The Rockets, along with the Seattle SuperSonics, entered the NBA in 1967 as an expansion team based in San Diego. They selected Pat Riley with their first draft pick in 1967. They went on to produce a then-NBA record 67-loss season.
San Diego RocketsEdit
In 1968, the Rockets won the coin toss versus the Baltimore Bullets, giving them the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. They selected Elvin "the Big E" Hayes from the University of Houston. Hayes led the team to the franchise's first ever playoff appearance in 1969. The Rockets lost in the Western divisional semifinal to the Atlanta Hawks two games to four in a best-of-seven series.
Move to HoustonEdit
In 1971, real estate broker Wayne Duddleston and banker Billy Goldberg bought the franchise for $5.6 million and relocated the team from San Diego, where fans were more disposed to the Los Angeles Lakers than the Rockets. The Rockets originally had been named for San Diego slogan, "A City in Motion," but with the move to Houston their name took on even greater relevance. Houston is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, which received national attention during Project Apollo.
The Rockets began playing at various venues in Houston, including the Astrodome, AstroHall, and Hofheinz Pavilion. They also played games at HemisFair Arena in San Antonio, Texas and in Waco, Texas. However, fan support was weak in the football and baseball-dominated city, and the Rockets averaged less than 5,000 fans per game during their first Houston season. It was mused that the local churches in Waco drew more attendance than the Rockets.
Before the start of the 1971 season, Coach Alex Hannum left for the Denver Nuggets of the American Basketball Association. Tex Winter was hired as the new coach shortly before the team was sold. Coach Winter applied a triple-post offensive system that contrasted with the offensive style to which Hayes was accustomed. Houston soon traded Hayes to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin. Lack of success did little to capture the city's attention, and in the Spring of 1973, following the Rockets 10th straight loss, Winter was relieved of his duties.
In 1975, with Coach Johnny Egan's guidance and Tomjanovich, Murphy, and Mike Newlin leading the way, the Rockets made their first appearance in the playoffs since arriving in Houston. The Rockets defeated the New York Knicks (led by Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe) in the first round, but lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
At the start of the 1977 season, the Rockets negotiated a trade with the Buffalo Braves to acquire Moses Malone, who as a high school star made the unprecedented decision of bypassing college basketball to sign on as a professional with the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974. The Rockets defeated the Washington Bullets in the 1977 Eastern Conference semifinal, but lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Finals. Malone made an impressive showing against Washington's Elvin Hayes and waning star Wes Unseld.
On December 9, 1977, in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Kunnert got into a fight with the Lakers' Kermit Washington. As Tomjanovich approached the altercation, Washington turned and threw a punch, landing squarely in the face of a running Tomjanovich, causing extensive structural cranial, as well as spinal, trauma to Tomjanovich. That shocking scene became the defining moment of the Rockets' 1977-78 season as well as the playing careers of Tomjanovich and Washington. Tomjanovich spent the next five months in rehab and returned to appear in the 1978 All-Star Game.
Malone received the 1979 MVP Award. Not exceptionally big or quick, he used footwork and positioning to become a successful center in the NBA. Malone, Murphy, and Tomjanovich all played in the 1979 NBA All-Star Game. Rick Barry was signed for the 1979 season from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for John Lucas. The future Hall of Famer, now in the twilight of his career, averaged a modest 13.5 points. He did set a new NBA record, however, by posting a .947 free-throw percentage for the season. He would play one more year for the Rockets before retiring in 1980.
The Rockets went 47-35 in 1978-79, Nissalke's last season as coach, finshing second in the Central Division losing two straight to Atlanta in a best-of-three first-round series.
Del Harris replaced Nissalke as coach for the 1979-80 campaign. The Rockets finished the year at 41-41, tying the San Antonio Spurs for second place in the Central Division. After beating the Spurs, two games to one, in the first-round playoff series, they were swept by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In 1981, the arrival of a third NBA team in Texas, the Dallas Mavericks, caused the NBA to restructure the conferences and sent Houston to the Midwest Division of the Western Conference, which also included San Antonio, Kansas City, Denver, Utah, and Dallas. Houston tied with Kansas City for second place in the Midwest Division behind San Antonio with a 40-42 record, barely qualifying for the playoffs.
Houston's playoff run began with a draw with the defending NBA Champion Lakers in the first round. The Rockets upset Los Angeles two games to one, then defeated George Gervin's Spurs four games to three in the Western Conference semifinals. This resulted in an unlikely conference finals matchup with Kansas City. The Kings, led by Otis Birdsong, Scott Wedman, and Phil Ford fell to the Rockets in five games. The championship series with Boston lasted six games with Boston claiming the championship.
During the season, Murphy, the shortest player in the league, set two NBA records, sinking 78 consecutive free throws to break Rick Barry's mark of 60 set in 1976 and achieving a free-throw percentage of .958, breaking Barry's record set with the Rockets in 1979. Other members of the 80-81 team were Rudy Tomjanovich, Moses Malone, Robert Reid, Mike Dunleavy, Sr., Allen Leavell, Billy Paultz, Bill Willoughby, Calvin Garrett, Tom Henderson and Major Jones.
In the 1982-83 NBA season, the Rockets fell to a league worst 14-68. In an attempt to improve the franchise's performance, Bill Fitch was hired as coach to replace Del Harris, and with the first pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, the Rockets selected Ralph Sampson from the University of Virginia. The following season was a marked improvement on the previous year.
With the first pick of the 1984 NBA draft the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon from the University of Houston. With two dynamic All-Star big men, the Rockets enjoyed great success in the 1986 season, winning the Western Conference Championship in five games over the Los Angeles Lakers and competing in the NBA Finals for only the second time in team history. However, the Celtics defeated the Rockets four games to two.
With head coach Rudy Tomjanovich in his second full year, the Rockets began the 1993-94 season with an NBA record start of 15-0. With Hakeem Olajuwon as their center, the Rockets defeated the New York Knicks in seven games to win the championship. After being down three games to two in the NBA Finals, the Rockets won the last two games on their home court, thanks to the misfortunes of New York's go-to shooting guard, John Starks. Starks missed what would have been a series-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 6 after the shot was blocked by Olajuwon. Starks shot a dismal 2-for-18 from the field in Game 7, missing all six of his 3-point shot attempts.
The Rockets struggled in the first half of the 1994-95 season. In a midseason trade with Portland, the Rockets obtained star guard Clyde Drexler, who had played alongside Olajuwon at the University of Houston, in exchange for Otis Thorpe. Houston entered the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference and were underdogs against the 60-22 Utah Jazz in the first round, the 59-23 Phoenix Suns in the second round (who led the Rockets 3-1 before losing three straight), and the 62-20 San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals. In the fifth game of the San Antonio series, Olajuwon gave a career performance. After a pregame MVP award ceremony honoring David Robinson, Olajuwon dominated the game, outscoring Robinson 42-22 in a Rockets win. Houston won all three series to reach the Finals against the Orlando Magic, whose headline players were Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. Houston swept the series in four straight games. The Rockets became the first team in NBA history to win the championship as a sixth seed. In addition, the team became the first in NBA history to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason en route to the championship.
After an injury riddled '95-'96 campaign, the Rockets beat the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs but were swept by the Seattle Supersonics in the second round. Houston's long history of playoff futility against Seattle drove the Rockets to make a dramatic trade with the Phoenix Suns that swapped Sam Cassell, Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant and Robert Horry for Charles Barkley. The resulting "Big Three" of Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley led the Rockets to a 57-25 record, with a franchise-best 27 road wins. Houston swept Minnesota in the first round and, in a heated 7 game battle, finally defeated Seattle. The Rockets then fell in the Western Conference Finals to the Utah Jazz, a team they had beaten on their way to championships in '94 and '95. By giving up key contributors from the championship teams to obtain Barkley and beat the Sonics, the Rockets had lost their edge against the Jazz.
The '97-'98 season was also marked by injuries, and the team finished 41-41 with the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Houston once again faced the Jazz and lost the series 3-2. Drexler retired after the season and the Rockets made another bold trade to bring in Scottie Pippen to take his place in the Big Three. While Scottie continued to play good defense, he struggled to fit into Houston's offensive system, which was dominated by Barkley and Olajuwon. As a result, the Rockets often struggled. The Rockets lost to the Lakers in the first round 3-1, and during the summer Barkley and Pippen publicly displayed their dislike for each other.
Throughout the post-championship years one of the Rockets main weaknesses was the point guard position. The Rockets had signed Brent Price as the answer at the 1, but he had been severely limited by injuries. That summer the Rockets attempted to address their point guard situation by trading Price, Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, and a future first round pick to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Steve Francis and Tony Massenburg. Two months later the Rockets dealt the disgruntled Pippen to the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Walt Williams, Stacey Augmon, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers, Brian Shaw, and Kelvin Cato. The trade replenished the depth given up to obtain Francis from Vancouver.
Early in the 2000 season Barkley ruptured the quadriceps tendon in his left knee in a game against Philadelphia. When considering his career-ending injury, Barkley displayed his trademark wit by observing, "I'm just what America needs - another unemployed black man." Barkley would go on to rehab and make a token appearance towards the end of the season. With injuries to Barkley and Olajuwon, the rebuilt Rockets went 34-48 and missed the playoffs.
The 21st CenturyEdit
In 2001, the Rockets worked their way to a 45-37 record and swept every Central Division team, but still didn't make the playoffs. An older, waning Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2001 which left Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley to fill leadership roles. The following season was unremarkable, as the team was mostly made up of rookies and journeymen. Injuries to star player Steve Francis forced him to miss many games. The first season without Hakeem in almost 20 years was a disappointing 28-54.
The abysmal 2002 season had its silver lining, as the Rockets were awarded the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. The Rockets selected Yao Ming, a 7 foot and 6 inch Chinese center, who played for the Shanghai Sharks. The 2002-03 NBA season saw marked improvement for the Rockets, with the trio of Yao, Francis, and Mobley leading the team to a 43-39 record.
With a 2003-2004 regular season record of 45-37, the Rockets earned their first playoff berth since their first round exit to the Lakers in 1999. However, the Lakers again handed the Rockets another loss in the first round. The offseason saw major changes in the roster and dynamic of the team as Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato were traded to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines.
McGrady and Yao led the Rockets to their best record in 10 years, finishing at 51-31 and seeded 5th in the Western Conference Playoffs. Their season ended in the first round of the playoffs as they lost to their in-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks four games to three. During the 2005 offseason the Rockets obtained Stromile Swift, and Derek Anderson. They also traded Mike James to the Toronto for Rafer Alston.
Injuries plagued the 2006 season. Bob Sura had surgery on his knee the summer prior, Tracy McGrady fought an injured back throughout the season, Yao Ming required surgery to treat an infection in his toe, and David Wesley even fractured a rib falling into a courtside cameraman near the end of the season. With rare appearances of both Yao and McGrady on the court at the same time, the Rockets floundered. When the roster was relatively complete the team was much more successful, but Jeff Van Gundy and his team frequently expressed the need to play beyond injuries and to not use bad luck as an excuse for losing. By the end of the season, the Rockets lead the league in most games missed by each player on the roster. The team finished with a 38-44 record.
The Rockets drafted Rudy Gay from the University of Connecticut with the 8th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. Gay was dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Stromile Swift in exchange for Shane Battier. Many fans were upset at losing the young prospect in Gay, but many were also excited to acquire the acclaimed work ethic and team orientation of Battier. The Rockets also acquired Kirk Snyder from the New Orleans Hornets for cash consideration, and an exchange of 2nd round draft picks. They also signed Vassilis Spanoulis, a 2004 draft pick from Greece, Steve Novak a 2006 second round draft pick from Marquette University, and summer league stand-out John Lucas III.
The Rockets have made links with Arsenal F.C., in that there are many fans of both sides. This has mainly resulted due to the rivalry with San Antonio Spurs and Tottenham Hotspurs respectively.
San Diego Rockets
San Diego Sports Arena (1967-1971)
Hofheinz Pavilion (1971-1975)
HemisFair Arena (San Antonio) (1972-1973)
Houston Summit (1975-2003) (later re-named the Compaq Center )
Toyota Center (2003-present)
|Houston Rockets current roster|
|Head Coach: Kevin McHale|
|G||13||James Harden (C)|
|G||7||Jeremy Lin (C)|
|F||30||Royce White (DL)|
| (C) - Captain|
(DL) - On assignment to D-League affiliate
- Sam Cassell (1994-1996). Drafted out of Florida State University by the Rockets with the 24th pick in the first round of the 1993 NBA Draft. Member of both the 1994 and 1995 championship teams.
- Mike Dunleavy, Sr. (1978-1982). Currently coaches the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Mario Elie (1994-1998). Member of both the 1994 and 1995 championship teams. Made the famed "kiss of death" three-pointer in Game 7 of the 1995 Western conference Semifinals that won the game and the series for the Rockets.
- Steve Francis ()
- Kevin Kunnert ()
- Allen Leavell ()
- Lewis Lloyd ()
- Vernon Maxwell ()
- Rodney McCray ()
- Cuttino Mobley ()
- Mike Newlin ()
- Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-2001)
- Scottie Pippen (1999)
- Robert Reid ()
- Ralph Sampson (1983-1987)
- Kenny Smith ()
- Kenny Thomas ()
- Otis Thorpe (1988-1995)
- Kevin Willis (1996-1998, 2001-2002)
- 22 Clyde Drexler, G, 1995-98; also Houston native and University of Houston star & former head coach
- 23 Calvin Murphy, G, 1970-83 (including last season in San Diego); also Broadcaster
- 24 Moses Malone, C, 1976-82
- 34 Hakeem Olajuwon, C, 1984-2001
- 45 Rudy Tomjanovich, F, 1970-81; Head Coach, 1991-2003
|Games Played||1,177||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Minutes Played||42,844||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Field Goals||10,555||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Field Goal Attempts||20,573||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Field Goal Percentage||.569||Carl Landry|
|Three-point Field Goals||730||Vernon Maxwell|
|Three-point Field Goal Attempts||2,241||Vernon Maxwell|
|Three-point Field Goal Percentage||.436||Jon Barry|
|Free Throws||5,376||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Free Throw Attempts||7,537||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Free Throw Percentage||.941||Rick Barry|
|Offensive Rebounds||3,936||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Defensive Rebounds||9,446||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Blocked Shots||3,740||Hakeem Olajuwon|
|Personal Fouls||4,236||Hakeem Olajuwon|
- Houston Rockets official web site
- Houston Comets official web site
- Toyota Center
- ClutchFans - Your Houston Rockets Fan Information Source - unofficial fan website
- Summer Pro League web site
- The Houston Rockets #1 Fan Group
- Rockets Blast!! web site
|National Basketball Association|
1991 & 1992 & 1993
1994 & 1995
| Succeeded by|
1996 & 1997 & 1998