The Houston Rockets come in at No.5 in the Panini America 30 Teams/30 Weeks NBA countdown to the most collectable NBA teams of all-time.
The expression, “lightning never strikes twice in the same location” doesn’t apply to Houston. Some of the game’s greatest pillars have donned the Rockets’ logo (in San Diego in 1967-71 before moving to south Texas).
It started with Hall of Fame center Elvin Hayes, whom the franchise drafted in 1968 while still based in San Diego. In 1984, Houston won a coin flip (this was pre-NBA Draft lottery) for the right to take Houston Cougar center Hakeem Olajuwon first overall. And, finally, the Rockets scored Chinese big man Yao Ming with the No. 1 pick in 2002. All three put up impressive numbers in H-Town and would be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Beyond individual accolades, the franchise rode the big men to team success. In Hayes’ second season, he took the squad, which won 15 games the season prior, to the playoffs. Olajuwon carried Houston to the postseason in 14 of his 17 seasons. That includes winning the franchise’s only titles in 1994 and 1995. The Nigerian center was Finals MVP in both series. Yao also came up big as the weather warmed, notching nearly 20 points per game in 28 postseason games.
While the team made its historical mark with use of big men, there hasn’t been a shortage of guards who have dominated. Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy ran circles around defenses for 13 seasons. A player who steadily improved throughout his career, Murphy scored over 20 points per game from ages 25 to 31 (1973-80).
In addition to homegrown talent, Houston has nabbed a few Hall of Famers at the end of their careers to make championship runs. It worked to perfection when Clyde Drexler returned to his hometown in 1995. He helped the team win its second consecutive championship. Although it didn’t result in a title, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen were productive in short stints for Houston in the late 1990s.
The current squad developed a winning formula by building from the outside. Perhaps the most analytically advanced team in the league, Houston attacks from the perimeter nowadays. Possessing elite ball-handling guards who excel beyond the perimeter (James Harden, Chris Paul) and sharp-shooting role players, the modern-day Rockets love to launch 3-pointers, which land at a high clip.
Check out the Rockets’ all-time lineup below and click on each card to see if they are available for purchase on the Beckett Marketplace. The latest Panini NBA products can be found on its website.