Apart from their two titles, the Houston Rockets have been blessed with several Hall of Famers which is an added testament to the esteemed franchise. As such, culling a list of their five greatest players is a demanding task. However, it is a valid exercise because, through it, we would be able to see and appreciate how diligent the franchise has been in acquiring and training the world’s basketball prodigies.
In his 17-season stint donning H-Town jersey, the Dream was all the buzz among Rockets news outlets when he led the franchise to its first and second NBA titles in 1994 and 1995. Apart from two rings, his resume includes one a Most Valuable Player of the Year trophy, two NBA Finals MVP trophies, two Defensive Player of the Year trophies, among a host of others. The Dream was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
But more than the tangibles, Hakeem Olajuwon became known for his distinct playing style, which, frankly, we may never see again. Amid a sea of powerful big men, Olajuwon unleashed his signature Dream Shake — a move defined by finesse and technical mastery. The move is so effective in freezing defenses that it’s been remixed and imitated by players both past and present. But it’s only Olajuwon who has perfected it.
Moses Malone spent six seasons with the Rockets. While most people know Malone for his stint in Philly (where he won his only title), it was in Houston where Malone started his climb as one of the most renowned. In his tenure, Malone averaged as much as 31.1 points per game and a whopping 17.6 rebounds.
Perhaps the 1980-81 season was the best season for him as he guided the team to its first NBA Finals appearance. What’s impressive about it is that team, coached by Del Harris, actually had a losing record of 40-42. This made them the first (and so far) the only team with a losing record to make it to the NBA Finals.
Malone was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. And you cannot look back to his illustrious career without examining his time donning the Rockets jersey.
Standing 7-foot-6 weighing 310 pounds, Yao Ming didn’t just use his towering height to score and swat shots. It was definitely an advantage given all of his foes were shorter than him. But apart from utilizing his God-given physique, Yao showcased a finesse reminiscent of Olajuwon. There are even instances where Yao used the Dream Shake to his advantage.
Yao spent just eight seasons in the NBA. But in those years donning the Rockets jersey, he proved that height is nothing without proper skill. There’s a ton of ‘what ifs’ concerning Yao, especially since his career ended due to a host of injuries. But frankly, we’re more than pleased at his contributions to the sport — which includes helping transform the league into the global brand that it is today.
When Tracy McGrady was traded to the Rockets from the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2004, the league went absolutely berserk. After all, he was the best scorer in the league then, having bagged two consecutive scoring titles. And upon donning the Rockets jersey, McGrady immediately went to work.
While it is true that McGrady failed to deliver a championship to Houston (he didn’t even move past the second round with the Rockets), it is also true that the team was a perennial playoff contender when he was around — a notable achievement amid the ultra-competitive atmosphere in the West. And of course, let’s not forget when he scored 13 points in 33 seconds against the San Antonio Spurs. Say what you will but McGrady is a Hall of Famer and a Houston Rockets great.
Before going to Houston, James Harden was a young and upcoming guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder. A backup to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Harden proved his mettle by being named Sixth Man of the Year in 2012. The following year, he took his talents to Houston where he proved that he’s not just a guy who can lead a team’s second unit. He is very capable of leading an entire team.
Fans were well aware of Harden’s scoring prowess. From his dreaded step-back 3-pointers, foul-drawing antics — Harden has quickly become one of the game’s most potent scorers. Although he’s now with the Brooklyn Nets after a rocky exit from H-Town, there’s no doubting that he was one of the best players to ever put on a Rockets uniform.