Houston Rockets - About Us
Founded in 1967, the Houston Rockets are an NBA team that is based in Houston, Texas. They have four Western Conference titles and two National Basketball Association (NBA) championships.
Originally, the team was the San Diego Rockets but they moved to Houston in 1971. The NBA wanted more teams in the west and San Diego was selected for its strong economy and the success of the San Diego Gulls, an ice hockey team. The name “Rockets” was selected through a contest. The name referenced both the Atlas missile and booster rocket program at the local branch of General Dynamics and San Diego’s status as “a city in motion.”
The San Diego Rockets lost 67 games their first season. The team set an NBA record for most losses at the time. Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy, and Rudy Tomjanovich improved this score under the management of Hall of Fame coach Alex Hannum but their performance and intendance was still low. As such, founder Breitbard sold the team. The San Diego Rockets became the Houston Rockets. Their name took on an additional meaning since Houston is linked to the space industry. The Houston Rockets were the first NBA team in Texas.
After Johnny Egan joined the Houston Rockets in the 1970s, the team grew in popularity in their hometown. The Summit became the Rocket’s home during the 1975-76 season. They would remain at that location for 29 years.
Moses Malone, who came on board for the 1976-77 season, kicked off an era, lasting from 1976 to 1982. The Rockets immediately won the Central Division and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. In 1981, the Houston Rockets made it to their first NBA Finals. Malone was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers when they were unable to continue paying his salary.
The next era in Houston Rockets’ history was the Twin Towers era. Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson were nicknamed the “Twin Towers” because they were so tall. From 1987 to 1992, the Rockets either did not qualify for the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round. Thus, these years are referred to as the lean years. However, the Rockets did reach their own success after winning back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.
In 2002, the Houston Rockets selected Yao Ming and only missed the 2003 playoffs by one game. This was an improvement from previous years. In the 2003-04 season, the Rockets moved into the Toyota Center. When Tracy Grady joined the Rockets, the Yao-Grady duo helped their team win 22 consecutive games during the 2007-08 NBA season. This was the third longest winning streak in NBA history at the time it occurred.
From 2012 to present day, the Houston Rockets have enjoyed the James Harden and Dwight Howard era.
The Houston Rockets have two interstate rivalries: the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks. Rivalries outside of the state include the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz.
The Rockets-Spurs rivalry is also known as the I-10 Rivalry. Both cities, Houston and San Antonio, are on Interstate 10. This rivalry was born in 1976, the year that the Spurs moved from the American Basketball Association, and grew stronger when both teams moved from East to West. Hakeem Olajuwon lead the Houston Rockets to beat the Spurs in 1995 lead by David Robinson.
One of the greatest highlights of the I-10 rivalry happened in 2004. The Spurs were up by 10 points but Rockets, led by Tracy McGrady, who scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds and went to win the game.
The rivalry between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks is known as the I-45 rivalry. Much like the I-10 rivalry, the I-45 rivalry gets its name from the fact both Dallas and Houston are on Interstate 45. This rivalry began in 1980 when the Mavericks joined the NBA.
During the 1990s, the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz were playoff powers in the Midwest Division. John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon all retired in rapid succession in 2007 so it seemed the rivalry might have come to an end. However, in 2007, the rivalry was restored.
During the Los Angeles Laker’s Showtime era, a rivalry developed between the Houston Rockets and the Lakers. Hall of Famer Moses Malone lead the Rockets against the Lakers, who were the defending NBA Champions. In one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, the Rockets defeated the Lakers. A similar match happened again in the 1986 West Conference Finals. The Lakers were the defending NBA champions but were defeated by the Rockets, thanks to the “Twin Towers” of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Houston Rockets’ mascot was Booster in the 1980s. Turbo was the mascot from 1993 to 1995. Clutch the Bear was unveiled in 1995 and served as a second mascot until the performer who played Turbo retired. Since then, Clutch has been the only mascot.