Future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon was a young student at the University of Houston, and a member of their high-flying basketball team Phi Slamma Jamma (along with Clyde Drexler).
Moses Malone was a member of the Houston Rockets and was racking up NBA MVP trophies.
And they used to go at it on the practice court in some epic battles where the veteran taught the young star the game. On the occasion of Malone’s passing, Olajuwon looked back on how Malone shaped his game, speaking to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.
“I would never have accomplished what I did if I did not play against Moses at Fonde,” Olajuwon said before his own Hall of Fame induction in 2008. “I knew the rules. I knew the basics of the game and what you were supposed to do. But he is the one that taught me how to do it.
“With Moses there were no rests, no breaks. He was working every time down the court — scoring, rebounding or just making you feel his body. He would laugh when he slammed into you. If you tried to take a breath, he went by you or over you. There was no stop….
“I usually couldn’t go through Moses, because he was just so strong,” Olajuwon said. “So I had to learn to use speed and agility to go around him. That’s how I built my game.”
Olajuwon added a series of moves and counters, and soon enough was going around everyone in the NBA. A decade after those pickup games and lessons in Houston, Olajuwon was winning an NBA title.
And Moses Malone deserves a little credit for all of it.