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The Greatest Houston Basketball Players Of All Time

In 1967, the San Diego Rockets joined the league as an expansion team. The team relocated to Houston in 1971, where the team has stayed ever since. In their history, the team owns two NBA championships, four trips to the NBA Finals, eight divisional titles, and six retired numbers. The Rockets have been one of those teams that own a decade of success and then a brief time trying to fight above water.

Right now, the team has a few years to go before the team can proudly compete again, but there was a time when the rest of the league looked at this team as the best in the league. Hakeem Olajuwon and James Harden transformed this team into contenders for multiple seasons. Along with those two studs, several other players made their mark statistically. When looking back, these players can say they were the best to wear the red and white jersey.

10. Honorable Mentions

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Despite never winning a major award while in the league, Reid deserves some credit. He played 10 seasons for the Rockets and owns multiple appearances on the all-time stats list. That includes playing the fourth-most games at 762 and the fifth-most minutes.

He is one of six players ever to record at least 20,000 minutes with the Rockets. Reid is also ranked in the top 10 for made field goals, two-point field goals, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.

9. Mike Newlin

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Like Reid, Newlin was another player who didn’t record an All-Star appearance but was one of the originals. When the franchise moved to Houston, Newlin was one of the players tasked with making the franchise relevant. With his play, he ranks seventh in games played, ninth in minutes, and 10th in made field goals and two-point field goals. Newlin also ranks seventh in free throws and fifth in assists.

Newlin’s 8,430 points are good enough for ninth on the all-time scoring charts, while he is ranked eighth in career offensive win shares. Newlin played in several playoff series, including the 1977 Eastern Conference Finals, before the Rockets lost to the 76ers and Julius Erving.

8. Otis Thorpe

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Thorpe made an All-Star appearance in 1992, and that was the pinnacle of his playing career. From 1986 to 1992, Thorpe played 542 consecutive games. At one point, it was the longest consecutive games played streak in NBA history. Thorpe would be a main role player for the 1994 championship team and then used in a trade to help bring Clyde Drexler to town during the 1994-95 season.

7. Calvin Murphy

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When we are talking about some originals, Murphy was that player. Statistically, Murphy was an all-time great, but some players have surpassed him with their awards. Murphy set the record for games, minutes, field goals, two-point field goals, free throws, assists, steals, points, offensive win shares, and win shares.

Murphy was known as one of the best free-throw shooters in the league. He set multiple NBA records for made free throws and free throw percentage. His all-time scoring record was not broken until Hakeem Olajuwon, and his 17,949 career points remain third. Murphy had his number retired for his accomplishments, but he was a one-time All-Star and did not win any championships.

6. Steve Francis

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Francis took over the Rockets at a time when the team was transitioning away from Olajuwon. Being the face of the franchise after an era change is never easy. Francis did the best he could and was a scoring machine. He shared the Rookie of the Year honors with Elton Brand and was the runner-up to Vince Carter in the 2000 Slam Dunk contest.

On the records, Francis is ninth in free throws (1,797), seventh in assists (2,411), and seventh in steals (619). The six triple-doubles he owns are fifth best, while he also owns the ninth appearance in offensive win shares and eighth ranking in total win shares. Altogether, Francis was a great face for the team despite the Rockets not reaching a ton of playoff success.

5. Clyde Drexler

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In four years, Drexler helped the Rockets win a championship in 1995 and make two All-Star appearances. Had the Rockets not made the trade for Drexler during that season, the team may not have repeated as champions. To prove he was a solid player, Drexler made the All-Star Game in 1996 and 1997. What is just as impressive, Drexler recorded seven triple-doubles during that time, which remains fourth most.

4. Rudy Tomjanovich

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A former No. 2 overall pick in the 1970 draft, Tomjanovich is one of the former greats of the 70s. While Tomjanovich did not have the scoring talents of Calvin Murphy, he was seen as the All-Star talent on the team that saw him average 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in his 11-year career with the Rockets. Not to mention, this might be one of the toughest players in team history.

On December 9, 1977, Tomjanovich suffered a life-threatening punch to his face by Lakers power forward Kermit Washington that ended his season. He would play three more seasons in the league and averaged 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in one of those years.

3. Tracy McGrady

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There was a stretch in the NBA where McGrady was the best overall scorer in the league. When he won the scoring titles with the Magic, he joined the Rockets with a ton of hype that saw him land on the All-Star Team three times. Most memorable was the 2004-05 season when McGrady scored 13 points in 35 seconds against the Spurs to secure a comeback victory.

2. Ralph Sampson

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Sampson was the former No. 1 overall pick by the Rockets in 1983. When paired alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, the team featured an 80s version of the Twin Towers. Sampson enjoyed success with the team that featured four All-Star appearances. In 1985, he won the All-Star Game MVP Award when he scored 24 points and added 10 rebounds. The team made the NBA Finals in 1986 but fell to the Boston Celtics.

1. Elvin Hayes

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Hayes was a champion as a member of the Washington Bullets, but don’t forget that he began his career with the Rockets. He would make a return to the team later in his career and averaged solid numbers, but his first few years in the league saw him put on a national stage. He won the scoring title in 1968-69 and followed that with a rebounding title the following season.

Those numbers added up on the all-time rankings. His 11,762 career points are fifth, while his 6,974 total rebounds were a franchise record until Hakeem Olajuwon came along. Hayes ranks eighth in games played (572), sixth in minutes (20,782), and fifth in made field goals (4,765). His defensive presence was also well noted where he ranks second in defensive win shares.

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