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Wednesday November 16, 2011 12:00 PM

A Dream Come True

Clutch City Classics series resumes, showcasing Game 1 of 1995 Western Conference Finals

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - It might be hard for Rockets fans to fathom now, but once upon a time – the mid 1990’s to be exact – there was a great deal of debate centered around, well, centers. When the conversation came around to the subject of the game’s preeminent big man, there was no shortage of opinions to be found and very little in the way of agreement.

As these things have a tendency to go, the vast majority of opinions were divided among regional lines with many in the northeast preferring New York’s Patrick Ewing and some in the southeast leaning toward up-and-coming big man Shaquille O’Neal down in Orlando. Texas, however, was split in two. Houston had Hakeem Olajuwon, fresh off MVP and NBA championship trophies in ’94, while San Antonio was home to David Robinson, the league’s choice for Most Valuable Player in ’95. It was a golden age of centers to be sure, but you could forget about building any sort of consensus about the best of the bunch.

Until Olajuwon went on a year-long, back-to-back title-winning rampage, that is.

That journey of course began with Hakeem lifting Houston to its first-ever title in ’94 thanks to a 7-game series victory over the Knicks in the NBA Finals, thanks in large part to Dream’s domination of Ewing on both ends of the floor. But Robinson’s ascendency the next year further fanned the flames of the great center debate. It was only fitting then that Olajuwon would be given the opportunity to stake his claim to the throne once more, this time in the ’95 Western Conference Finals.

You already know what happened next: Personally challenged and slighted by the mere insinuation and suggestion that the Admiral might be the better player, Dream went about the process of proving that theory wrong in the most emphatic way possible. His domination was so thorough and so complete, no one who watched that series could possibly come to any other conclusion than this: Olajuwon was, pure and simple, not only the best big man of that specific era, but the best basketball player on the planet at that time as well.

And it all began with Game 1 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals, which just so happens to be the subject of the next installment of FSHouston’s Clutch City Classics Series. Tonight at 9 PM CST, fans will have the opportunity to re-live the game which features all-new, additional in-game commentary from Rockets broadcasters Bill Worrell and Matt Bullard, as well as Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler.

It’s all part of a series that not only aims to serve as a spectacular stroll down memory lane, but one that also represents a reminder of just how epic the journey has been during the franchise’s first 45 years of existence.

“We are excited to offer our fans the opportunity to relive some of our defining franchise moments,” said Rockets Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown. “Mr. Alexander has built a storied franchise that has provided a host of memorable championship moments. ‘Clutch City Classics’ will offer our fans the opportunity to experience those thrilling franchise achievements while listening to our former players recount their fond memories of the games.”

Future November episodes will include: Olajuwon’s leaping, last-second block of a John Starks’ shot to ensure a win and force a deciding Game 7 in the 1994 NBA Finals versus the New York Knicks (6/19/94); and the historic 1994 Game 7 win over the Knicks that delivered Houston its first major sports championship (6/22/94).

The broadcast schedule through the month of November is as follows:

Wed., 9 PM, 11/16/11: Game 1, 1995 Western Conference Finals—Olajuwon leads the way with 27 points and lock-down defense on league MVP David Robinson.

Wed., 9 PM, 11/23/11: Game 6, 1994 NBA Finals—Olajuwon’s last-second block of John Starks shot to force a Game 7.

Wed., 9 PM, 11/30/11: Game 7, 1994 NBA Finals—The Rockets deliver Houston’s first-ever championship

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