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Rockets celebrate Olajuwon, retire No. 34


-- Hakeem Olajuwon came to the United States from Nigeria as a gangly 7-foot teenager, developing an affinity for ice cream and a taste for winning championships.

The Houston Rockets thanked Olajuwon for the ride Saturday night, retiring his No. 34 in a halftime ceremony during their game against the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets owner Les Alexander announced that a life-sized statue of Olajuwon would be on display at the Rockets' new downtown arena that will open next season. The crowd started chanting ''MVP, MVP'' as Olajuwon spoke.

''All my career, I've stayed focused and looked forward,'' Olajuwon said. ''When people start putting the accomplishments together, I think they are talking about someone else.''

Olajuwon, 39, played 17 seasons with the Rockets, leading them to consecutive NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. He was a 12-time All-Star, the league MVP in 1994 and the Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and 1994.

After watching the first half of the game, Olajuwon said it was time to end his career.

''I don't look at this as the end, it is the beginning of the next phase of my life,'' Olajuwon said. ''You know what you accomplished over the years and now it is time to sit and watch.''