Olajuwon on Howard: 'He made the right decision'
Before Dwight Howard was announced to the crowd of media at his press conference on the Toyota Center floor on Saturday, the Rockets played a video on a projection screen above the stage.
The video celebrated the history of the franchise, especially the long line of dominant NBA centers.
“A storied franchise built on the broad shoulders of some of the greatest big men to ever play the game,” the narrator said in the short video presentation. “Towering giants that carried the city of Houston to new heights.”
Then, some of those towering giants were announced by Bill Worrell one-by-one before the press conference started.
Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Ralph Sampson, Elvin Hayes and Cylde Drexler were all in attendance for the festivities on Saturday, along with the Pocket Rocket, Calvin Murphy and John Lucas.
“It’s very humbling for these guys to come here to be a part of the press conference,” Howard said. “Just shows that this organization is like a big family. These guys have a lot of things they could be doing today but they chose to be here and celebrate this today and it’s very humbling. It means a lot.”
Hayes and Howard are the only two players in NBA history to average 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for their careers.
Olajuwon, the first overall pick in 1984, had one of the most successful careers in NBA history. He has worked out with Howard for a while now and had a hand in the team’s courtship of Howard.
“I’m here because it’s the right fit for the city and the club, the Houston Rockets,” Olajuwon said. “He’s happy. You go out in the city and everybody is so excited and that’s the way it should be.”
What did he do to try to persuade Howard to come to Houston?
“Like everybody else in Houston,” the now-50-year-old Olajuwon said. “The team needed a missing piece to bring them to a championship contender, which is Dwight.”
The Rockets’ coach is an all-time great NBA big man himself. Kevin McHale’s 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics landed him in the Hall of Fame. And he said Saturday reminded him of the reunions the Celtics have had to honor the players in their storied franchise.
“There’s very few organizations that can get players to come back like this and that’s a credit to Les (Alexander),” McHale said. “That’s a credit to Mr. Alexander that everybody will come back like that. It was very impressive sitting in the room over there, it reminded me of the Celtics, when a lot of greats came back.
“And the team did a great job in recruiting Dwight. Clyde came with them. Yao Ming waited two hours in China to Skype with Dwight. Those guys generally are happy. Everybody’s really happy for the organization to land a player like Dwight and that’s kind of cool. A lot of organizations, you don’t have that.”