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Rockets Honor Olajuwon, Then Put Away Warriors

November 10, 2002|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — Losing on a night when Hakeem Olajuwon's uniform number was retired would have been unacceptable.

"I didn't even think about losing. It would have been a disgrace," Steve Francis said after scoring 23 of his 31 points in the second half, including six in the final 1:02, to lead the Houston Rockets over the Golden State Warriors, 111-104, Saturday night.

Olajuwon had his No. 34 jersey retired in a halftime ceremony.

"It was a very emotional night. It almost looked unbelievable to see him standing there," Francis continued. "I am happy I was able to be a part of it. It is something that I will always remember."

Olajuwon, who came to the United States from Nigeria as a gangly 7-foot teenager, played at the University of Houston before developing into a 12-time NBA All-Star and the league's most valuable player in 1994.

Olajuwon, 39, played 17 seasons with the Rockets, leading them to consecutive championships in 1994 and 1995.

Dubbed "the Dream" early in his career, Olajuwon finished as the NBA leader in blocked shots with 3,830. He averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds, and had 2,162 steals. His production dropped to 7.1 points and six rebounds last season in 61 games with the Toronto Raptors.

Rocket owner Les Alexander announced that a life-sized statue of Olajuwon would be on display at the Rockets' downtown arena that will open next season. The crowd started chanting "MVP, MVP" as Olajuwon spoke.

"I don't look at this as the end, it is the beginning of the next phase of my life," Olajuwon said. "You know what you accomplished over the years and now it is time to sit and watch."

Olajuwon watched as Francis scored 30 points or more for the third time in five games. Cuttino Mobley had 25 points.

Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas each scored 28 points for Golden State.



Dream's World

In 1994, Hakeem Olajuwon became the only player in league history to earn NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP and defensive-player-of- the-year honors in the same season. A look at his career averages as a member of the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors:

*--* ROCKETS (1985-2001) Pts Reb Blk Min G 21.8 11.1 3.1 35.7 1,177 RAPTORS (2001-2002) Pts Reb Blk Min G 7.1 6.0 1.5 22.6 61


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