NBA: When Kevin Johnson Brought the Hammer Down on Hakeem Olajuwon

Jacque Vaughan (back) of the Utah Jazz fights through a pick set for Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns
George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

Yes folks, it’s that time of the week again. The time when we dig deep into the heart of NBA lore to pay tribute to another moment that happens to be so unbelievable, it forces a person to shake their head in disbelief. If you regularly follow this throwback session, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. However, for those of you who may be new to the party, we’ll break this down for you in two words that were made for each other: epic dunk.

Some will say that we look at these dynamic displays of athleticism because we have “dunk envy.” And we’re not going to refute that. We most certainly do. However, that’s not the only reason. We do this because we truly believe that basketball fans, worldwide, get a kick out of these plays as well. The way we see it, this is what usually happens when you witness something that not everyone has the power to do.

You can’t help but get drawn into the moment and respond to it with undeniable joy. Especially when the act itself is performed by a player who, by all accounts, should not be able to do it. This is why, in this edition of “Throwback Throwdowns,” we look back at the 1994 Western Conference semifinals between the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets, to the moment when 6-foot-1 point guard Kevin Johnson brought the hammer down on 7-foot-0 center Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon.

On May 15, 1994, the Houston Rockets traveled to Phoenix to take on the Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. For the visiting team, this was a chance to even up the series at two games a piece. And with a little over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, it appeared as if that was going to happen. However, leave it to Phoenix’s Kevin Johnson to refuse to go quietly into the night.

After a Rockets-made free throw, which put them up 96-85, Johnson received the inbounds pass, knowing he needed to push the tempo and get a quick score. He reached the other end of the floor and launched a contested three, but it clanked off the front of the rim. Fortunately, the miss was rebounded by Phoenix’s Danny Ainge. That’s when the real story began. Johnson rolled to his left, took the pass from Ainge, and saw an opening to the basket along the left baseline. He took it. A quick burst, three dribbles, and then liftoff.

Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon rotated over to the basket, looking like he might be able to contest the small-ish point guard. But KJ was fully committed. He reached the rim, rose higher, and flushed it with authority, posterizing The Dream in the process. And one. Mass pandemonium. This is one of those plays where you have to watch it on repeat just to make sure it actually happened. But we assure you, it did. In the end, however, it was all for naught. The Rockets went on to win the game (107-96), the series, and, eventually, the NBA title. Still, for one magical moment, there was no one bigger than Kevin Johnson.

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