for Ewing? He shot 36.9 percent with a 15.5 PER, and Olajuwon outscored him in all seven games. If not for such total domination in the battle of Hall of Fame centers, Houston wouldn't have come close to the title.


Rankings: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.

Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference.com contributed research to this list.