It’s the offseason, and as the Houston Rockets news slows to a dribble ( I did mean to do that), many fans are starting to realize basketball is months away. So let’s talk Rocket’s history.
The Rockets have a long list of great players, from guys like Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, James Harden, and of course, the GOAT Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Rockets have been one of the winningest franchises in the NBA. Of course, the great players mentioned above had a lot to do with that, but in a team sport, you can’t win on a consistent basis without a great supporting cast. The Rockets have had a lot of great role players over the years that were a massive part of Houston’s winning ways.
They also had guys that were more than role players. They were players who made All-Star games and are in the Hall of Fame.
With no basketball for a while, this is the perfect time to discuss three Rockets that have not been talked about enough and what made them vital parts of the teams they played for during their career.
Played for the Rockets from 1970-1983
Most Rockets fans know Calvin Murphy from his time on the Rockets broadcast and recently as a studio analyst before and after games. 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 then San Diego Rockets before their move to Houston. With the Rockets, Murphy made first team All Rookie in 1971 and the All-Star game in 1979. In the 1981 playoffs, Murphy scored a post-season-high 42 points in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the San Antonio Spurs.
Murphy held the record for most consecutive free throws made and highest free throw percentage in a single season for several years before it was broken. He was the Rockets’ all-time scoring leader and assist leader when he retired in 1983.
Murphy’s number 23 was retired by the Rockets and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Played for the Rockets from 1988-1995
It is only appropriate to talk about one of if not the best power forwards in Rockets history 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 in his time in Houston. One of the best outlet passers in NBA history, OT made the All-Star team in 1992 as a member of the Rockets. He averaged 17.3 ppg and 10.5 rebounds in his lone All-Star season.
Of course, the highlight of his career came in 1993-94, when he helped the Rockets to 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 a part of that brought Clyde Drexler to Houston the following year is talked about more than Thorpe as a player. Thorpe was more than a footnote in a blockbuster trade, however. He was the player who had Hakeem’s back in the frontcourt and rarely missed a game. Thorpe played in 542 consecutive games, a record at the time.
Thorpe should be remembered as a critical player in the best season in Rocket’s history.
Played for the Rockets 2007-2011 & 2012-2014
One of the quickest players in Rockets history, Aaron Brooks had some of the best playoff moments in the last 15 years. Brooks started 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 a game. That season, Brooks also won Most Improved Player. Brooks made his name in that year’s playoffs against the Lakers. Even without Yao Ming, who had a year-ending (and pretty much career-ending) foot injury in Game 3 of that same Lakers series, the Rockets took LA to seven games. Brooks averaged 18 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range vs. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Even though Brooks would be traded to the Suns during the 2010-11 season, he would return to the Rockets in 2012-13, playing two more seasons with the team and eventually finishing his career playing for four total teams between 2013-2018.
Brooks, standing only at only six foot even, played big in every game and is one of my personal favorite Rockets I have ever watched. In six seasons for the Rockets, Brooks averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 assists with 40.8 percent shooting from the field and 36.9 percent from beyond the arc.