The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team located in Houston, Texas. The Rockets compete at the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league’s Western Conference Southwest Division. The team plays its home games at the Toyota Center, located in downtown Houston. The Rockets have won two NBA championships and four Western Conference names. The group was established in 1967 as the San Diego Rockets, a growth team originally based in San Diego. Back in 1971, the Rockets transferred to Houston.
The Rockets won only 15 matches in their debut season for a franchise in 1967. In the 1968 NBA draft, the Rockets were given the first overall pick and selected power forward Elvin Hayes, who would lead the team to its first playoff appearance in his rookie season. The Rockets didn’t complete a season with a winning record for nearly a decade until the 1976–77 year, even when they traded for All-Star center Moses Malone. Malone went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award double while playing the Rockets and headed Houston to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year with the team. During the 1980–81 year, the Rockets finished the regular season with a 40–42 record. Regardless of their losing record, they qualified for the playoffs. Directed by Malone, the Rockets stunned the entire league by creating their first NBA Finals appearance in 1981, becoming just the second team in NBA history to make the NBA Finals with a missing record. They’d lose in six matches into the 62–20 Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and potential Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale. As of 2019, the 1980–81 Rockets are the last group since the 1954–55 Minneapolis Lakers to make it all the way into the NBA Finals with a missing record.
At the 1984 NBA draft, once again using the first overall selection, the Rockets drafted center Hakeem Olajuwon, who’d become the basis of their most successful period in franchise history. Paired with 7 ft 4 inches (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson, they formed one of the greatest leading courts in the NBA. Nicknamed the”Twin Towers”, they headed the group to the 1986 NBA Finals–the next NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–in which Houston was defeated by Larry Bird and the 67-win Boston Celtics. The Celtics continued to achieve the playoffs throughout the 1980s, but failed to progress past the first round for many years following a second round defeat to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1987. Rudy Tomjanovich took over as head coach midway through the 1991–92 season, ushering in the most successful period in franchise history. Directed by Olajuwon, the Rockets dominated the 1993–94 season, setting a franchise record 58 wins and went into the 1994 NBA Finals–the third NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–and won the franchise’s first championship against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. During the following season, bolstered by another All-Star, Clyde Drexler, the Rockets–within their NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–repeated as winners with a four-game sweep of the Orlando Magic, who had been led by a young Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. Houston, which finished the season with a 47–35 album and was sixth in the Western Conference during the 1995 playoffs, became the lowest-seeded group in NBA history to win the title.
The Rockets acquired all-star forward Charles Barkley in 1996, but the presence of three of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time (Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley) was not sufficient to propel Houston beyond the Western Conference Finals. Each of the aging trio had abandoned the team by 2001. The Rockets of the early 2000s, led by superstars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, followed the trend of constant routine season respectability followed by playoff underachievement as both players struggled with injuries. After Yao’s early retirement in 2011, the Rockets entered a period of rebuilding, completely dismantling and retooling their roster. The acquisition of franchise player James Harden in 2012 has established the Rockets back to championship contention in the mid-2010s.
Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and James Harden happen to be called the NBA’s Most Valuable Player while playing for the Rockets, for a total of four MVP awards. The Rockets, under general director Daryl Morey, are noteworthy for popularizing the use of advanced statistical analytics (similar to sabermetrics in baseball) in participant acquisitions and style of play.
Read more: indycarracingnews.com