Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the Houston Rockets.
The Houston Rockets are the city’s second professional basketball franchise, arriving from San Diego in 1971, four seasons after joining the NBA as an expansion team.
The first team did not fare so well.
The Houston Mavericks were an original member of the American Basketball Association, beginning play in 1967-68. The Mavericks were 52-104 in their two seasons playing at Sam Houston Coliseum, lost all three of their playoff games in 1968 to the Dallas Chaparrals, and the franchise moved to North Carolina in 1969.
After the Rockets came to Houston, it took them awhile to find a permanent home, playing at the Astrodome, AstroHall, Sam Houston Coliseum before finally landing semi-permanently in Hofheinz Pavilion to begin their second season.
In 1975, the Rockets moved into their new arena, The Summit (later known as the Compaq Center) before taking up residence at the Toyota Center—their current home—in 2003.
The Rockets have been a playoff team 28 times in 47 seasons overall, 27 in their 43 years in Houston. They won NBA championships in 1993-94 and 1994-95 and reached the Finals two other times, 1980-81 and 1985-86, both times losing in six games to the Boston Celtics.
Rudy Tomjanovich, who coached both of the championship squads, had a long career as a player in Houston and is also the franchise’s winningest coach at 503-397 in parts of 12 seasons. Bill Fitch, who beat the Rockets while coaching Boston in 1981 and then coached Houston against the Celtics in 1986, is second on the list with a 216-194 mark in four seasons.
The Rockets have had 12 coaches overall.
In the front office, Ray Patterson served as the personnel decision maker from February 1972, when he was hired away from the Milwaukee Bucks, until September 1989, when he was succeeded by his son, Steve.
Carroll Dawson served as the Rockets GM from August 1996 until May 2007, when current GM Daryl Morey took the job, the eighth to hold the post.
The franchise’s high-water mark came in 1993-94, when they set a club record with 58 wins en route to winning their first title. In 1982-83, the club set a record with 68 losses a season after losing future Hall of Famer and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Moses Malone as a free agent.
Here are the best players, by position, for the Houston Rockets in the modern era, beginning in 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise and averaged 25 minutes per game.