The Houston Rockets were one of the best teams of the 1990s, even before they became known as “Clutch City” in 1994 and 1995.
All great eras in sports eventually come to an end. From the Boston Celtics and Showtime Lakers to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and recent two-decade dominance of the San Antonio Spurs. The glory days of the Houston Rockets, of course, came in the mid-90s.
Even before the rise of Clutch City in 1994 and 95, the Rockets were one of the best teams in the decade. From 1990-99, the Rockets missed the playoffs only once and even in that year had a winning record.
The core of Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, Mario Elie, Robert Horry, Matt Bullard, Sam Cassell, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon was responsible for some of the best memories in Rockets history. But eventually, all good things come to an end, and it did for the Rockets on May 12, 1996.
To understand how vital Clutch City was to Houston, you have to understand what the city as a whole went through when it came to sports during that time. From the “Luv Ya Blue” days when the Houston Oilers couldn’t get past the Pittsburgh Steelers to Olajuwon, Drexler, and Phi Slama Jama coming so close in the early 80s.
Then the Oilers again disappointed in the 90s — this time blowing the biggest lead in NFL history in the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills and then losing to Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs the following year despite having another late lead.