Thursday, April 18

13 Best Players In Houston Rockets History

The Houston Rockets’ last two seasons have been terrible, as they barely managed to win 37 games, and it looks like the 2022-23 season will be just as bad. However, this has been a competitive franchise throughout history, in fact, they have 34 NBA Playoffs appearances.

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The Houston Rockets reached the pinnacle when they won the NBA Championship in back-to-back years, 1993-94 and 1994-95. That team was led by one of the greatest players of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon. In addition to this legendary center, other amazing players have worn the Houston Rockets uniform, and below are the 10 best.

UPDATE: 2023/10/04 18:00 EST BY LIZZY FLANAGAN

Ever since the departure of James Harden in 2021, the Houston Rockets have struggled to find a sense of identity. Typically, a team forges their identity through a star player they can anchor their franchise around. Without this spark, the Rockets have been floundering; they finished the 2022-2023 season with a 22-60 W-L record.

The Houston Rockets have boasted several extraordinary players over the course of its history. Rockets players can take inspiration from these all-time greats and hopefully elevate their team back to NBA Champion contenders (Or, who knows, maybe Harden and the Rockets’ management will smooth things over).

13 Charles Barkley

Charles-Barkley

Charles Barkley is known for his incredible athleticism and his big mouth. The prime of his career was spent with the Phoenix Suns, which is why Barkley isn’t higher on this list. Barkley only played four seasons in Houston (which were also the last four seasons of his NBA career), from 1996 to 2000. Still, he earns a spot for being one of the greatest NBA players to ever wear a Rockets jersey.

12 Otis Thorpe

The 6’10” Otis Thorpe is one of the best scorers in Rockets history. During his tenure with Houston, Thorpe shot 56% from the floor, averaging 15.5 points per game in addition to averaging 9.6 rebounds per game. Thorpe was a member of the 1994 championship team. Unfortunately, Thorpe couldn’t capture that energy after he left Houston the following year, which is likely why he isn’t usually in the conversation when fans discuss all-time great big men in the league.

11 Ralph Sampson

Ralph-Sampson-Rockets

Ralph Sampson wasn’t in the NBA for very long, something to be expected from a man who stands at 7’4″. He was selected by the Rockets in 1983 with the first overall pick and certainly lived up to the hype during his time in Houston. He averaged 18.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game, making him one of the most dominant big men in Rockets history. Sampson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 and is recognized as one of the best centers in league history.

10 Clyde Drexler

Clyde Drexler barely played four seasons with the Houston Rockets, but he played so well that he deserves to be considered one of the best players in franchise history.

He averaged 19 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, with a 12.5 Value Over Replacement Player (10th best in franchise history). In addition, he helped win the team’s second title. Clyde the Glide was well past his prime, but still played at a superlative level.

9 Robert Reid

Robert Reid

Robert Reid was not an extraordinary player, in fact, his Player Efficiency Rating with the Rockets was 13.5.

However, he played 10 seasons with the team and managed to get into the top 10 in franchise history in points (8,823), rebounds (3,706), assists (2,253), steals (881), blocks (364) and Win Shares (40.9). Robert Reid went under the table, never hogged the spotlight, but always did a good job.

8 Elvin Hayes

Elvin Hayes-1

Elvin Hayes was the first great player in the history of the Houston Rockets, who at the time were actually called the San Diego Rockets. Hayes was the scoring champion of the 1968-69 season, with 28.4 points per game, in addition to averaging 17.1 rebounds that year.

He played three more seasons with the team and then went to the Bullets, but returned to Houston to play the final three seasons of his career. Hayes ranks fifth in the franchise in total points (11,762) and second in rebounds (6,974).

7 Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady-1

Prior to the 2004-05 season, Tracy McGrady came to the Houston Rockets from the Orlando Magic along with Reece Gaines, Juwan Howard, and Tyronn Lue in exchange for Kelvin Cato, Steve Francis, and Cuttino Mobley. McGrady was in his prime, coming off back-to-back scoring titles.

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He lowered his points-per-game average a bit with Houston, but still averaged 22.7 in six seasons, along with 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.3 steals. The most impressive thing was his 18.2 Value Over Replacement Player, the fourth highest in franchise history.

6 Rudy Tomjanovich

Rudy Tomjanovich

Rudy Tomjanovich played his entire NBA career with the Houston Rockets, leaving body and soul on the court for 11 years. In 768 games, he recorded 17.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game.

Today he still ranks in the top five in franchise history in points (13,383), rebounds (6,198), and Win Shares (70.4). Unfortunately, he was unable to win a championship ring, but his great career guaranteed him a place in the NBA Hall of Fame.

5 Calvin Murphy

Calvin Murphy

Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich had similar careers, as they made their NBA debut the same year (1970-71), both were loyal to the franchise and both ended up in the NBA Hall Of Fame.

The difference is that Murphy played a couple more seasons. “Pocket Rocket” averaged 17.9 points, 4.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. Murphy is second in franchise history in assists (4,402), third in points (17,949), and also third in Win Shares (84.1).

4 Yao Ming

Yao Ming

This 7’6″, 310-pound center was a phenom, one of the most talented foreign players in NBA history. Unfortunately, Yao Ming had an NBA career of just eight years due to injuries.

He averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game, with a 23.0 Player Efficiency Rating and a 20.7 Value Over Replacement Player Rating (third highest in franchise history). Ming was an eight-time All-Star and was named All-NBA five times.

3 Moses Malone

Moses Malone

Moses Malone played six seasons with the Houston Rockets, between 1976-77 and 1981-82, averaging 24 points, 15 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, which is absolutely phenomenal. In addition, Malone recorded a 23.6 Player Efficiency Rating (third highest in franchise history) and 20.6 VORP (fourth).

The “Chairman of the Boards” scored a total of 11,119 points (sixth), grabbed 6,959 rebounds (third), and recorded 758 blocks (third). Malone was an outstanding center, a threat both offensively and defensively.

2 James Harden

James Harden

James Harden could not be missing from this list, as he was a true icon for the Houston Rockets. “The Beard” played nine seasons with the team, peaking and winning three consecutive scoring titles, between the 2017-18 and 2019-20 campaigns. In that span, he averaged a barbaric 33.7 points per game.

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In a Rockets uniform, Harden recorded 18,365 points (second in franchise history), 4,796 assists (first), 3,736 rebounds (seventh), 1,087 steals (third), 26.7 Player Efficiency Rating (first), and 58.7 Value Over Replacement Player (second). Harden just missed winning a championship ring.

1 Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon Ewing

The greatest player in Houston Rockets history is undoubtedly Hakeem Olajuwon. This guy led the team to two straight championship victories, the only two titles in franchise history. In 17 seasons with the team, Olajuwon averaged 22.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game, being efficient in all aspects of the game.

Olajuwon is the franchise’s all-time leader in points (26,511), rebounds (13,382), blocks (3,740), steals (2,088), Win Shares (160.6) and Value Over Replacement Player (73.7).

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