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Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon on Michael Jordan and the Bulls: ‘He gave us all the respect’

On numerous occasions, Bulls legend Michael Jordan has gone out of his way to show respect to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets. After all, outside of Chicago, Houston was the only other NBA champion over an eight-year span from 1991 through 1998.

There’s long been mutual respect between the two Hall of Famers, who were each selected in the first three picks of the 1984 NBA draft before becoming the league’s cornerstones in the 1990s.

But as fate would have it, Jordan and the Bulls never met Olajuwon and the Rockets in the NBA Finals. Jordan was retired during Houston’s first title season in 1994, while he returned late in the regular season prior to Houston’s second championship run in 1995.

That dynamic has led some casual observers to speculate that Houston might not have won its titles if not for Jordan’s very unusual (and relatively brief) mid-career retirement.

But it’s not something that has come from Jordan, himself.

In a new interview with Michael Shapiro of Chron.com, Olajuwon made it clear that there’s been nothing but respect from Jordan.

Among the latest comments by “The Dream” (to Shapiro):

You don’t win a championship by accident. We had the best record in the league. Some people try to say, ‘oh [Michael] Jordan was out those two years, that’s why you won.’ That really doesn’t matter to us, we don’t have to prove anything. … That’s one thing I really respect about Michael Jordan. He never say that. He has tremendous respect for our team.

Even when Chicago was winning championships, and we had a more average team… we were beating Chicago. We were good against Chicago. That is something we can always refer back to. We never played in the playoffs, but we played in the regular season.

He gave us all the respect, and that’s what’s important to me. … We were the champion. It’s not an easy task to win, and we got it done.

Shapiro’s full interview with Olajuwon can be read here. As for Jordan, it’s worth noting that his son, Marcus, picked Olajuwon as the second-greatest NBA player of all-time (behind his father).

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire