TheSportster.com

Top 15 Best Players In Houston Rockets History

The Houston Rockets. Clutch City. The primary reason the Knicks haven't won an NBA championship in 40+ years (John Starks' inability to hit a three pointer and horrible mismanagement being a close second and third). The Houston Rockets have a long and storied history as one of the NBA's best, most resilient franchises. Coming into the league as an expansion team in 1967 as the San Diego Rockets, the team moved to Houston in 1971 and never looked back. In their 49 year history, the franchise has hosted a slew of legendary players, including two who could easily be considered among the absolute best in NBA history, and has even claimed two NBA championships, in 1994 and 1995 (Notably, the two years Michael Jordan spent outside the league playing baseball, but ringz are ringz, dammit. It was kind of weird, though, that the Rockets never clashed with the Bulls in the Finals, especially with Hakeem and Drexler. What was up with that?)

From Elvin Hayes to Hakeem Olajuwon to Yao Ming to James Harden, the Houston Rockets have never been strangers to great talent, whether they drafted them or lucked out in free agency. This list is a testament to the fifteen best players to ever rock the Red and White, who gave their blood, sweat, tears, and buckets to the people of Southeastern Texas.

15 Charles Barkley

via shsports.blogspot.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

- 1 Time NBA All-Star

Charles Barkley really wanted a ring. Of all the great players in NBA history to have never won a ring (Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor, Karl Malone, etc.), Charles Barkley seems to catch the most flack for it. It could have something to do with his prominent TV presence or his constant derision of "jump shooting teams", but Charles Barkley is never allowed to forget that he never won a ring. Not for lack of trying, however. Originally drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984, Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992, then again traded in 1996 to the Houston Rockets. In Houston, Barkley teamed up with NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in an attempt to win an NBA championship, as the club had done back-to-back in 1994 and 1995. Barkley wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, averaging 16.5 points and 12.2 rebounds a game in four seasons for the Rockets, but he never really meshed alongside Hakeem and both their production suffered. The superteam reached the Western Conference Finals in 1997, but never left the first round thereafter.

14 Dwight Howard

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

This entry is sure to make some people downright furious! The Houston Rockets never got the "real" Dwight Howard, just as the Los Angeles Lakers never got the "real" Dwight Howard. The unstoppable force, defensive juggernaut from the Orlando Magic never showed his face in Purple and Gold or Red and White, instead offering an afterimage of sorts. However, an afterimage of Dwight Howard is still a damn good basketball player. D-12 signed with the Rockets in 2013 as the Robin to James Harden's newly emergent Batman. In his first season in Houston, Howard seemed to be up to old tricks, averaging 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds a game, and earning a few of usual NBA awards. The team fell in the first round of the Playoffs to a brutal Portland Trailblazers team, despite a vintage Howard performance that saw the big man averaged 26 points and 13.7 rebounds a game. The next year, the team made the Western Conference Finals, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Clippers and Dwight averaged 16.4 points and 14 rebounds a game. Unfortunately, the team all but fell apart last season and Dwight left this past summer.

13 Robert Horry

via bleacherreport.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Dear lord, Robert Horry has a lot of NBA championships! He has seven overall: two with the Rockets, three with the Lakers, and two with the Spurs. He's either the luckiest journeyman in professional basketball history or he's an evil, clairvoyant wizard who knew exactly when and where to be to win THAT GOLD. His quest for all the ringz began in Houston, when the Rockets drafted him eleventh overall in 1992. He started almost every single game he played in his four year tenure in Houston, working as Hakeem Olajuwon's sweet shooting right hand man. In Houston, he averaged 10.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks a game, establishing himself as a jack-of-all-trades talent. His biggest moments in Red and White were in the Playoffs, however. In 1995 alone, he hit two separate game-winning shots, in the Western Conference Finals and the NBA Finals, respectively, ensuring the franchise clinched their second straight title.

12 Calvin Murphy

via nba.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Fun fact: at 5'9" tall, Calvin Murphy is one of the shortest men to ever play in an NBA All-Star game (tied with Isaiah Thomas, also 5'9"). That's quite an accomplishment when you remember that he played between 1970-1983, a time when big men ruled the game and height was all-important. Drafted eighteen overall by the Houston Rockets in 1970, Murphy was one of the fledgling franchise's first great players. An attacking point guard, he averaged 15.8 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds a game his rookie season, and he only continued to get better from there. His points per game fluctuated in his first eleven seasons in the league, but never dropped below 16.4 points a game. He made his lone All-Star team in 1979, although arguably his best season was in 1975-1976, when he averaged 21 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals a game on .493% shooting. His level of play began declining in the 1981-1982 season and he retired in 1983. The Houston Rockets have retired #23 in his honor.

11 Otis Thorpe

via nba.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

First and foremost, Otis Thorpe is a great basketball name. It just is. Secondly, Otis Thorpe played for many, many NBA teams. Eight in total, nine if you count his two separate stints with the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings. Originally drafted ninth overall in 1984 by the Kansas City Kings, the same year the Houston Rockets drafted Hakeem Olajuwon first overall, Thorpe signed with the Rockets in 1988 and immediately filling in the monster sized void left by Ralph Sampson. He became Olajuwon's front court sidekick, a reliable scoring option that pulled down all the rebounds the Dream missed. His best season was in 1991-1992, when he averaged 17.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3 assists a game on .596% shooting and made his sole All-Star team. He helped the team win an NBA championship in 1994, averaging 11.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a game in the Playoffs. However, he was traded to the Portland Trailblazers in the middle of next season for Clyde Drexler.

10 Clyde Drexler

via pinterest.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Like many aging stars, Clyde Drexler wanted a ring. However, unlike many of those stars, who make desperate jumps to potential contenders they don't fit well on, Drexler found a perfect fit for him in Houston. Originally drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in 1983, the Blazers traded Drexler to Houston after 12 years of service and two failed trips to the NBA Finals, giving him his last chance at championship gold. In H-Town, he was reunited with his former college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon. The duo had played together at the University of Houston, as part of the legendary Phi Slamma Jama. Drexler excelled alongside Olajuwon, Robert Horry, and Otis Thorpe, averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.8 assists a game his first season with the Rockets. In the Playoffs that year, he averaged 20.5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals a game, helping the Rockets win their second straight NBA championship. Drexler played three more seasons in Houston, adding two more All-Star selections to his resume, and retired in 1998. The Houston Rockets have retired #22 in his honor.

9 Steve Francis

via pinterest.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Stevie Franchise! Steve Francis was the first star in a strange era in Houston Rockets history, one where they had a veritable treasure trove of talent, but never achieved any real playoff success. Drafted second overall in 1999 by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Francis refused to play in Canada, citing extra taxes and God's will as reasons why, among other things (no, really). The Grizzlies relented and traded him to Houston in a gigantic, 11 player deal. Unfortunately for Vancouver, Francis went on to win co-Rookie of the Year with Elton Brand, averaging 18 points, 6.6 assists, 5.3 assists, and 1.5 steal a game. He only got better from there, making his first All-Star game as a starter in 2001-2002, averaging 21.6 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.4 assists a game. When the team drafted Yao Ming in 2002, the two meshed well, but only made the playoffs once together. In 2004, Francis was traded to the Orlando Magic for Tracy McGrady.

8 Rudy Tomjanovich

via espn.go.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

- 5 Time NBA All-Star

Rudy Tomjanovich was a very good basketball player, but he's mostly remembered today for getting punched so hard in an on-court brawl in 1977 that he almost died. He got punched by a dude named Kermit Washington. The old NBA was basically a lawless night club from a bad gangster movie. Drafted second overall in 1970 by the San Diego Rockets (the same year as Calvin Murphy), Rudy sputtered out of the gate, only averaging 5.3 points his rookie year. However, he broke out in his sophomore season and became Elvin Hayes' right hand man in the front-court. Once Hayes left in 1972, Rudy became the team's unquestioned leader, averaging 19.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists a game in Hayes' absence. He only got better from there, making four straight All-Star teams. Unfortunately, that infamous punch took him out of commission for much of the 1977-1978 season and although he made a full recovery, even making another All-Star team, his skills quickly declined, leading to his early retirement in 1981. The Houston Rockets retired #45 in his honor.

7 Tracy McGrady

via houston.cbslocal.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Tracy McGrady, alongside Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett, is the patron saint of great players that never got the teams they deserved. At his very best, Tracy McGrady was an outstanding player, reaching lofty heights very few have ever touched, but the teams around him were never as good as he was. Originally drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 1997, T-Mac signed with the Orlando Magic in 2000, then was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2004. Already a world-beater by the time he got to Houston, McGrady was supposed to bring the Rockets back to the Promised Land, alongside fellow All-Star Yao Ming. T-Mac was great in his four seasons in Houston, averaging 22.7 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 points, and 1.3 steals a game over that time, but the team around him lacked in talent. In three attempts between 2004 and 2008, the Rockets never left the first round of the playoffs, despite phenomenal showings from T-Mac and Yao every time. Injuries devastated his final two seasons in H-Town and he was eventually traded to the New York Knicks in 2010.

6 Elvin Hayes

via pristineauction.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

In 1967, the NBA approved the creation of the San Diego Rockets. Like all expansion teams, they were horrible upon inception. For their ineptitude, the were "awarded" the first overall pick in 1968. That pick would become future NBA Hall of Famer, Elvin Hayers. Right out of the gate, Hayes was magnificent, averaging 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds a game, claiming the NBA scoring title and making his first of twelve career All-Star teams. However, he lost out on Rookie of the Year to Wes Unseld of the Washington Bullets, who also won league MVP that year, despite only averaging 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds a game (Seriously, that's some high level nonsense. Elvin Hayes was robbed. How is a 13-18 good enough for MVP!? Was he also made of fire!?). Hayes would continue his high level of play for three more seasons in Houston, legitimizing the young team. However, the Rockets traded Hayes to the Washington Bullets, ironically, in 1972 and he would go on to become the Bullets (now Wizards) all-time leading scorer, even winning them their only championship in 1978.

5 Ralph Sampson

via hoopshabit.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Ralph Sampson stands as one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. He was a three time National Player of the Year, three time All-American, and one of the most single dominant entities ever in amateur sports, even if he never won a National Championship. Unfortunately, his professional career wasn't nearly as great. Drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 1983, Sampson started off even better than he was in college, averaging 21 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2.4 blocks a game, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award, and starting a streak of four straight All-Star nods. He was even better his sophomore season, averaging 22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks a game. His shining moment with Houston came in the 1986 Playoffs, when he and Hakeem Olajuwon brought the Rockets to the Finals, upsetting the Magic Johnson led Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. However, Sampson began slowly declining from there, his body wracked with injuries. He left the Rockets in 1987 and retired in 1995.

4 James Harden

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

James Harden is one of the most polarizing figures in today's NBA. On one hand, he's undoubtedly one of the top ten players in the league and hands down the best shooting guard in the league. However, his free throw heavy style, flopping tendencies, and perceived diva personality make him an unlikable figure. Regardless, he's come a long, long way in the past few years. Originally drafted third overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, Harden was the sixth man for the young, ultra talented team. However, a contract dispute in 2012 saw him leave OKC for the Houston Rockets, where he shed his off-the-bench persona and became the unquestioned alpha dog of a very talented Rockets team. In his first full year as a starter, he averaged 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals a game, all substantial upgrades from his OKC totals, made his first All-Star team and received his first All-NBA nod. He's only gotten better since then and he continues to improve each and every season, evolving into a full fledged, perennial MVP candidate. He'll almost certainly move up this list before his career is over.

3 Yao Ming

via houston.cbslocal.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Yao Ming wasn't just a basketball player, he was a phenomena. There have been many great foreign players in NBA history, but Yao Ming was the first great Chinese player and he was an absolute Goliath of a man. He was wildly popular with basketball fans before he ever stepped onto an NBA court and luckily, his level of play matched his hype. Drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 2002, Yao Ming made an immediate impact, averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a game. Due to his enormous popularity, he made his first All-Star team his rookie year, the first of seven straight. He improved at an accelerated pace, playing alongside Steve Francis and eventually Tracy McGrady, eventually peaking in the 2006-2007 season when he averaged 25 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks a game. Unfortunately, he began to succumb to foot injuries he had been battling for years, missing the entire 2009-2010 season. He retired in 2011.

2 Moses Malone

via youtube.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

First off: Rest in Peace, Moses Malone.

Moses Malone had a unique career. He was the first prep-to-pro player in modern basketball, he holds the NBA record for most offense rebounds in a career, and despite being a certified megastar, he played for eight different NBA teams. Originally drafted into the ABA out of high school in 1974, Moses joined the Buffalo Braves when the ABA integrated into the NBA in 1976. He was traded to the Houston Rockets after only one game. Although he struggled his "rookie" season, Moses quickly cemented himself as one of the premiere players in professional basketball. In his six seasons in H-Town, he managed to win two MVP awards, make five straight All-Star teams, and win a handle of other awards and honor. He had his career best season in 1981-1982 when he averaged 31.1 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game. Unfortunately, he left Houston the following summer for Philadelphia, where he would team up with Dr. J to win his only NBA championship. The Houston Rockets retired #24 in his honor.

1 Hakeem Olajuwon

via nobodytouchesjordan.blogspot.com

Notable Achievements w/ Houston:

Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon. One of the most impossibly unique, offensively versatile, defensively gifted talents in the history of all sports, not just basketball. Raised in the Nigeria, Olajuwon wanted to be a soccer player, but his gigantic frame was built for basketball. However, he kept the footwork he learned playing soccer and used it to become one of the most lethal and dependable scorers in the NBA. Drafted by the Houston Rockets first overall in 1984, ahead of Michael Jordan, Olajuwon wasted no time legitimizing his lofty draft selection, averaging 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks a game as a rookie (He probably would have won Rookie of the Year if it weren't for, you know, the GOAT). He only got better from there, scoring more points and becoming a more destructive defensive force with each passing year. He never averaged less than 21.6 points a game between 1985 and 1997. His best seasons were 1993-1994 and 1994-1995, when he led the Rockets to two straight NBA championships. He won the league MVP award in '93-'94, averaging an absurd 27.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 3.7 blocks a game. He's also one of only four players in NBA history to have recorded a quadruple-double. The Houston Rockets retired #34 in his honor.

Give TheSportster a Thumbs up!

Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?

Get Your Free Access Now!

More in NBA

Top 15 Best Players In Houston Rockets History