Houston Rockets

Tue, 27 Jan 2009 10:07

History of Houston Rockets

Information about the NBA team Houston Rockets.


The Houston Rockets are one of the 30 teams in the NBA. They are based in Houston, Texas and have won a total of 2 NBA Championships during their existence. They were established in 1967 and were originally from San Diego. They got the name “Rockets” because San Diego was known as “a city of motion.” Their first coach was Jack McMahon and their first draft pick was the future Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. In their first year, the San Diego Rockets had a losing season. Since they were at the bottom of the standings, the Rockets had the right to play for the first draft pick the following year, which they won against the Baltimore Bullets.

The Rockets selected Elvin Hayes with the first pick in the 1968 NBA Draft. By 1969, the Rockets were able to reach the playoffs. Although they lost in the semi-finals to the Atlanta Hawks, the Rockets knew that they were improving. The following year, the team chose Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich, the latter becoming the future championship coach of the Houston Rockets. Yet, even with the acquisition of these two superb players, the Rockets were not able to reach the playoffs for two consecutive years. Thus, team owner Robert Breitbard sold the franchise to Houston.

The Houston connection

With the “Rockets” moniker getting more relevance in Houston, the franchise was hoping for a change of luck. However, their move in the early 1970s was not as good since they did not have a real home court in Houston. Although named the Houston Rockets, they were playing their home games in various locations such as San Antonio and Waco. They were averaging less than 5,000 fans every game and that took a toll on the players. In the 1971-1972 season, the Houston Rockets changed their coach from Alex Hannum to Tex Winter. Yet, Winter had problems with star player Elvin Hayes. This led to the trading of Hayes to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin.

Tex Winter left the Houston Rockets after the team had 10 straight losses in 1973. He was later replaced by Johnny Egan. By the 1975-1976 season, the Houston Rockets already had a home stadium known as “The Summit.” The Houston Rockets won their very first home game against the Milwaukee Bucks. With Egan coaching Tomjanovich and Murphy, the Houston Rockets were able to reach the playoffs once again. They were able to rout the New York Knicks in the first round but they were eventually eliminated by the Boston Celtics. With a new home court, the Houston Rockets were trying to gain more fans.

The Houston Rockets continued getting better players over the following years. They traded for superstars such as Moses Malone and Rick Barry. In 1979, Moses Malone won the Most Valuable Player award. They also had Del Harris as their head coach. Although heralded as a strong squad, the Houston Rockets were eliminated in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. During the start of the 1980 season, the Houston Rockets were moved to the Midwest Division of the Western Conference. This was due to the creation of the Dallas Mavericks. They managed to enter the playoffs once again in that year.

Gunning for glory

Although they had a losing record of 40-42 that year, the Houston Rockets were able to cruise to the NBA Finals, where they met the Boston Celtics. Yet again the Houston Rockets were defeated. Hoping to regain their spot in the Finals, the Houston Rockets managed to get a winning record in the 1981-1982 season. Moses Malone won the MVP award for the second time. However, it would be the last time that Malone would play for the Houston Rockets as he was traded the next year to the Philadelphia 76ers. The team also replaced Del Harris with Bill Fitch.

Ralph Sampson was selected by the Houston Rockets in the 1983 NBA Draft. He also won the Rookie of the Year honors. Although the team did improve in terms of players, they still had a bad record and were again poised to join next year’s NBA Draft Lottery. The 1984 NBA Draft was one of the finest in all of the league and the Houston Rockets, with the first overall pick, chose Hakeem Olajuwon. That draft also had the likes of Charles Barkley, John Stockton, and the great Michael Jordan. Olajuwon garnered a few votes than Jordan in that year’s Rookie of the Year award.

With Sampson and Olajuwon in the middle, the Houston Rockets managed to reach the 1986 NBA Finals. However, they met the Boston Celtics again and lost in six games. The Houston Rockets were perennial playoff contenders since then. Yet, they kept losing in the first round. Bill Fitch would then be replaced by Don Chaney and the Houston Rockets would get the services of Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell. By the 1990s, Chaney would be relieved of his services as head coach. He was replaced by Rudy Tomjanovich, the Houston Rockets’ star of the early 70s.

Championship at last

Tired of losing in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets strengthened their plays and they got off to a 15-0 start in the 1993-1994 season. They also managed to win their first championship that year against the New York Knicks. It was Olajuwon’s heroics that sealed the deal as he blocked the shot of Knicks’ guard John Starks in the final seconds of Game 6. With a title in their hands, the Houston Rockets were among the elite teams of the Western Conference. Hakeem Olajuwon, the team captain of that year’s squad, garnered praises from all over. However, the following year would start rocky for the Houston Rockets.

The Houston Rockets traded Otis Thorpe to the Portland Trail Blazers to get Clyde Drexler, a former college teammate of Olajuwon. The team got into the playoffs with the sixth spot and faced the Utah Jazz who had a 60-22 record in the regular season. Although underdogs, the Houston Rockets managed to win over the Jazz and beat their next opponents, the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, respectively. They were able to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year, facing the Orlando Magic with key players Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway. The Houston Rockets won another title that year.

Losing their touch

Michael Jordan came out of retirement and returned to the Chicago Bulls. With this new dilemma, the Houston Rockets acquired Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns in the 1996-1997 season. The trio of Barkley, Olajuwon, and Drexler was very formidable but they eventually fell to the Utah Jazz in that year’s Western Conference Finals. By 1998, the core group would be dismantled as Drexler retired. The Houston Rockets acquired Scottie Pippen from the Chicago Bulls but he was not happy with the system. The Houston Rockets have never again set foot in the NBA Finals since then.

As the years passed, new players began to shine for the Houston Rockets. Names such as Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming have carried the torch for the team. They are still trying to get their groove back and become one of the Western Conference’s elite teams once again.