Nigerian-born Hakeem Olajuwon and Jamaican-born Patrick Ewing were among seven legends inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame here on Friday.
Joining the two retired National Basketball Association star centers were former NBA playmaker Adrian Dantley, former Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, ex-college coach Cathy Rush and TV commentator Dick Vitale.
Olajuwon powered the Houston Rockets to a pair of NBA titles, denying Ewing and the New York Knicks a crown in the 1994 NBA Finals as the two became the league’s top players after the first retirement of superstar Michael Jordan.
“If you look at the time that we played, it was a very special time,” said Olajuwon. “It was a very important time for big men.”
Olajuwon was playing soccer in Africa as a youth while Ewing moved to Boston as a child and even visited the sport honor shrine he would later join.
“I just remember looking at the greats,” Ewing said. “I never thought that I would be among them.”
Olajuwon helped the University of Houston reach the US college semi-finals three times, losing to Ewing’s Georgetown team in the 1984 US college finals, and stayed in the Texas oil city to bring glory to its NBA club.
“Hakeem was the hardest player I had to face. I beat him in college. He beat me in the NBA,” Ewing said. “We are a lot alike. We both came from different countries. We both had a lot of raw talent but we both were involved with some very special people.”
Riley spent 17 years as an NBA coach, winning five championships, four with the Los Angeles Lakers and another with the Heat. He took nine teams to the NBA Finals, including the 1994 Knicks.
Dantley played 15 seasons with Detroit, Utah, the Lakers and the Buffalo Braves, who became the Los Angeles Clippers. He led the NBA in scoring in 1984 and ranks 23rd on the all-time NBA scoring list with 23,177 career points.
Davidson has owned the Pistons for 34 years and also owns the former National Hockey League champion Tampa Bay Lightning while Vitale, a former Pistons coach, made his fame as a US TV announcer for college basketball.
Rush guided Immaculata to three consecutive US women’s titles in the 1970s.