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Revisiting Houston Rockets 5 Greatest Hall of Fame Players

Oct 12, 2014; Shanghai, China; Former Houston Rocket Center Yao Ming watches the Brooklyn Nets play the Sacramento Kings. His wife Ye Li and daughter Yao Qinlei, whose English name is Amy also watch. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Sacramento Kings 97-95 at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Danny La-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2014; Shanghai, China; Former Houston Rocket Center Yao Ming watches the Brooklyn Nets play the Sacramento Kings. His wife Ye Li and daughter Yao Qinlei, whose English name is Amy also watch. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Sacramento Kings 97-95 at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Danny La-USA TODAY Sports
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Sep 11, 2015; Springfield, MA, USA; Louis Dampier speaks with Dan Issel by his side during the 2015 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets big man Yao Ming will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

Ming  joins copious Houston Rockets who have received this career honor.  In fact while some teams have yet to induct a player wearing their jersey H-Town has a rich history of inductees. To that end, let’s look back and select the top 5 greatest Rockets inductees in history.

In the close to 50 years since 1967, there’s no denying the Rockets franchise has been blessed with countless talented players. Reaching back to the San Diego Rockets days until present 11 Rockets players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

As the 2016 class is set to be glorified in NBA pantheon Friday, another Rocket legend will be eternalized. Chinese center Yao Ming who spent his entire 8 season career with the Rockets is the recipient of this honor. Also worth noting another Houston star  from the WNBA – Sherryl Swoopes will be inducted alongside Ming.

Thus taking advantage of this weekend’s upcoming festivities offers an opportunity to take a trip back in time. As a result SCS took this occasion to celebrate Red Nation’s greatest icons. Consequently let’s revisit these 5 Rockets brilliant skills, re-watch their highlights and retrospectively recall their greatest moments. While James Harden and Daryl Morey work on the coming season let’s go back in time, and simply acknowledge greatness.

With eleven possible candidates I’ve arbitrarily chosen the five greatest from the list. They were selected because at some point in their careers they embodied Red Nation’s competitive spirit and identity.

For example, Scottie Pippen one of the best players in NBA history and a deserving Hall of Famer wasn’t included on the list. Despite his one year relationship with the Rockets it wasn’t enough to forge a stronger link with the Rockets franchise then his tenure with the Bulls. Therefore Pippen didn’t make the list.

Likewise Dikembe Mutombo played 5 years with the Rockets, but came to H-town in the twilight of his career. Therefore Mutombo is more easily linked to the Hawks or Nuggets franchises.

To start the process, let’s focus on the man of the hour: Yao Ming.

Next: Houston's Great Wall

Yao Ming

  • Position: Center
  • NBA Draft: 2002 – Selected Number 1 Overall
  • NBA Career: 2002-2011
  • Teams Played: Houston Rockets
  • Stat Line: 19.0 Points Per Game, 9.2 Rebounds Per Game, 1.9 Blocks Per Game.

Career Awards/Achievements:

  • 8 time NBA All-Star
  • 2 time All-NBA Second Team
  • 3 time All-NBA Third Team.

Next: What a donkey, Ming and Barkley have in common

Younger fans may not know of this funny moment, which is worthwhile sharing. Former Rockets player Charles Barkley made a bet that if Yao Ming scored over 19 points in a game he would kiss an ass (meaning a  donkey). What made this bet all the more enjoyable is Chuck delivered on his bet. Yet he took his own bet literally by kissing the butt of the donkey. This sent Barkley’s co-panelist into gales of laughter, not to mention NBA and Ming fans who delighted in the humor of the situation.

Ironically even if Chuck had made this bet based on Yao’s career stats he would still have lost.

Next: Gimmick or Super Star?

Feb 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; NBA former players from left Yao Ming , Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell are honored during a timeout in the first half of the NBA All Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In truth many critics cited the Chinese 7’6″ center arrival to the NBA as more gimmick than serious. But, Yao Ming was never handed anything throughout his career. Ming had to battle for every single inch of space in the league. Veteran centers went harder on him. Shaquille O’Neal tried to disprove him. Never in the history of the NBA did an international player have to fight so hard to prove they  belonged than Yao Ming.

Following a mediocre season the Rockets took a chance on Ming selecting him as their Number One pick in the 2002 Draft. The choice was highly criticized as many pundits viewed the selection as a publicity choice rather than a logical roster selection.

Houston however had the last laugh as 14 years later the only other player from the 2002 draft to play in an All Star Game or be selected to an All-NBA Team was Amar’e Stoudemire.

Arguably, if not for his nagging injuries Yao Ming could’ve led the Houston Rockets deeper and more frequently into the playoff rounds. Particularly in 2009 when the Rockets lost both Yao and Tracy McGrady.  With Yao missing the final 4 games of the Western Conference Semi Finals the Rockets lost. Despite the injuries the Houston Rockets pushed the eventual championship Lakers to a game 7 in that series.

Next: Is it live or is it Memorex?

Feb 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; NBA former players from left Yao Ming , Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell are honored during a timeout in the first half of the NBA All Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Memorable Moments:

For Yao Ming fans, both in North America and in Asia they were eager for the first showdown with  the reigning top center in the NBA: Shaquille O’Neal. In the Rockets first meeting versus the Lakers O’Neal didn’t play. Houston hosted the second match versus the Lakers that season with a healthy O’Neal in the line-up.  Anticipation for this game was huge and resulted in a global broadcast to feature the two big’s first meeting.

In the first of many meetings these two giants would square off O’Neal bested Ming with 31 points, however the rest of the stat lines leaned in rookie Ming’s favor including the victory:

O’Neal: 47 minutes, 31 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, – 4

Ming: 38 minutes, 10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, SIX blocks, +7

While any showdown versus O’Neal got top billing it was Ming’s game versus the Hawks where he produced his top effort.  February 22, 2004 featured Houston and Atlanta going to triple overtime to determine a victor with Ming posting 41 points.

Another great contest between the Lakers and Rockets featured the Black Mamba coming on out the winning side. In this combat of legends  Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant battled it out in a duel for the ages. Yao had 35 points, 15 rebounds and 8 blocks. Kobe scored 53 points, with 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Unreal:

In his 8 seasons Yao Ming had several amazing games, but these 3 games resonate in my memory. With so many solid performances by Ming, which ones are especially relevant in your mind?

Next: The Little General

Nov 2, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rocket broadcaster Calvin Murphy sits in his broadcast chair while the Houston Rockets play the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center. Rocket won 110 to 105. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Murphy

  • Position: Point Guard
  • NBA Draft: 1970 – Selected Number 18 Overall (2nd Round)
  • NBA Career: 1970-1983
  • Teams Played: San Diego/Houston Rockets
  • Stat Line: 17.9 Points Per Game, 4.4 Assists Per Game, 1.5 Steals Per Game

Career Awards/Achievements:

  • NBA All-Star (1979) 
  • Shortest Player Inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

At 5’9″ Calvin Murphy was a diminutive point guard. Moreover, Murphy is one of the most well regarded and beloved players in the Houston Rockets organization. Murphy was part of the broadcasting team with Bill Worrell, and still remains involved with commentaries and post game interviews.

Next: Most Beloved Rockets player?

Nov 25, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Broadcaster and hall of fame player Calvin Murphy before a game between the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On court Murphy was a resourceful guard with top notch defensive ability and possessed great ball handling skills.

Previous articles provided the opportunity to include Murphy, but the reality is this article best suits his inclusion. A fast and reliable defender Murphy also has the distinction of being one of the best free-throw shooters in the history of the NBA.

Alongside Moses Malone, Murphy led the Houston Rockets to a 1981 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. Houston failed to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a title, but the series earmarked some of Murphy’s greatest moments in a Rockets jersey.

Next: No shortage of memories

May 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; TV commentator Calvin Murphy looks on before the Los Angeles Clippers played the Houston Rockets in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 124 to 103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Memorable Moments:

For starters how about Murphy’s 42 point exhibition against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 at San Antonio:

Just like Ming the Lakers tended to bring out the best from Houston Rockets players. Murphy was no exception as his 1981 first round playoff performance shows. Murphy showcased his  finishing skills, quickness, along with amazing ball handling and distribution skills.  Cal posted a double double of 29 points and 10 assists.

Next: Myth or Legend?

Nov 25, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the base of a goal with the jersey number of former Houston Rockets player Moses Malone before a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Moses Malone

  • Position: Center
  • ABA Draft: 1974 – Round 3
  • NBA Career: 1974-1995
  • Teams Played: Houston Rockets, Philadelphia Sixers, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs
  • Stat Line: 20.6 Points Per Game, 12.2 Rebounds Per Game, 1.4 Assists Per Game

Career Awards/Achievements:

  • NBA Champion (1983)
  • 3 time NBA MVP (1979, 1982, 1983)
  • Member of NBA 50 Greatest Players of all time
  • 12 time NBA All-Star
  • 4 time All-NBA First Team
  • 4 time All-NBA Second Team
  • NBA All Defensive First Team (1983)
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1979)
  • 6 time NBA Rebounding Leader.

Now that’s an impressive row of achievements! Far and away Malone was one of the most decorated players in NBA history. It was just a year ago during the Hall of Fame weekend Moses Malone suddenly passed away. His untimely death resulted in an out pouring of love around the NBA as they recalled his brilliant career.

Next: The Rebound Machine

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Despite having an itinerant career in the NBA arguably Malone’s most productive years were in Houston. While with the Rockets Malone was awarded two MVP awards.

Malone led the Rockets to the already alluded to 1981 NBA Finals who succumbed to the Boston Celtics. H-town traded the center in his prime to the Philadelphia Sixers the following year where he earned his first and only Championship.

One of the Association’s best rebounding players ever, Malone regularly abused his opponents. Using his physicality and strength Malone was unstoppable in the paint. Despite his size, Moses coupled those assets with explosiveness and quickness.  Still, it was his rebounding which were his calling card. Malone’s ability to grab offensive rebounds whether off his own attempts or teammates often led to him finishing strong at the rim.

Next: Malone Memories

Memorable Moments:

Younger fans may not be aware of the legend of Moses Malone. A career retrospective video (above) offers a compilation of Malone’s greatest NBA moments.

In the 1981 NBA Finals Malone was a beast versus the Boston Celtics.

Next: The other preeminent shooting guard of 80's and 90's

Mar 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Former Houston Rockets Clyde Drexler waves to the crowd as he is introduced during halftime of the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets game at Toyota Center in honor of the 20th anniversary the Rockets were honoring their 1993-94 and 1994-95 Champion NBA teams. Rockets won 118 to 108. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Clyde Drexler

  • Position: Shooting Guard
  • NBA Draft: 1983 – Selected Number 14 Overall
  • NBA Career: 1983-1998
  • Teams Played: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets
  • Career Stat Line: 20.4 Points Per Game, 6.1 Rebounds Per Game, 5.6 Assists Per Game

Career Awards/Achievements:

  • NBA Champion (1995)
  • Olympic Gold Medalist (1992)
  • Member of NBA 50 Greatest Players of all time
  • 10 time NBA All-Star
  • All-NBA First Team (1992
  • 2 time All-NBA Second Team
  • 2 time All-NBA Third Team
  • Portland Trail Blazers All Time Leading Scorer

I’ll be the first one to acknowledge Clyde Drexler had his most productive years with the Portland Trail Blazers. Nevertheless he still was a top producing talent in Houston. Drexler’s veteran contribution was key to the Houston Rockets winning consecutive titles as he helped the 1995 Clutch City team.

Though Drexler wasn’t born in Houston he was raised there and attended Houston University.  To this day Drexler remains engaged in Houston Rockets activities as a color commentator and interviewer at home games.

Next: Glide caught in shadow of 'his Airness'

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One year after Drexler entered the league his nemesis Michael Jordan was drafted. What followed was years of ‘Clyde the Glide’ taking a back seat to ‘his airness’. Being a part of the Clutch City Rockets allowed Drexler the opportunity to win a title and cement his own legacy.

Notably the two shooting guards came together in what amounted to arguably the greatest team ever assembled: The Dream Team. Review of the 50 greatest plays of the Dream Team shows Drexler was as integral to the squad as Jordan.

Joining Jordan once more, Drexler was named to the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time.

Next: Memory Gliding

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Memorable Moments:

Drexler was one of the fastest players ever and his moniker ‘the Glyde’ came sprouted out of his apparently ease and fluidity running the floor. Moreover Clyde was a competent shooter, but was equally adept in the post. Drexler’s fast hands and great reflexes helped establish him as one of the best ball thieves in the game.

Drexler possessed a well rounded game as this  near near quadruple-double against the Sacramento Kings shows.

Clyde’s one and only championship came with the Houston Rockets as they successfully defended their title in 1995. Drexler’s game 3 performance versus the Orlando Magic showcased his brilliance  when he scored 25 points had 13 rebounds and dished 7 assists.

Next: The Dream

Jan 28, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; NBA former player Hakeem Olajuwon waves to the crowd during the game between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Hakeem Olajuwon

  • Position: Center
  • NBA Draft: 1984 – Selected Number 1 Overall
  • NBA Career: 1984-2002
  • Teams Played: Houston Rockets / Toronto Raptors
  • Stat Line: 21.8 Points Per Game, 11.1 Rebounds Per Game, 3.1 Blocks Per Game.

Career Awards/Achievements:

More from Rockets News

  • NBA Champion (1994, 1995)
  • NBA MVP (1994)
  • Olympic Gold Medalist (1996)
  • Member of NBA 50 Greatest Players of all time
  • 12 time NBA All Star
  •  6 time All-NBA First Team
  • 3 time All-NBA Second Team
  • 3 time All-NBA Third Team
  • 2 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 5 time All-Defensive First Team
  • 4 time All-Defensive Second Team
  • 2 time NBA Rebounding Leader
  • 3 time NBA Blocks Leader
  • NBA All-Time Blocks Leader
  • Houston Rockets All-Time Leading Scorer

Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon may be the greatest center of all time though Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar enter that discussion. Without question he remains the greatest Rockets player of all time.

Regardless of where he’s placed among  centers there is no denying Olajuwon’s greatness. In fact, from this writers perspective  Olajuwon embodies the true definition of the word ‘greatness’.

Next: A draft for the ages

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For any NBA fan who watched basketball in the mid 80’s through the 90’s there will always be an argument regarding the 1984 Draft. Debates are commonplace on why the Houston Rockets selected Olajuwon ahead of the player considered the GOAT (greatest of all time) Michael Jordan.

In truth, this era of the NBA was still very much focused on centers just like the current era is guard dominated and position-less. To wit, 7 of the first 11 players picked in 1984 were centers or power forwards. Jordan wasn’t even the second player picked, that honor went to center Sam Bowie.

Today the selection may be quite different though it’s hard to argue the top 5 picks. Fully 3 of those picks (Olajwon, Jordan and Barkley) are all members of the Hall of Fame  and NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of all time. Though the Dream wasn’t a member of the Dream Team he was on the US squad who won the gold medal in the following Olympics.

In hindsight the selection of Olajuwon while questioned is hard to deny why the Rockets made it given the dynamics of the NBA in 1984. Further the two championships the Dream brought to Houston makes the pick defensible.

Certainly fans in Houston don’t have an issue with it, especially considering Hakeem remains active with the organization. Olajuwon remains active with the organization and a highly sought out mentor for both front and back court players.

Next: Hakeem the greatest Rockets player ever?

Apr 10, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets former center Hakeem Olajuwon talks with Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) after the game at the Toyota Center. The Rockets defeat the Lakers 130-110. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Red Nation fans consider Hakeem Olajuwon an other worldly talent beyond compare. In truth,

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it’s hard to argue this sentiment given all his achievements and unique assets. Olajuwon boasts one of the greatest hook shots of all time. Furthermore the Dream remains the

greatest

shot blocker of all time. To this day Hakeem’s unique foot work (the Dream Shake) and monumental strong defensive presence in the paint are qualities teams seek to find for their rosters.

Olajuwon personifies the Houston Rockets franchise and is a symbol of their Clutch City identity. With his talent the Nigerian center from Lagos lead the Rockets to 2 consecutive Championships in the 93-94 Season and in the 94-95 Season.

A great human being, an amazing player, Hakeem Olajuwon owns a chapter in NBA history for how he affected the center’s role.

Memorable Moments:

At the time pundits were in awe of how Hakeem demolished 1995 MVP David Robinson.

An even greater anomaly was accomplished by the Dream when he showcased his all around skills via the very rare quadruple double: 29 points, 18 rebounds, 11 blocks and 10 assists:

Next: Revisiting all 82 Rockets Games of 2015-16

Next: DRS: High Pressure Environment

Now it’s your turn. Is there anyone we overlooked in this article? Charles Barkley? Elvin Hayes? Make sure to hit the comment section and let us know what you think!

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