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2014 NBA Draft: How the Joel Embiid-Hakeem Olajuwon Comparisons Hold Up

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Joel Embiid enters the NBA draft with a lot of similarities to Hakeem Olajuwon when he played collegiately at Houston. Can the one-and-done Kansas star stay healthy and embark on a “Dream”-like pro career of his own?

We examine the similarities between the two entering the NBA.

It’s close to impossible to read a pre-draft report on Joel Embiid that doesn’t compare the one-and-done Kansas center to NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Given how much the two have in common, it’s no surprise.

Like Olajuwon over 30 years before, Embiid is a 7-footer from an African nation bordering the Gulf of Guinea who spent most of his youth focusing on another sport before picking up basketball in his mid-teens. Just as Embiid was this past year, Olajuwon was a dominant defensive player in college yet still raw offensively, not yet possessing the bevy of post moves that allowed him to average 21.8 PPG over 18 NBA seasons.

When Embiid used Olajuwon’s patented “Dream Shake” against New Mexico in December, Fran Fraschilla’s head almost exploded:

There are smaller similarities as well. Both Embiid (Andrew Wiggins) and Olajuwon (Clyde Drexler) were paired with uber-athletic wing players at their respective college programs. Both of which, coincidentally, adhere(d) to a rhyme as its ethos (“Rock Chalk Jayhawk” at Kansas and “Phi Slamma Jamma” at Houston).

And there are also differences. Olajuwon helped lead Houston a pair of Final Fours, while Embiid sat on the sidelines injured for the Jayhawks’ Round of 32 upset loss in this year’s tournament. While Olajuwon was the 1983 NCAA Tournament MOP, a 1984 First Team All-American and the 1984 SWC Player of the Year, Embiid was “just” the 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Second Team All-Big 12 performer.

What people really want to know now is if Embiid’s NBA career can ever come close to being comparable to Olajuwon’s - one highlighted by 12 All-Star Game appearances, a pair of championships and the league record for career block shots. As Embiid prepares to enter the pros, it remains to be seen if the ex-KU star can stay healthy and his career can be just as “Dream”-like.

 
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