On Tuesday, FS1’s Chris Broussard made some interesting comments regarding the Houston Rockets’ 1998-99 team, as he stated that group should be considered a superteam.
ESPN’s premiere docu-series The Last Dance has sparked an abundance of basketball-related conversations, most notably the greatest of all time argument which many consider to be a battle of Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James. We’ve also seen many debates regarding the competition level from the league’s different eras, which has led many to ask how many points Houston Rockets star James Harden would have scored on Dan Majerle of the Phoenix Suns.
It’s never a good thing to compare eras because there are too many unknown variables due to different playing styles and the level of inconsistency of the league’s officiating. But the ESPN docu-series has been especially great for basketball historians because it takes them back to an era many of them grew up watching, while also bringing back moments and memories they may have even witnessed firsthand.
One of those historians is FS1’s Chris Broussard, who began covering the NBA in 1990 for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, before spending more than a decade at ESPN. Broussard recently joined the national syndicate Fox Sports Radio, where he sits alongside fellow FS1 analyst Rob Parker on The Odd Couple.
On Tuesday’s airing of the show, the duo was discussing the difficulty of assembling a “good” team and how those aren’t simply formed by stars joining forces. Broussard used the 1998-99 Houston Rockets as an example, in order to make his point.
Broussard stated, “You can throw several star players together and it doesn’t make it a good team. We saw that with Houston, when they had Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Scottie Pippen. That was a super team; we would be calling that a super team today.”
Broussard’s premise is certainly correct, as simply having marquee players all on one team doesn’t guarantee a championship. Perhaps a better example would’ve been the 2010-11 Miami Heat team, which had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all in the primes of their careers.
But to cite that particular Rockets trio as a superteam is questionable, which is putting it kindly. By that point Barkley, Olajuwon, and Pippen were all past their primes and were no longer “star players,” as Broussard put it.
Barkley was 35 and Olajuwon was 36, and both players were coming off a 1997-98 season in which they each missed the cut on the All-Star team. Olajuwon averaged 16.4 points on 48.3 percent from the floor, which were each career lows, and Barkley averaged 15.2 points per game, which was his worst since the 1984-85 season in which he was a rookie.
Pippen was also 33-years-old and had already spent 11 years in the league, which certainly doesn’t help Broussard’s case. In the year prior to Pippen’s arrival in the Space City, he averaged 19.1 points per game, which was a four-year low for him, and he made just 44.7 percent of his shots, which was a career low.
When you add that all up, it’s safe to say the Rockets were far from a super team, especially by today’s standards, which Broussard referenced. Perhaps if the trio had been assembled three years prior one could make an argument, as each player made the All-NBA team and the All-Star team.
The Rockets’ trio at that stage of their careers was much different than the superteam Golden State Warriors, who had Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all in the primes of their careers, and a potential Hall of Famer on the second unit in Andre Iguodala. That is a superteam, and it’s the only reason the Houston Rockets weren’t able to make it out of the Western Conference.
So Broussard is incorrect in stating that we would look at the 1998-99 Rockets as a superteam, because they were far from it.