The Houston Rockets have always played like the team of the future. They were the pioneers of the 3-point revolution and the poster child for using advanced analytics to make their personnel decisions.
But while they’re always looking ahead, they’re clearly still trying to recreate the successes they had in the past. The Rockets have had a lot of great moments throughout their franchise’s history.
Let’s revisit some of them, shall we?
Here are the top 5 moments in the franchise history that we’re certain created awesome Rockets news and headlines:
Honorable Mention – Rookie Yao Ming stands up to Shaq
There was so much hype surrounding Yao Ming coming into the 2002 draft. He was certainly a dominant figure in his native China and literally towered over anyone at 7’6. The question was whether it would translate to success at the NBA level.
The Chinese big man had a solid freshman campaign but really announced his arrival during his first match-up against The Big Diesel – Shaquille O’Neal. Yao really gave it to Shaq in the opening minutes, blocking Shaq’s first three shot attempts to the delight of the crowd.
And while his career was tragically cut too short by injuries, he’s certainly left his mark on the Rockets’ franchise.
Now, onto the Top 5
#5 – ’07-’08 Rockets streak for 22 in a row
2008 was a magical time to be a fan of the Houston Rockets.
Their 22 game streak stood as the longest winning streak since the ABA-NBA merger up until it was beaten by the Miami Heat in 2013 and the Golden State Warriors in 2016. But while those teams were powerhouse clubs with multiple future Hall-of-Famers, the Rockets felt more like a band of overachieving brothers.
They were buoyed just by Tracy McGrady’s All-Star play and eventually had to overcome an injury to Yao Ming, but the team rallied to get to that 22-win total.
#4 – Houston wins its first title in ’94
Michael Jordan took control of the league in the early nineties, winning the chip from 1991 to 1993. But when it was announced that he would retire from the game, there left an opening for another team to take the reigns. Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets announced that it was their turn.
The Dream was Houston’s only All-Star, but his supporting cast was deep and up for the challenge. They would go seven full games against the New York Knicks, and eventually come out on top.
#3 – Ralph Sampson’s miracle shot
The Rockets stunned the Los Angeles Lakers in ’86 with this game winner from Olajuwon’s original star teammate – Ralph Sampson. The game was tied with one second left and the inbound pass didn’t give Sampson much of an angle to get a shot off. He mustered to launch a twisting tip shot to send the Rockets to the NBA Finals.
#2 – Mario Elie and the Kiss of Death
They say it’s even harder to repeat after you’ve just won the championship. That certainly proved true for the ’94-’95 Rockets.
Houston limped into the postseason and had to face powerhouse teams just to get another title shot. The 47-35 Rockets went up against the 59-23 Phoenix Suns and fell down 3 games to 1. But the Rockets battled back, forcing a Game 7 on the road.
With the score tied in the final moments, Mario Elie delivered the coup de grace and the iconic kiss of death for good measure. We all know what happened for the rest of this postseason.
#1 – Rockets complete the repeat in ’95
Elie’s Kiss of Death culminated in the eventual crowing of the Rockets for the second year in a row. Houston was the 6th seed, the lowest to ever win it all. They faced the 60-win Jazz in the first round, came back down 3-1 against the 59-win Suns, and got past the top seeds of both conferences in the Spurs and Magic to achieve its franchise’s greatest moment.
Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said it best: “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”