Rockets History

Houston Rockets: A retrospective of the James Harden era

By James Piercey
Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
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James Harden, Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Seven / Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For Houston Rockets fans, no three words cut deeper than: 27. Missed. Threes.

From 2016-2021, the Houston Rockets were defined by the unholy trinity of Mike D'Antoni, Daryl Morey, and James Harden. The unifying philosophy between them was relatively simple: three is greater than two. Often times, the math worked in their favor. But often isn't always.

27. Missed. Threes.

The Houston Rockets; the almost champions

It’s easy to say we were a hamstring away. Too easy. There are absolutely no guarantees that if not for Chris Paul’s untimely injury the Rockets would have defeated Lebron’s Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. There aren’t even guarantees that we escape the historically stacked Golden State Warriors in games six and seven of the Western Conference Finals. There are no guarantees, full stop.

Still, for the first time since I started watching the Rockets in 1997, anything felt possible for that all-too-brief moment in time.

James Harden’s 15 greatest moments. dark. Related

From 2016 to 2021, the Houston Rockets probably strayed too far from God’s light. For a kid whose introduction to the sport came from Charles Barkley’s Right Guard commercial. There was certainly less innocence to be found in frequent, passionate defenses of analytics. Crunching numbers isn't the type of activity that instills a love of the sport in the youth. Still, if you were an adult Rockets fan, you may have developed a new affinity for math.

Up until 2016, most of my friends were largely indifferent to the Rockets. Most of us were born in the late 80s, just too young to have watched the back-to-back title runs. By the time we knew the name Hakeem Olajuwon, we learned that he used to be elite. Interest in the Rockets peaked briefly during the prime of the imminently likable Yao Ming but collapsed as quickly as his left ankle.