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The Houston Rockets is an American professional basketball team based in Houstonmarker, Texasmarker. The team plays in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The team was established in 1967, and played in San Diegomarker, Californiamarker for four years, before being moved to Houston.

In the Rockets' debut season, they won only 15 games. But after drafting Elvin Hayes first overall in the 1969 NBA Draft, they made their first appearance in the playoffs in 1969. After Hayes was traded, Moses Malone was acquired to replace him. Malone won two MVPs during his time in Houston, and he led the Rockets to the conference finals in his first year with the Rockets. He also took the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1981, but they were defeated in six games by the Boston Celtics.

In 1984, the Rockets drafted future Hall-of-Famermarker Hakeem Olajuwon, who led them to the 1986 Finals in his second year, where they lost again to Boston. In the next seven seasons, they lost in the first round of the playoffs five times. They did not win their first championship until 1994, when Olajuwon led them to the championship, and 1995. However, the Rockets did not advance to the finals again, and missed the playoffs from 1999–2003. They did not reach the playoffs again until they drafted Yao Ming and they did not advance past the first round of the playoffs again until 2009.

Franchise history

San Diego Rockets (1967–1971)

The Rockets were founded in 1967 in San Diegomarker, and after being bought by Robert Breitbard for 1.75 million dollars, they joined the NBA as an expansion team for the 1967–68 NBA season. The San Diego franchise nickname became the "Rockets" due to the city calling itself "a city of motion". Jack McMahon was named the Rockets' coach, and the team's first draft pick, in 1967, was the future Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. However, the Rockets went on to lose 67 games in their inaugural season, which was then an NBA record for losses in a season.

In 1968, after the Rockets won a coin toss against the Baltimore Bullets to determine who would have the first overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft, they selected Elvin Hayes from the University of Houstonmarker. Hayes led the team to the franchise's first ever playoff appearance in 1969, but the Rockets lost in the semi-finals of the Western Division to the Atlanta Hawks, four games to two. In 1970 NBA Draft, the Rockets drafted Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich, who would together play all their careers, a total of 25 seasons, with the Rockets.

Despite being coached by Hall of Fame coach Alex Hannum, the Rockets only tallied a 57–97 record in the following two seasons, and did not make the playoffs in either season. Because of the low performance and attendance, Breitbard looked to sell the team, and in 1971, Texas Sports Investments, which was led by real estate broker Wayne Duddleston and banker Billy Goldberg, bought the franchise for $5.6 million, and moved the team to Houston. The franchise became the first NBA team in Texas, and the team's nickname of "Rockets" took on even greater relevance after the move.

Improving in Houston (1971–1981)

Before the start of the 1971–72 NBA season, Hannum left for the Denver Nuggets of the American Basketball Association, and Tex Winter was hired in his place. However, Winter, who said that Hayes had "the worst fundamentals of any player" he had ever coached, applied a system that contrasted with the offensive style to which Hayes was accustomed. Because of the differences between Winter and Hayes, Houston traded Hayes, who had led the Rockets in scoring for four straight years, to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin at the end of the 1971–72 season. Winter left soon after, in the spring of 1973, following the Rockets 10th straight loss, and he was replaced by Johnny Egan.

In the 1975–76 NBA season the Rockets finally had a permanent home in Houston as they moved into The Summitmarker, which they would call home for the next 28 years. Under Egan's guidance, and as Tomjanovich, Murphy, and Mike Newlin led the way, the Rockets finished over .500 for the first time in franchise history, and they made their first appearance in the playoffs since arriving in Houston. The Rockets defeated the New York Knicks, who were led by Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe in a three-game mini-series in the first round, but lost to the Boston Celtics 4–2 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Early into the 1977–78 season, at a game on December 9, 1977, Kevin Kunnert got into a fight with Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers. As Tomjanovich approached the altercation, Washington turned and threw a punch that landed squarely in the face of an approaching Tomjanovich, causing numerous fractures in his face. Tomjanovich spent the next five months in rehabilitation and returned to appear in the 1978 All-Star Game, but his averages significantly declined after the injury, and Houston finished with just 28 wins in the season.

In the following season, Malone, Murphy, and Tomjanovich all played in the 1979 NBA All-Star Game, and Malone received the 1979 MVP Award. The Rockets also sent John Lucas II to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Rick Barry, who went on to set the NBA record at the time for free throw percentage in a season by shooting 94.7%. The Rockets went 47–35 in Nissalke's last season as coach, and finished second in the Central Division, but they lost to Atlanta in a best-of-three first-round series. In Houston's 1979–80 campaign, Del Harris replaced Nissalke as head coach, and he led the Rockets to a 41–41 record, tying the San Antonio Spurs for second place in the Central Division. The Rockets defeated the Spurs two games to one in their first-round playoff series, they were swept by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

In the 1980–81 season, after the newly-established Dallas Mavericks became the third NBA team in Texas, the NBA restructured the conferences and sent the Rockets, who had previously played in the Eastern Conference, to the Midwest Division of the Western Conference. In Harris's second season, Houston tied with Kansas City for second place in the Midwest Division behind San Antonio with a 40–42 record, and qualified for the playoffs with just one game left. During the season, Murphy set two NBA records, by sinking 78 consecutive free throws to break Rick Barry's mark of 60 set in 1976, and achieving a free-throw percentage of .958, breaking Barry's record set with the Rockets in 1979.

In the playoffs, Houston began a run that began when they upset Los Angeles two games to one, and then defeated George Gervin's Spurs four games to three in the Western Conference semifinals. This resulted in a conference finals matchup with the Kansas City Kings, who were led by Otis Birdsong, Scott Wedman, and Phil Ford. When the Kings fell to the Rockets in five games, the Rockets became the only team in NBA history to advanced to the Finals after having a losing record in the regular season. However, after splitting the first four games of the series with Boston, Houston eventually lost in six games.

The Twin Towers (1981–1993)

The following season, the Rockets improved their regular season mark to 46–36 but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Although Malone won the league's Most Valuable Player award in that season, in the following offseason, the Rockets traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Caldwell Jones, to avoid paying his salary. When the Rockets finished a league worst 14–68, Celtics coach Bill Fitch was hired to replace outgoing Del Harris, and after winning a coin flip with the Indiana Pacers to obtain the first pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, the Rockets selected Ralph Sampson from the University of Virginiamarker.

Although the Rockets finished only 29–53 in the 1983–1984 season, Ralph Sampson was awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year award, after averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds per game. Houston was again given the first pick of the 1984 NBA Draft, and they used it to select Hakeem Olajuwon from the University of Houstonmarker. In his first season, Olajuwon finished second to Michael Jordan in NBA Rookie of the Year balloting, and the Rockets record improved by 19 games, although they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. In the following season, both Olajuwon and Sampson were named to the Western Conference All-Stars in that year's all-star game, and the duo was nicknamed the "Twin Towers". In the playoffs, the Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals in five games, after Sampson hit a buzzer beater to win Game 5, which Sampson said was "greatest moment of my basketball career". The Rockets competed in the finals for only the second time in team history, but the Celtics once again defeated the Rockets in the finals in six games. In the next year, the Rockets again made the playoffs, and advanced to the second round, before being eliminated by the Seattle SuperSonics. However, in the next three seasons, the Rockets were eliminated three straight times in the first round of the playoffs, despite Don Chaney replacing Fitch as head coach in 1988.

Chaney was named the Coach of the Year for the 1990–91 season, but the Rockets were once again eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, 3–0 to the Lakers. Midway through the next season, with the Rockets' record only 26–26, Chaney was replaced by former Houston player Tomjanovich. Although the Rockets did not make the playoffs, in the next year, the Rockets won-loss record improved by 13 games, as they won 55 games. However, the Seattle SuperSonics eliminated them in the conference semifinals.

Contending for the championship (1993–2000)

On July 30, 1993, Leslie Alexander purchased the Rockets for $85 million. In Tomjanovich's second full year as head coach, the Rockets began the 1993–94 season by tying an NBA record with start of 15–0. Led by Olajuwon, who was named the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, the Rockets won a franchise-record 58 games. The Rockets recovered from being two games down to the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the playoffs, to advance to the finals. Houston was once again down by three games to two to the New York Knicks, whose home courtmarker also hosted the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years following their win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals while the finals series was in New York, but they managed to win the last two games on their home court, and claim their first championship in franchise history. Olajuwon was awarded the Finals MVP, after averaging 27 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots a game. The Rockets' win denied New York City the distinction of having both NBA and NHL championship in the same year.

The Rockets initially struggled in the first half of the 1994–95 season, and ended up winning only 47 games, which was 11 games lower than their previous year's total. In a midseason trade with Portland, the Rockets obtained guard Clyde Drexler, a former teammate of Olajuwon at the University of Houstonmarker, in exchange for Otis Thorpe. Houston entered the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Western Conference, but managed to defeat the 60–22 Utah Jazz in the first round. They fell behind 3–1 to the 59–23 Phoenix Suns in the second round, but won three straight to win the series, and became only the first team in NBA history to overcome a both a 2–0 and 3–1 series deficit in a seven-game series. The Rockets then beat the 62–20 San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals, to reach the Finals against the Orlando Magic, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. When Houston swept the series in four straight games, they became the first team in NBA history to win the championship as a sixth seed, and the first to beat four 50-win teams in a single postseason en route to the championship. Olajuwon, who had averaged 35.3 points and 12.5 rebounds against the Spurs and regular-season MVP David Robinson in the conference finals, was named the Finals MVP, becoming only the second player after Michael Jordan to win the award two years in a row.

The Rockets won 48 games in the 1995–96 campaign, in which Olajuwon became the NBA's all-time leader in blocked shots. They beat the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, but were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round. Before the start of the succeeding season, the Rockets made a dramatic trade that sent four players to Phoenix for Charles Barkley. The resulting "Big Three" of Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley led the Rockets to a 57–25 record, and Houston swept Minnesota in the first round. However, after a 7-game battle with Seattle, the Rockets fell in the Western Conference finals to the Utah Jazz, a team they had beaten on their way to championships in 1994 and 1995.

The 1997–98 season was marked by injuries, and the team finished 41–41 with the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Houston once again faced the Jazz, this time in the first round, and they lost the series 3–2. Drexler retired after the season, and the Rockets made another bold trade to bring in Scottie Pippen to take his place. In the strike-shortened 1998–99 season, the Rockets went 31–19, but lost to the Lakers in the first round 3–1 of the playoffs. After the 1999 draft, the Rockets traded for the third overall pick Steve Francis from the Vancouver Grizzlies, in exchange for four players and a first-round draft pick. However, after Houston traded a discontented Pippen to Portland, and Barkley suffered a career-ending injury, the rebuilt Rockets went 34–48 and missed the playoffs, for only the second time in 15 years.

21st century

2001–2004: Yao Ming Era

In the 2000–01 season, the Rockets worked their way to a 45–37 record, but still did not make the playoffs. In the following offseason, a 38-year old Olajuwon requested a trade, and, despite stating their desire to keep him, the Rockets reached a sign-and-trade agreement, sending him to the Toronto Raptors. The proceeding season was unremarkable, as Houston's first season without Hakeem in almost 20 years was a disappointing 28–54. However, after Houston was awarded the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, they selected Yao Ming, a 7 foot 6 inch Chinesemarker center. The Rockets' record improved by 15 games, but they missed the playoffs by one game.

2004–present: Yao and T-Mac duo

In the following season, Houston began playing in their new arena, the Toyota Centermarker, and redesigned their uniforms and logo, as long-time coach Tomjanovich resigned after being diagnosed with bladder cancer, and was replaced by Jeff Van Gundy. The Rockets finished the regular season with a record of 45–37, and earned their first playoff berth since 1999, but the Lakers again handed the Rockets a loss in the first round. In the offseason, Houston saw major changes in the roster as the Rockets acquired Tracy McGrady in a seven-player deal with the Orlando Magic. The 2004–05 season saw McGrady and Yao lead the Rockets to their best record in ten years, finishing at 51–31 and seeded 5th in the Western Conference Playoffs. However, their season ended in the first round of the playoffs as they lost to their in-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks, in seven games, despite leading the series 2–0.

The following season, after an injury-plagued year in which McGrady and Yao missed a total of 70 games, the team finished with only 34 wins, and missed the playoffs. The Rockets improved by 18 games the next year, with 52 wins, but once again lost in the first round after leading 2–0, when they lost in seven games to Utah. After the loss, Van Gundy was fired, and the Rockets hired Rick Adelman to replace him. In the following year, despite Yao suffering a season-ending injury for the second time in three years, the Rockets won 22 consecutive games, which is the second longest winning streak in NBA history. Houston finished their season 55–27, but were eliminated for the second year in row by the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, 4 games to 2. In 2008–2009 the Rockets ended the season 53–29, reaching the number 5 spot. With McGrady out with season-ending surgery the Rockets were still able to get out of the first round, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 4 games to 2. The series win was their first since 1997. However Yao Ming suffered yet another season-ending injury, this time a hairline fracture in his left foot during Game 3 of their second round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Rockets lost the series 4 - 3. In The Trail-Blazers Series Dikembe Mutombo injured his knee, which forced him to retire.

On July 8, 2009, the Rockets signed forward Trevor Ariza to a 5 year, 32 million dollar contract using the Disabled Player Exception allowed by the league through the injury of Yao Ming. Ariza used to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

On September 23, 2009, the Rockets unveil new alternate uniforms, which were inspired from the 1994-95 championship uniforms.

Home arenas

During the four years the Rockets were in San Diego, they played their games in the San Diego Sports Arenamarker, which had a seating capacity of 14,400. In their first season after moving to Houston, the Rockets did not have their own arena in Houston, and they played their first two years at various venues in Houston, including the Astrodomemarker, AstroHallmarker, and Hofheinz Pavilionmarker. They also had to play "home" games in other cities such as San Antoniomarker, Wacomarker, Albuquerquemarker, and even San Diegomarker. During their first season, the Rockets averaged less than 5,000 fans per game, and in one game in Waco, there were only 759 fans in attendance.

Their first permanent arena in Houston was the 10,000 seat Hofheinz Pavilion, which they moved into during their second season. They played in the arena for four years, before occupying The Summitmarker in 1975. The arena, which could hold 16,000 spectators, was later renamed the Compaq Center, was their home for the next 28 years. In 2003, the Rockets moved into their new arena, the Toyota Center, with a seating capacity of 18,500. In the past fifteen years, the Rockets' attendance was at the lowest in 2002, when their attendance per game was only 11,737, second worst in the league. However, the Rockets averaged 17,379 spectators in the past year, their best average attendance ever.

Honors and statistics

Individual honors

NBA MVP of the Year

NBA Finals MVP

NBA Defensive Player of the Year

NBA Rookie of the Year

NBA Coach of the Year

NBA Executive of the Year

J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA All-Defensive Second Team

NBA Rookie First Team

NBA Rookie Second Team

Statistics and records

Season-by-season records


Current roster

For the complete list of Houston Rockets players see: Houston Rockets all-time roster
For the players drafted by Houston Rockets, see: List of Houston Rockets first and second round draft picks.

International rights

C Frédéric Weis 1999 NBA Draft 15th pick
C Venson Hamilton 1999 NBA Draft 50th pick
PG Kyle Hill 2001 NBA Draft 44th pick
C Serhiy Lishchuk 2004 NBA Draft 49th pick
PF Axel Hervelle 2005 NBA Draft 52nd pick
PF Lior Eliyahu 2006 NBA Draft 44th pick
SF Brad Newley 2007 NBA Draft 54th pick
PF Maarty Leunen 2008 NBA Draft 54th pick
PG Sergio Llull 2009 NBA Draft 34th pick

Notable former players

Hall of Famers

Retired numbers


General Managers

  • Mar 1967–June 1968: Jack McMahon
  • June 1968–May 1972: Pete Newell
  • May 1972–September 1989: Ray Patterson
  • September 1989–August 1993: Steve Patterson
  • August 1993–3January 1994: Tod Leiweke
  • January 1994–May 1996: Bob Weinhauer
  • May 1996–May 2007: Carroll Dawson
  • May 2007–present: Daryl Morey


  • January 1967–June 1971: Robert Breitbard
  • June 1971–December 1973: Billy Goldberg, Wayne Duddlesten, Mickey Herskowitz
  • December 1973–February 1975: Irvin Kaplan
  • February 1975–February 1976: James Talcott Incorporated
  • February 1976–May 1979: Kenneth Schnitzer
  • May 1979–June 1982: George Maloof
  • June 1982–July 1993: Charlie Thomas
  • July 1993–present: Leslie Alexander


# Name Term Regular Season Playoffs Achievements
GC W L Win% GC W L Win%
San Diego Rockets
1 Jack McMahon 19681970 190 61 129 .321 6 2 4 .333
2 Alex Hannum 1970–1971 138 58 80 .420
Houston Rockets
3 Tex Winter 19711973 129 51 78 .395
4 Johnny Egan 19731976 281 129 152 .459 8 3 5 .375
5 Tom Nissalke 19761979 246 124 122 .504 14 6 8 .429 1976–77 NBA Coach of the Year
6 Del Harris 19791983 328 141 187 .430 31 15 16 .484
7 Bill Fitch 19831988 410 216 194 .527 39 21 18 .538 One of the top 10 coaches in NBA history
8 Don Chaney 19881992 298 164 134 .550 11 2 9 .182 1990–91 NBA Coach of the Year
9 Rudy Tomjanovich 19922003 900 503 397 .559 90 51 39 .567 2 NBA championships (1994, 1995)
10 Jeff Van Gundy 20032007 328 182 146 .555 19 7 12 .368
11 Rick Adelman 2007–present 164 108 56 .659 19 9 10 .474


  1. Houston, whose nickname is "Space City" has been home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center for over 45 years. The Astros and Comets also gave their teams similar space-themed names.

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