NBA TV “Clutch City” Houston Rockets Back-to-Back Championships Recap


Houston Rockets: Clutch City Documentary

For 2 consecutive years, a team that wasn’t picked to win it all and wasn’t given a whole lot of a chance, came out and did the unthinkable. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander created one of the best teams of the era and was able to grab two shiny trophies in the process. The Houston Rockets of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 will never be underestimated again, and that is something they worked-hard to be able to say.

“Houston you wanted this for so long. When I say team I mean it in the true sense of the word.” – Rudy T #ClutchCity

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) June 9, 2015

“The Dream”

The documentary started with an explanation of how the Rockets got to the pinnacle of basketball. It all started with the emergence of the best Houston Rocket of all-time, Hakeem Olajuwon. The show detailed Olajuwon’s journey from learning basketball in Lagos, Nigeria to creating Phi Slamma Jamma at the University of Houston. After losing title games in college, he decided to enter the draft. He was chosen #1 overall and was able to stay in the city that embraced him.

“Choke City”

“Clutch City” also described other players such as Vernon Maxwell, and why they called him “Mad Max.” One of the best unknown moments from the documentary was hearing about how Olajuwon slapped Maxwell for spitting on the court and not having “class.”

“They call me Mad Max… I think that describes me better than anything.” #ClutchCity

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) June 9, 2015

Rudy Tomjanovich‘s trek to the top of basketball wasn’t easy either. Tomjanovich explained how his life was in danger after taking a punch to the face in the middle of a match-up with the Lakers during his playing days. Spinal fluid was leaking into his throat and he stayed in critical condition for a few days. He returned after missing a season and a half before retiring from playing the game he loved.

Hakeem’s “faked injury” caused a lot of turmoil for the Rockets ball club during 1992. He didn’t trust the players on his team and for the most part, didn’t like them. After long contemplation and “growth” the Rockets big man decided to stay with the team. Hakeem fixed his relationship with his teammates and after a conversation with the owner, he became the best teammate he could be.


Drafting Sam Cassell was another big feat for Houston in 1994. Between Cassell, Maxwell, Kenny Smith and Mario Elie, the Rockets had a solid core of guards.

Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry was traded back to Houston after a short stint elsewhere, he was a huge re-addition to the squad.

This team helped Hakeem Olajuwon grab his first NBA MVP in 1994.“There has never been a superstar as selfless as Hakeem” is what Kenny Smith said about Olajuwon’s MVP speech. “The Dream” brought his entire team and coaches up to accept the award with him.

Nobody saw it coming and it really brought the team together even more.

Then the documentary described the 1994-1995 playoffs where the Rockets choked in back-to-back games against the Phoenix Suns in the 2nd round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Tomjanovich thought he lost his job and was worried he would be associated with the losses for the rest of this life. Coach Tomjanovich let “Mad Max” off the chain for the rest of the series and he was able to help the Rockets get out of a whole and beat the Suns in the 7-game series.

On this date in ’94, @DR34M scored 37 pts w/ 17 reb as the @HoustonRockets eliminated the Suns. #ClutchCity

— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 21, 2015

After beating the Jazz in 5 in the WCF, the Rockets had a date with Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks for the title. During Game 3, the OJ Simpson car chase was happening which took some of the world’s attention off the game. Eventually Houston would fight back from a 3-1 deficit and Olajuwon’s tip-ball on John Starks won the series in 7. The title gave the city a new sense of passion for the sport and an eagerness to get back to the top of the mountain.

Second Time Around

The team started off slow and didn’t expect all of the attention after winning a championship. They weren’t ready and couldn’t bring the chemistry back together. Rudy T was afraid they would be the first team to win the championship one year then not make the playoffs the next. After trying to keep the same squad together, the Rockets font office made a monumental move bringing Clyde Drexler back to Houston, where he hadn’t played since the University of Houston with Hakeem.

Clyde “The Glide” wasn’t as welcomed by the rest of the team like he was by Olajuwon. Otis Thorpe was traded and Maxwell lost major time as Drexler came onto the roster. Maxwell couldn’t stick around and ended up “quitting” on the Rockets because of his pride and inability to sit the bench behind Drexler.

Clyde would respond by having his best game as a Rocket and keeping them alive to beat the Jazz in the series, setting up another match-up with the Suns. After being down 3-1 again, Houston came out and showed Charles Barkley who was boss…again. In the next three games the Rockets proved their chemistry couldn’t be beaten. Mario Elie gave the Suns the “kiss of death” to end the series, said to be the greatest shot in Houston Rockets history.

Then Houston would have to take on the MVP David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs in the WCF. Olajuwon did not like seeing Robinson receive his MVP trophy after just winning it the year before and made sure he would do something about it. He came out and demolished Robinson, setting up a Finals match-up with Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic.

There was nothing that could stop the Houston Rockets from winning the championship in the 1995-1996 season. A few terrible free throws from Nick Anderson and a magic three-pointer by Kenny Smith put the Rockets up 1-0 in the series. After a few more monster games by Olajuwon and Robert Horry, the Rockets won their second title in a row under Rudy Tomjanovich. The second title also brought a famous quote to life, “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”

Final Thoughts

Even if you were a Houstonian in the mid-90’s, there is no way that anyone could have seen all of the behind the scenes moves that the documentary was able to show. The frustration of Hakeem early, how crazy Vernon Maxwell was, the Clyde Drexler pick-up and even Rudy Tomjanovich being the best option to coach this team were all major factors in them winning back-to-back titles.

“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” #ClutchCity

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) June 9, 2015

“Clutch City” is a must-watch for all basketball fans and will go down with some of the great sports documentaries of all-time. Their repeat was one of the most unbelievable runs ever and will never be forgotten.

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