James Harden is now gone from the Houston Rockets. The scoring phenom was the single most important reason the Rockets slowly developed into one of the best scorers in the league because he could single-handedly carry the offense on his own. Harden never delivered an NBA Finals appearance for the Rockets, however, despite playing with some other great players.
But where does James Harden rank among the greatest Rockets of all-time? The Houston Rockets are 2-time NBA champions and captured 4 Western Conference titles in their franchise history. There have certainly been some key superstars that represented Space City, and it is time to rank the 5 greatest Rockets to have ever played.
5. Yao Ming
Career Statistics: 19.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG
Yao Ming, nicknamed The Great Wall of China, broke new grounds in the NBA. As the player responsible for bringing in the massive Chinese fanbase into the NBA, Yao Ming was a special player. Yao’s career was hampered with injuries and it abruptly ended his career far too short, but he was sensational when he played.
Yao finished second to Amar’e Stoudemire for the Rookie of the Year Award and made an incredible 8 All-Star Teams over his career. Yao also made 5 All-NBA Teams and is the greatest Asian player in basketball history. Yao meant a ton to the Rockets franchise and he is a top-5 player in their history.
4. Elvin Hayes
Career Statistics: 20.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Elvin Hayes is one of the greatest big men in NBA history. Hayes was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1968 Draft and hit the ground running by averaging 28.4 PPG and 17.1 RPG. That season broke an NBA record as he is the first and last rookie to lead the league in scoring. Hayes was also an incredibly gifted scorer who was as consistent as they came.
Despite standing only 6’9″, Hayes was a monster on the inside. Hayes is currently ranked 5th in total points in Rockets franchise history and also 2nd in total rebounds behind Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. In 7 total seasons with the Rockets, Hayes solidified himself as one of the 5 greatest Rockets players in NBA history.
3. James Harden
Career Statistics: 29.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
James Harden has to be the third greatest player in Rockets history. Even though Harden never lived up to his postseason dreams with the Rockets, he was at least the greatest perimeter scorer in their history. Harden revolutionized the NBA with his intelligent playing style which revolved around free throws and step back three-point shots. The Beard is also one of the greatest isolation scorers we have ever seen, regardless of position.
Harden’s final season in Houston was very ugly as he turned up completely out of shape and might have been the reason for multiple Rockets losses to start the year. But Rockets fans can’t forget how Harden single-handedly kept the Rockets relevant after the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era abruptly came to an end. Harden’s MVP Award in 2018 and 3 scoring titles earns Harden his 3rd place in franchise history.
2. Moses Malone
Career Statistics: 24.0 PPG, 15.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.6 BPG
Moses Malone was an extraordinary talent at the center position. As one of the most dominant big men to have ever played, Moses hit extreme heights during his tenure with the Rockets. He carried the Houston Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1981 despite having a losing record. The 1981 Rockets are the only team to make the Finals without a winning record until this day.
Moses was a consistent beast for 6 years with the Rockets, averaging a monster double-double and controlling the paint. Even if Malone never captured the NBA title with the Rockets, he hit extraordinary heights including the 1982 season where he averaged 31.1 PPG and 14.7 RPG.
1. Hakeem Olajuwon
Career Statistics: 22.5 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 3.2 BPG
Without a doubt, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is the best Rockets player of all-time. As arguably one of the 10 greatest players to have ever lived, Hakeem was the superstar that led the Rockets to 2 straight NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. Hakeem was everything for the Rockets for those 2 years, as he was a superstar on both ends of the floor.
Playing for 17 years with the Rockets, The Dream averaged a whopping 3.2 BPG over his career which is ranked 3rd all-time. Hakeem is also ranked first all-time with blocks and is a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Dream also has the best post-moves in NBA history and was one of the most unstoppable scorers that we have ever seen.