The biggest news of 1993-94 came a full month before the season got underway. On October 6, Michael Jordan, three-time NBA regular-season and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, announced his retirement from the sport at age 30, saying he had accomplished all he set out to do in basketball. Not since Jim Brown's retirement from the NFL had a star of such magnitude stepped away while he was at the pinnacle, having won NBA championships in his final three seasons and scoring titles in his final seven. But Jordan's departure had an energizing effect on the league, as the championship now seemed within reach of any number of teams.
Hakeem Olajuwon, the Finals MVP, gave Houston its first major-league championship in any sport.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE

Seven teams went on to win at least 55 games, led by Seattle, which had come within one game of the NBA Finals a year ago. The SuperSonics won 63 games to lead the West, while Houston, led by NBA Most Valuable Player Hakeem Olajuwon, won 58. In the East, a pair of defensive stalwarts, New York and Atlanta, won 57 games apiece, while the Jordan-less Chicago Bulls did surprisingly well, winning 55. Phoenix, which battled through injuries to Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson, won 56 games, and San Antonio, with David Robinson enjoying his best season, won 55.

In the postseason, a young Denver squad achieved what was thought impossible, becoming the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed when it came back from a 2-0 deficit and ousted Seattle in the First Round. Houston disposed of Portland easily, came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Phoenix in seven games, and beat Utah in five games to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1986. New York, which took the hard road all season with its grinding defense, dismissed New Jersey, then survived seven-game series against Chicago and Indiana to reach the Finals for the first time since 1973. But New York came up short in its third consecutive seven-game series as Houston captured its first NBA title by winning Game 7 at home, 90-84, closing out the first Finals since 1955 where neither team reached 100 points in any game.

Hakeem Olajuwon had long been the NBA's most underrated superstar, quietly flourishing in the background while charismatic stars like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Charles Barkley captured the spotlight. Olajuwon made it to the NBA Finals in his second NBA season in 1986, but didn't make it back to the NBA's premier stage until 1994, when he capped his MVP season by bringing the city of Houston its first major-league championship in any sport.

Olajuwon had a magnificent NBA Finals, winning his private duel with Patrick Ewing and scoring 26.9 ppg in a series where Houston managed just 86.1 ppg. He also averaged 9.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.86 blocked shots, and it was his block of John Starks' last-ditch three-pointer that preserved Houston's 86-84 win in Game 6. In the company of Jordan at last, Olajuwon added a championship ring and the NBA Finals MVP award to his regular-season MVP trophy.