Twenty years ago today a vegetarian, stock broker named Leslie Alexander decided to purchase the Houston Rockets. He immediately won two championships, and the only major league championship in Houston’s history. Eighteen years since the Rockets are more relevant then ever.
Only three other NBA teams have posted more winning seasons than the Rockets (15) during Alexander’s tenure as owner. Additionally, Houston’s winning percentage (.557, 841-669) is the seventh best in the league over that same 19-season time frame.
“I’ve always believed that sports teams are in the unique position to make a real difference in their communities,” Alexander said. “When I bought the Rockets, that was my dream. I hoped to make a difference for the people of Houston, both emotionally and financially.”
In 2008, Forbes recognized the integral role Alexander has played in his team’s success by naming him the NBA’s best owner. Alexander was also named by SI.com (Sports Illustrated) as one of the five best owners in the league in 2008-09. Alexander, who has held the longest ownership tenure in franchise history, continues to strive for peak success both on and off the court.
Alexander’s desire to bring Houston another championship has resulted in recent strategic moves to bolster the Rockets. Since naming Daryl Morey as the successor to Carroll Dawson as general manager of the team, Alexander’s Rockets have recorded the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (22 in a row: 1/29/08-3/16/08) and posted 50-plus victories in three consecutive seasons (2006-09) for the first time in club annals. On June 1, 2011, Alexander hired Hall-of-Famer Kevin McHale as just the 12th head coach in team history.
In 1995, Alexander established the Clutch City Foundation with the goal of providing help, hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be forgotten. The Clutch City Foundation funds and operates comprehensive programs benefiting thousands of children each year, as well as serving as the umbrella organization for all Rockets community initiatives. Over 17 years of active community involvement has resulted in over $11 million raised for local charities, allowing the Rockets to impact tens of thousands of Houstonians each year. One of its premier fundraising events is the Clutch City Foundation Tux & Tennies Charity Gala, which has raised over $5 million since 1996. Alexander and the Clutch City Foundation have also aided international efforts spearheaded by Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo, committing $850,000 to help those devastated by the earthquake in China on May 12, 2008, and to assist in building the Women & Children’s Center within the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Here are the highlights of the 20 years:
- An active participant in all phases of the team’s operations, Alexander has continually proven his commitment to success. Since his arrival, he has spared no expense in engineering numerous bold moves designed to make the Rockets a perennial contender:
- In 1995, Alexander orchestrated a deal with Portland to acquire Houston native Clyde Drexler. The trade helped to deliver Houston’s second consecutive title just four months later.
- In 1996, Alexander signed Hakeem Olajuwon to a long-term contract extension and obtained NBA All-Star Charles Barkley from Phoenix.
- In 1999, Alexander acquired the draft rights to Steve Francis from Vancouver.
- In 2002, the Rockets made history with the top pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by selecting Yao Ming, making him the first-ever player from an international league to be drafted first overall.
- In 2004, Alexander approved a seven-player trade with Orlando to bring in two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady.
- In 2005, Alexander signed Yao to a multi-year contract extension.
- In 2006, Alexander endorsed the acquisition of Shane Battier from Memphis.
- In 2007, Alexander authorized the trade for international-star Luis Scola.
- In 2008, Alexander approved the trade for Ron Artest from Sacramento.
- In 2010, Alexander authorized a three-team, nine-player trade that netted Kevin Martin from Sacramento and sent McGrady to New York.
- In 2011, Alexander named McHale as head coach.
- In 2012, Alexander brought in restricted free agents Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, and approved the trade that netted James Harden.
- In 2013 Alexander brought in Dwight Howard
Leslie also has an awesome laugh: