Over the years, the Houston Rockets have had some of the most talented and iconic players in the NBA grace their court. From Hakeem Olajuwon‘s unstoppable post moves to James Harden‘s lethal step-back three, the Rockets have almost always been must-see TV. But what sets the great Rockets players apart from the rest?
Selecting the top ten Houston Rockets players of all time is no easy feat. These rankings on several factors, including individual stats, accolades, team success, and impact on the franchise. Also considered were the players’ cultural significance and their contributions to the game of basketball as a whole. With these criteria in mind, here are the cream of the crop, the top ten Houston Rockets players in history.
Hakeem Olajuwon: The Dream Shake
No list of great Rockets players would be complete without Hakeem Olajuwon, also known as “The Dream.” Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest centers in NBA history and the best player in Rockets history. Born in Nigeria, Olajuwon grew up playing soccer and handball before discovering basketball at the age of 15. He honed his skills at the University of Houston and was drafted first overall by the Rockets in 1984.
Olajuwon’s signature move was the “Dream Shake,” a series of fakes and spins that left defenders guessing. He was a master of footwork and had a seemingly endless array of post moves. Olajuwon led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, earning Finals MVP both times. He was also a 12-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the league MVP in 1994. Olajuwon retired in 2002 as the Rockets’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Clyde Drexler: The Glide
Clyde Drexler, also known as “The Glide,” was one of the most exciting players to watch in the 90s. He played for the Portland Trail Blazers for the first 11 years of his career before being traded to the Rockets in 1995. Drexler was a 10-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA First Team, and won an Olympic gold medal with the “Dream Team” in 1992.
Drexler’s smooth style of play earned him the nickname “The Glide.” He was a great scorer and passer, but also a tenacious defender. Drexler played a key role in the Rockets’ championship run in 1995, averaging 21.5 points per game in the playoffs. He retired in 1998 as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history.
Tracy McGrady: T-Mac
Tracy McGrady, also known as “T-Mac,” was a scoring machine during his time with the Rockets. He was acquired in a trade with the Orlando Magic in 2004 and played for the Rockets until 2010. McGrady was a seven-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, and won two NBA scoring titles.
McGrady was known for his smooth shooting stroke and ability to get to the rim. He had a career-high 62 points in a game against the Washington Wizards in 2004, and he once scored 13 points in 35 seconds to lead the Rockets to a comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs. Despite never winning a championship, McGrady remains one of the most beloved players in Rockets history.
James Harden: The Beard
James Harden, also known as “The Beard,” is the most recent addition to the list of great Rockets players. He was acquired in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and quickly became the face of the franchise. Harden is a nine-time All-Star, three-time scoring champion, and the 2018 NBA MVP.
Harden is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, known for his deadly step-back three-pointer and ability to draw fouls. He holds the record for the most three-pointers made in a single season and has led the league in assists as well. Despite never winning a championship, Harden’s impact on the Rockets cannot be overstated.
Yao Ming: The Great Wall
Yao Ming, also known as “The Great Wall,” was a towering presence on the court during his time with the Rockets. He was drafted first overall in 2002 and played for the Rockets until 2011. Yao was an eight-time All-Star and was named to the All-NBA Second Team five times.
Yao was known for his size and skill, standing at 7’6″ tall and weighing over 300 pounds. He was a great scorer and rebounder, but also a skilled passer and defender. Yao’s impact on the game went beyond his stats, as he helped popularize basketball in China and brought a new level of international recognition to the Rockets.
Moses Malone: Chairman of the Boards
Moses Malone, also known as the “Chairman of the Boards,” was a dominant force in the NBA during the 80s. He played for the Rockets from 1976 to 1982 and was a three-time MVP during his time in Houston. Malone was a 13-time All-Star, one-time NBA champion, and the all-time leader in offensive rebounds.
Malone was known for his relentless work on the boards, averaging over 12 rebounds per game for his career. He was also a great scorer and defender, earning six All-Defensive Team selections. Malone’s impact on the Rockets was immeasurable, as he helped transform the franchise from a struggling expansion team to a championship contender.
Rudy Tomjanovich: The Player and Coach
Rudy Tomjanovich, also known as “Rudy T,” is one of the most beloved figures in Rockets history. He played for the Rockets from 1970 to 1981 and was a key player on the team’s first championship squad in 1994. He later went on to coach the team for 11 seasons, leading them to two NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.
Tomjanovich was known for his toughness and clutch performances, earning the nickname “Rudy T” from his teammates. He was also a successful coach, with a career record of 527-416. Tomjanovich’s impact on the Rockets cannot be overstated, as he helped guide the team to their two most successful seasons in franchise history.
Calvin Murphy: The Mighty Mouse
Calvin Murphy, also known as “The Mighty Mouse,” was a fan favorite during his time with the Rockets. He played for the team from 1970 to 1983 and was a three-time All-Star. Murphy was known for his quickness and scoring ability, despite standing at just 5’9″ tall.
Murphy was also a skilled ball-handler and passer, and he led the league in free throw percentage twice. He retired as the Rockets’ all-time leader in free throws made and attempted. Murphy’s impact on the Rockets went beyond his stats, as he helped inspire a generation of undersized players to believe in themselves and their abilities.
Sam Cassell: The Alien
Sam Cassell, also known as “The Alien,” was a key player on the Rockets’ championship teams in 1994 and 1995. He played for the Rockets from 1993 to 1996 and was known for his clutch performances in the playoffs. Cassell was also a skilled scorer and passer, averaging over 15 points and six assists per game during his time in Houston.
Cassell’s nickname came from his unusual shooting form, which resembled an alien’s antennae. He was a fan favorite for his confident demeanor and ability to come up big in the clutch. Cassell’s impact on the Rockets cannot be overstated, as he helped solidify the team’s backcourt and played a key role in their championship runs.
Robert Horry: Big Shot Rob
Robert Horry, also known as “Big Shot Rob,” was known for his clutch performances in the playoffs. He played for the Rockets from 1992 to 1996 and won two NBA championships with the team in 1994 and 1995. Horry was also a key player on championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.
Horry was known for his ability to hit big shots in crucial moments, including several game-winning shots in the playoffs. He was also a skilled defender and rebounder, earning a reputation as a “glue guy” who did whatever it took to help his team win. Horry’s impact on the Rockets cannot be overstated, as he helped lead the team to their first two NBA championships in franchise history.
While these ten players are the cream of the crop, there have been many other great players to suit up for the Rockets over the years. Players like Steve Francis, Ralph Sampson, and Vernon Maxwell all played key roles in the team’s success. And of course, we can’t forget about the legendary Rudy T, who was both a player and coach for the Rockets.