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Hakeem Arrives

lajuwon Arrives A Raptor by Matt Akler, raptors.com --- August 7, 2001

It was not your usual press conference to introduce the newest player for the team. Fitting, since it was not your usual player.

Hakeem Olajuwon made his first appearance in Toronto as a member of the Toronto Raptors and instead of meeting the local media in the basement workroom of the arena, the team brought the NBA legend outside Air Canada Centre's Gate 1, where hundreds of fans stopped by to see and take pictures of the team's latest acquisition.

"It's been a dream summer for us and what better way to cap it off by bringing the Dream to Toronto," said Raptors senior vice-president and general manager Glen Grunwald when introducing the future Hall of Famer.

Olajuwon seemed genuinely startled at the throng of people in front of him, shouting his name and snapping photos. The 12-time All-Star reiterated his earlier comments about how he sees his move to Toronto as a perfect fit.

"The team has all that it takes to get there (the NBA Finals)," said Olajuwon. "It's not a given, you have to work at it, but the team is now complete. This team has a legitimate chance to win and management has done a wonderful job of educating me on the things the city has to offer."

DreamCarter and Olajuwon seem to be equally pleased about having the other as a teammate.
One of the main selling points that brought Olajuwon to the Raptors was waiting in the wings as new teammate Vince Carter made a surprise appearance at the event. A huge ovation erupted as Vince stepped out of the shadows to applaud Hakeem while the Dream was answering a question. An articulate man, Olajuwon appeared momentarily confused by the uproar, but once he spotted Carter, the veteran centre strode to the corner of the stage to embrace the man whose recruiting pitch meant so much to him.

"Vince is a good recruiter. I talked to him about two weeks ago and that made a big difference," exuded Olajuwon. "My job, my role is to make the game much easier for Vince to dunk on people. I saw him play in the playoffs last year and I was so impressed as to how he improved his game, facing up players and taking the jumpshot."

While Olajuwon and Carter were in Toronto to show their joy at working together to improve the Raptors, another member of the team's power triumvirate also let his satisfaction be known.

"I've talked to Antonio (Davis) about Hakeem being here and he is very happy," said Grunwald, whose comments were immediately echoed when Olajuwon added, "And I'm happy to have a power forward like Antonio."

Olajuwon did concede that the ideal situation would have been for him to finish his career with the Rockets, but acknowledged the change of scenery and the rising status of the Raptors has him more than excited for a fresh start in Toronto.

"For my career, this was the best choice," he said.

For the Raptors and their fans, they couldn't agree more.