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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Dikembe Mutombo (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Dikembe Mutombo (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /

. . Center. Dikembe Mutombo. 27. 169


  • Five seasons with the Rockets (2004-09)

  • Averaged 3.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game

Dikembe Mutombo is, of course, known best for his dominant stretch with the Denver Nuggets, the Atlanta Hawks the and Philadelphia 76ers. But he finished his career with five solid seasons as a defensive stalwart for Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Adelman’s Rockets.

Mutombo was one of the most dominant defensive big men in NBA history, averaging north of four blocks per game twice for the Nuggets and being named to eight All-Star teams, despite never averaging more than 13.8 points per game in a season after his rookie season.

By the time Mutombo made his way to Houston, he was 38 years old and in the twilight of his career. But he still managed to block 1.1 shots per game in a Rockets uniform and started 85 of his 267 games in Houston.

Despite not being much of a threat at all on offense, Mutombo was still an imposing force on defense even in the twilight of his career.

The Rockets won 51 games and lost in seven in the first round of the playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks in 2005, Mutombo’s first full season with the Rockets. Following a disappointing 32-win season the next year, the Rockets won 52 games in 2006-07 and again lost in seven games in the first round, this time to the Utah Jazz.

In 2007-08, which was Adelman’s first year as coach of the Rockets, the team won 55 games before losing in six to the Jazz in the first round once again. Mutombo, now 41 years old, only played in 39 games, starting in 25.

In 2008-09, Mutombo only appeared in nine games, as the Rockets won 52 games and made it to the second round before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. At 42 years old, Mutombo faded into the background as a consummate teammate and a still-solid defender.

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