Michigan – Rudy Tomjanovich
11 Seasons – 17.4 PPG, 8.1 REB, 2.0 AST
Decades before he became the only head coach to be able to lead the Houston Rockets to ultimate glory, Rudy Tomjanovich spent his full 11-year career with them.
As the second overall pick in the 1970 draft, the legend from Hamtramck, Michigan spent 11 seasons with the Rockets, making the All-Star team five times. Rudy T didn’t quite have the résumé to make the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, but it was announced recently that he will finally be inducted due to his outstanding coaching career.
Minnesota – Jim Petersen
4 Seasons – 7.6 PPG, 5.2 REB, 1.2 AST
The Houston Rockets have only suited two players from Minnesota: Cole Aldrich and Jim Petersen. Although he was drafted 51st overall in 1984, Petersen played his way into a starting role over the course of his four seasons in Houston.
The Minneapolis native retired in 1992 with the Golden State Warriors and is now back in his home state as a TV analyst for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mississippi – Cliff Meely
5 Seasons – 8.7 PPG, 5.6 REB, 1.3 AST
Although Mississippi has produced 15 players that have spent time with the Rockets, none of them made a big name for themselves in Houston.
Statistically, Cliff Meely was the most productive of the group over his five-year Rockets career, with his highest-scoring season being 9.9 points per game in his rookie year.
Missouri – Ben McLemore
1 Season – 9.8 PPG, 2.2 REB, 0.9 AST
He’s only shown up in 63 games for the Rockets, but Ben McLemore is already the best Missouri-born player the team has seen. Granted, there are only four players to choose from.
Still, McLemore’s 39.5 percent from three is the best on the team this year (other than Jeff Green, who’s been on the Rockets for 10 games). The 6-3 guard from Missouri is proving to be vital in an offense built on raining down threes and playing off of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
New Jersey – Rick Barry
2 Seasons – 12.8 PPG, 3.4 REB, 5.1 AST
Like a few players mentioned in this list before, Rick Barry is another superstar that found his way to Houston at the end of his career. By the time he joined the Rockets, Rick Barry had been in the league for 12 years and made the All-Star team every single season.
Barry’s accomplishments in the NBA are enough to fill the rest of this column, so I won’t bother adding more. After joining the Rockets in 1978, the Hall of Famer ended his playing career two seasons later.
New Mexico – Rudy White
4 Seasons – 3.0 PPG, 1.0 REB, 0.9 AST
How does a guy that averaged nine minutes per game on the Rockets make this list? By being the only option. Born in Silver City, New Mexico, Rudy White was the 27th overall pick in 1975 and played his first four seasons with Houston.
With his career-high in scoring being just 14 points, it’s safe to say White isn’t exactly a household name among Rockets fans, but at least he has this distinction for now.
White retired in 1981 after showing up in 12 games for the Seattle SuperSonics.
New York – Kenny Smith
6 Seasons – 12.6 PPG, 1.9 REB, 5.3 AST
A couple of fan-favorite point guards come next on this list, beginning with Kenny Smith. Born in Queens, Smith found his way to the Rockets via a trade from the Atlanta Hawks to start the 1990-91 season.
It’s safe to say the 6-3 guard reached his peak over the next six seasons, as he was the main play-maker on a team that won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. Smith’s NBA Finals Game 1 performance against the Orlando Magic in their second bid for a title remains legendary in Houston Rockets lore.
Honorable mention: Mario Elie
North Carolina – Chris Paul
2 Seasons – 17.1 PPG, 5.0 REB, 8.0 AST
When it comes to having a natural leader as your point guard, it’s tough to do much better than Chris Paul. In the summer of 2017, the Rockets gave up a wealth of talent for Paul in an effort to create a superstar backcourt with James Harden.
The move produced immediate results, as Houston finished the following season with a franchise-record 65 wins and made it to the Western Conference Finals. After pushing the Rockets to a 3-2 series advantage over the Golden State Warriors, we all remember what happened next.
Paul’s infamous hamstring injury forced him to sit out of Games 6 and 7 of the series against the juggernaut Warriors, ending the team’s closes attempt to reach the NBA Finals since they won it all in 1995.
Chris Paul’s unfortunate injury remains one of the biggest “what-if” moments in NBA history.
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