Houston Rockets: 30 Greatest players in franchise history

By Ben Beecken
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Otis Thorpe (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Otis Thorpe (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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27 of 29
Moses Malone
Moses Malone /

169. . . Center. Moses Malone. 3


  • Six seasons with the Rockets (1976-82)

  • Averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds per game

  • 5x All-Star and 2x MVP with the Rockets

Moses Malone had a 21-year career spanning nine teams in the NBA and ABA. Six of those seasons were spent in Houston, and two of his three league MVP awards were won with him in a Rockets uniform.

Malone began his career in the ABA, playing two seasons in the upstart league. Then, he appeared in two games with the then-Buffalo Braves before being shipped to Houston in exchange for two first-round picks. And that season, the 1976-77 campaign, would be the last year that Malone would not be named to the All-Star team until 1989-90.

The 1977-78 season saw a 22-year-old Malone begin his dominance, as the young big man averaged 19.4 points and 15 rebounds per game. Beginning in 1978, Malone led the league in rebounds per game in six of the next seven years, including 17.6 per game in 1978-79.

As a team, the Rockets were in the playoffs every year, even reaching the NBA Finals in 1981, despite finishing the regular season with a 40-42 record. Malone was easily their best player, but he had plenty of help in Robert Reid (No. 30 on this list), Calvin Murphy (No. 6) and Rudy Tomjanovich (No. 5).

The teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s could never quite get over the hump, however, and was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a sign-and-trade in fall of 1982. Malone spent the next four years of his career with the 76ers, before playing with the then-Washington Bullets for two years, the Atlanta Hawks for three, the Milwaukee Bucks for two, back to Philadelphia for one, and finally, 17 games with the San Antonio Spurs in 1994-95.

Malone is known as one of the absolute best rebounders in NBA history, won two MVP awards in a Rockets uniform, and led the franchise to five playoff appearances in six years. That means he’s the No. 2 Rocket of all-time.

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