Houston Rockets: The 15 greatest centers of all-time

By Tevin Williams
Houston Rockets - Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets - Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
1 of 15
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Some of the best big men to ever wear an NBA jersey have played in Space City. Here are the 15 best centers in Houston Rockets history.

The Houston Rockets had a solid offseason in the summer of 2018 after coming up just one game short of the NBA Finals. They added James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams to improve a defense that finished sixth in defensive rating in the 2017-18 NBA season.

The Rockets also finally acquired Carmelo Anthony in free agency for a veteran’s minimum deal after the Atlanta Hawks bought him out in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Houston’s biggest priority of the offseason was to re-sign Chris Paul. CP3 returned to the Rockets on a deal worth $160 million over four years. Next in line was Clint Capela, who agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract with Houston. Capela averaged career-highs in almost every statical category last season and he is quickly climbing the ranks of the franchise’s greatest centers.

Speaking of centers, the Rockets have had scores of talented big men over the years. Hakeem Olajuwon’s unique skill set and footwork allowed him to dominate all the great centers in the ’90s and lead the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. Yao Ming’s popularity in China not only increased the Rockets’ fan base, but also helped introduced the NBA to the world’s most popular country.

This list of Rockets big men features current players, first ballot hall of famers and even members of the original San Diego Rockets. Here are the top 15 centers in Rockets franchise history.

Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Tom Hauck /Allsport /

. . Center. Kelvin Cato. 15. 169

The Rockets acquired Kelvin Cato from the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a package for Scottie Pippen. His first season with Houston was probably the best of his career. He averaged career highs in points per game (8.7) and blocks per game (1.9) in the 1999-00 season.

Cato started in 32 games in the 1999-00 season in place of Hakeem Olajuwon, as he battled injuries late in his career. When Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors in the 2001 season, Cato assumed a permanent starting role, appearing as a starter in 73 games in the 2001-02 season.

In the summer of 2004, the Rockets traded Cato, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley for a package centered around Tracy McGrady. Cato averaged 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds over five seasons with Houston and eventually retired after the 2006-07 season as a member of the New York Knicks.