3. Seattle SuperSonics
The Rockets didn’t have to face the Seattle SuperSonics in either of their championship runs, which was probably fortunate for their chances. Pairing a monster offense headed by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton with a daunting defense, the Sonics had Houston’s number throughout the 90s.
The SuperSonics effectively book-ended the Rockets’ championship runs by knocking them out of the playoffs the years before and after. They also went 16-4 in the regular season against Houston from 1992-96, including season sweeps in 1995 and 1996.
The Rockets, like most of the league, had issues with the Sonics defensive press for years, as guys like Nate McMillan and Gary Payton were terrors in the backcourt while Shawn Kemp patrolled the interior.
If Dikembe Mutumbo and the Denver Nuggets didn’t pull off the miraculous eight-versus-one seed upset in the 1994 playoffs, those SuperSonics would have likely been number one on this list, as Elie himself attested.
It takes heart and a little bit of luck to win championships in the NBA, and the Rockets avoiding the Sonics falls into the latter category.