The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team based in Houston, Texas. The Rockets compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as part of this league’s Western Conference Southwest Division. The team plays its home games at the Toyota Center, located in downtown Houston. The Rockets have won two NBA championships and four Western Conference names. The group has been established in 1967 as the San Diego Rockets, an expansion team initially based in San Diego. In 1971, the Rockets moved to Houston.
The Rockets won just 15 matches in their debut season as a franchise in 1967. In the 1968 NBA draft, the Rockets were given the first overall choice and chosen power forward Elvin Hayes, who’d lead the team to its first playoff appearance in his rookie season. The Rockets did not finish a season with a winning record for nearly a decade before the 1976–77 season, when they traded for All-Star heart Moses Malone. Malone went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award double while playing with the Rockets and headed Houston to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year with the team. Throughout the 1980–81 season, the Rockets finished the regular season with a 40–42 record. Regardless of their losing record, they qualified for the playoffs. Directed by Malone, the Rockets stunned the whole league by creating their first NBA Finals appearance in 1981, becoming just the second team in NBA history to make the NBA Finals with a missing record. They’d drop in six games into the 62–20 Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and future Rockets’ head coach Kevin McHale. As of 2019, the 1980–81 Celtics would be the last group as the 1954–55 Minneapolis Lakers to make it all the way into the NBA Finals with a losing record.
At the 1984 NBA draft, after again using the first overall pick, the Rockets drafted center Hakeem Olajuwon, who would become the basis of their most prosperous period in franchise history. Paired with 7 feet 4 inches (2.24 m) Ralph Sampson, they formed one of the greatest leading courts in the NBA. Nicknamed the”Twin Towers”, they headed the group into the 1986 NBA Finals–the next NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–in which Houston was defeated by Larry Bird and the 67-win Boston Celtics. The Rockets continued to achieve the playoffs during the 1980s, but failed to advance past the first round for several years after another round defeat to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1987. Rudy Tomjanovich took over as head coach midway through the 1991–92 season, ushering in the very successful period in franchise history. Directed by Olajuwon, the Rockets dominated the 1993–94 season, setting a franchise record 58 wins and went into the 1994 NBA Finals–the next NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–also won the franchise’s first championship against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. During the next season, reinforced by another All-Star, Clyde Drexler, the Rockets–in their NBA Finals appearance in franchise history–repeated as champions with a four-game sweep of the Orlando Magic, who had been led by a youthful Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. Houston, which finished the season with a 47–35 album and was seeded sixth in the Western Conference during the 1995 playoffs, became the lowest-seeded group in NBA history to win the title.
The Rockets acquired all-star forward Charles Barkley in 1996, but the presence of all of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time (Olajuwon, Drexler, and Barkley) wasn’t sufficient to propel Houston beyond the Western Conference Finals. Every of the aging trio had abandoned the group by 2001. The Rockets of the early 2000s, led by superstars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, followed the trend of constant regular season respectability followed by playoff underachievement as both players struggled with injuries. After Yao’s early retirement in 2011, the Rockets entered a period of rebuilding, completely dismantling and retooling their roster. The acquisition of franchise player James Harden in 2012 has established the Rockets back into championship contention from the mid-2010s.
Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and James Harden have been called the NBA’s Most Valuable Player while playing for the Rockets, for a total of four MVP awards. The Rockets, under general director Daryl Morey, are notable for popularizing the use of advanced statistical analytics (like sabermetrics in baseball) in participant acquisitions and kind of play.
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