It’s the offseason, and as Houston Rockets news slows down (I intended to), many fans are starting to realize basketball is months away. So let’s talk about the history of the Rockets.
The Rockets have a long list of great players, guys like Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, James Harden and of course, GOAT Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Rockets have been one of the winningest franchises in the NBA. Sure, the great players mentioned above have a lot to do with it, but in a team sport you can’t win consistently without a great supporting cast. The Rockets have had plenty of great role players over the years who have played a big role in Houston’s winning ways.
They also had guys who were more than actors. These are players who have made All-Star games and are in the Hall of Fame.
Without basketball in a while, now is a great time to discuss three Rockets who haven’t been talked about enough and what made them staples of the teams they played for during their careers.
Played for the Rockets from 1970 to 1983
Most Rockets fans will know Calvin Murphy from his time on the Rockets show and recently as a pre- and post-game studio analyst. However, Murphy is more than just a TV personality. He had a long and distinguished playing career. Murphy was a three-time All-American at Niagara University, averaging 33.1 points per game, making him one of the most prolific scorers in college history.
Murphy was drafted by the San Diego Rockets ahead of their move to Houston. With the Rockets, Murphy was a first-team All Rookie in 1971 and an All-Star Game in 1979. In the 1981 playoffs, Murphy scored a postseason-high 42 points in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. .
Murphy held the record for most consecutive free throws and highest free throw percentage in a single season for several years before it was broken. He was the Rockets’ all-time leading scorer and top assist when he retired in 1983.
Murphy’s number 23 was retired by the Rockets and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Played for the Rockets from 1988 to 1995
It’s only fitting to talk about one of the best forwards in Rockets history, if not the best, on his birthday. Otis Thorpe played seven seasons for the Rockets. He joined the Rockets after starting his career with the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings.
Thorpe was the enforcer next to Hakeem Olajuwon during his time in Houston. One of the best outing passers in NBA history, OT made the All-Star team in 1992 as a member of the Rockets. He averaged 17.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds in his only All-Star season.
Of course, the highlight of his career came in 1993-94, when he helped the Rockets win their first championship in franchise history. During that season, he averaged another double-double with 14 points and 10.6 rebounds.
The trade Otis Thorpe was on that brought Clyde Drexler to Houston the following year is more talked about than Thorpe as a player. Thorpe was more than a footnote in a successful trade, however. He was the player who had Hakeem’s back in the frontcourt and rarely missed a game. Thorpe played 542 consecutive games, a record at the time.
Thorpe should be remembered as a critical player in the best season in Rockets history.
Played for the Rockets 2007-2011 and 2012-2014
One of the fastest players in Rockets history, Aaron Brooks has had some of the best playoff moments over the past 15 years. Brooks began his career with the Rockets in 2007-08, where he played off the bench in 51 games.
Brook’s career took off in 2009-10 when he played and started all 82 games and averaged a career-high 19.6 points per game. That season, Brooks also won Most Improved Player. Brooks made a name for himself in that year’s playoffs against the Lakers. Even without Yao Ming, who suffered a year-ending (and pretty much career-ending) foot injury in Game 3 of that same Lakers series, the Rockets led LA to seven games. Brooks averaged 18 points and shot 40% from three points against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Although Brooks would be traded to the Suns in the 2010-11 season, he would return to the Rockets in 2012-13, playing two more seasons with the team and eventually ending his career playing for four teams in total between 2013-18.
Brooks, standing only six feet even, has played big every game and is one of my personal favorite Rockets I’ve ever watched. In six seasons for the Rockets, Brooks averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 assists on 40.8% shooting from the field and 36.9% from outside the arc.