Sean Pendergast

Clutch City: An Oral History of the Houston Rockets Miracle Playoff Run

Page 5 of 7


The Rockets would face their third postseason opponent with 59 or more wins, making the short trip down I-10 to face the San Antonio Spurs, led by 1994-95 MVP David Robinson. And that's really where the story of this series begins and ends. Somewhere, a fateful decision was made to present Robinson his MVP trophy within a one-basketball-court radius of the previous season's MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon. As if the Rockets and Olajuwon needed any extra motivation, Robinson raised the trophy over his head before Game 2 to rousing applause from the Spurs faithful. He might as well have been raising the severed head of one of Olajuwon's teammates.

PETERSON: We were right next to the Rockets bench, and I couldn't hear what Clyde was saying, but he was clearly letting Dream know that was his trophy Robinson was getting.

DREXLER: I said to Hakeem, "The nerve of them giving him your trophy right before this game." I stomped away like I was disappointed, and Dream grabbed me by the arm before I could walk away, and he said, "Do not worry. We will get the big trophy." I felt really good at that point.

WORRELL: David gave a very good acceptance speech, but he tried to remember the names of the previous winners, and that was his mistake, because he brought up Jordan, Russell, everybody but one name...the previous MVP, who was standing right there. It was the biggest mistake Robinson could make. He forgot Olajuwon.

BROWN: We all saw the look on Dream's face, and I think Dream considered the whole ceremony to be disrespectful. He just went to work.

MURRAY: I was standing right there. Kenny Smith was hyping up Dream like Don King hyping up Mike Tyson, telling him that Robinson was stealing his trophy.

TOMJANOVICH: I looked at Hakeem and was just wondering, as a person, what's Hakeem feeling now. That was his trophy, and wondering what effect that would have on him. We found out.

OLAJUWON: (Laughs) There's no way I can change people's perception of that night. You cannot question the legitimacy of David's MVP that season. He was the MVP. They won 62 games; he dominated the league. We didn't win enough games. You have to win.

As it turned out, Robinson should have just cut out the middleman, canceled the trophy ceremony and spit in Olajuwon's face instead, because Dream reacted like a man disrespected, turning the Western Conference Finals into his own six-game revenge fantasy, eviscerating Robinson to the tune of 35 points and 13 rebounds per game.

OLAJUWON: David and I for many years, we would neutralize each other. So at my position, for my team to win in that series, I felt responsible that I had to play like an MVP to neutralize him. So I went on the attack.

PETERSON: I invented that Dream Shake about 20 years ago, and what he did to David Robinson that night in Game 2 in San Antonio. There was the one series of moves that was so spectacular, I could barely describe it. He just turned him inside out.

WORRELL: I think on that play I used the word "bamboozled." Hakeem bamboozled Robinson. I have no idea why I used that word, but that's exactly what he did.

BROWN: I can remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was at the game, and on the move where Dream turned Robinson inside out with all the fakes, and I remember Kareem was just laughing. Dream was at the top of his game.

OLAJUWON: Giving credit to David, you cannot beat him with one or two basic moves. You have to have advanced moves. He's so active, so long, if you just give him a basic one or two moves, he will get that. He brought the best out of me.

FOLEY: Not only did they give Robinson the MVP Trophy that year, but that season Hakeem wasn't even second-team All-NBA. David was first-team, and Shaq was second-team. I know Hakeem was angry about that, too.

PETERSON: That particular performance was inspired by a great player who thought he was denied his MVP trophy.

FOLEY: I'll always remember David Robinson after Game 2, and his exact words were, "Don't laugh at me, but I think I did a pretty good job against him."

MURRAY: I never thought I'd see a good player get destroyed like that on the NBA level. I've still never seen anything like that.

ELIE: I never seen that big man so focused. Just the look in Dream's eye. On the biggest stage, against the player who had the best season, Dream dominated.

ALEXANDER: I thought after this series, we'd beaten the three best teams, so it was over by then, even before we played Orlando.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast