The Rockets started as a California franchise. From San Diego, the team kept their hot weather climate by transitioning to Houston in 1971. It wasn’t until the 80s that the team tasted some success by making their first NBA Finals in team history in 1981. However, the team had a losing record at the time, becoming just the second team in league history to make it with a record below .500. The following years were tough before the team drafted the greatest player in team history in 1984.
Hakeem Olajuwon was a cornerstone that led the Rockets to the NBA Finals three times and helped the team earn two championships. When Olajuwon left the team in 2001, it took a decade until the team found their second-best player in James Harden. While Harden never led the team to the NBA Finals, he helped reset the record books in Houston. While Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Steve Francis, Tracy McGrady, and Yao Ming all deserve an honorable mention, these are the franchise awards for the Houston Rockets.
GOAT Of The Franchise - Hakeem Olajuwon
As mentioned, Olajuwon is the greatest player in the team’s history. His resume with the team from 1985 to 2001 is simply legendary. Olajuwon led the team to two championships, where he was the Finals MVP in 1994 and 1995. He also won the regular season MVP Award in 1994. During his run with the Rockets, Olajuwon was a 12-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA First Team selection, three-time All-NBA Second Team selection, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. That also included nine overall appearances on the All-Defensive team.
Olajuwon’s No. 34 is retired by the team for a good reason. Olajuwon is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder with the team. He finished with 26,511 career points and 13,382 rebounds. He is the only player in team history with more than 20,000 career points and 10,000 career rebounds. Olajuwon also owns the team record for career blocks (3,740), steals (2,088), games played (1,177), field goals made (10,555), and minutes played (42,844).
Rookie Of The Franchise - Hakeem Olajuwon
Two players have won Rookie of the Year in team history. That is Ralph Sampson in 1984 and Steve Francis when he shared the award in 2000. When Sampson won, he averaged 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, and 2.4 blocks per game. As for Francis, he averaged 18.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game. In the end, Olajuwon gets the nod despite not winning Rookie of the Year.
Olajuwon was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Olajuwon finished his rookie season averaging 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game. His only problem was that he did not win Rookie of the Year because he shared the same draft class as Michael Jordan, who averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals that season. The Rockets were 48-34 with Olajuwon and Sampson leading the way, which helps solidify that the team was equally successful.
Offensive Player Of The Franchise - James Harden
While Olajuwon is the all-time leading scorer, Harden is the best pure offensive player the team has ever had. Harden’s 36.1 points per game during the 2018-19 season is one of the best averages since the days of Wilt Chamberlain. Harden followed that season up with an average of 34.2 points per game, while the 2017-18 season featured a 30.4 points per game average. The stretch of three straight 30.0 points per game seasons is a fact of offensive superiority as he won three scoring titles.
Harden owns a few offensive career records himself. Harden finished his Houston career with 2,029 made three-point field goals. He is the only player with more than 1,000 threes in team history, while Eric Gordon is getting close with 969 career threes. Harden is also the all-time leader in made free throws with 5,554. That record was previously held by Olajuwon with 5,376.
Defensive Player Of The Franchise - Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon is the all-time leader in blocks for not just the Rockets, but the entire NBA. Olajuwon’s 3,830 blocks are over 500 more career blocks than second-place finisher Dikembe Mutombo, who was also a former Rocket himself. As mentioned, Olajuwon owns the team record for steals as well, which helps his case. Altogether, Olajuwon won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1993 and 1994. He is the only player in team history to have ever won a DPOY trophy.
During the 1992-93 season, Olajuwon averaged 26.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 4.2 blocks per game. Olajuwon led the league in blocks that season. At the time, it was his third season leading the league in blocks. His best season of 4.6 per game came during the 1989-90 season. Olajuwon also led the league in rebounding with 13.5 and 14.0 per game in 1989 and 1990.
Coach Of The Franchise - Rudy Tomjanovich
The Rockets have owned some successful coaches with their franchise. Bill Fitch is considered one of the top-10 coaches in NBA history. Rick Adelman is in that same realm. Mike D’Antoni won 318 games between 2016 to 2020, which is the second most in team history. D’Antoni was the 2016-17 Coach of the Year. We haven’t even talked about Kevin McHale and Jeff Van Gundy, who also had winning records coaching with the team. There was also Don Chaney, who won the 1990-91 Coach of the Year Award.
In the end, Rudy Tomjanovich is one of five Hall of Fame coaches that has worked for the Rockets. He owns the most success as a coach between 1992 to 2003. Tomjanovich finished with a career record of 503-397 in 900 games with the team. That includes a playoff record of 51-39 and the franchise's two championships. Until the Rockets can win another title, Tomjanovich will own this award.
Fan Favorite - Hakeem Olajuwon
When Olajuwon played for the Rockets in the 80s and 90s, the city of Houston was spoiled. One could make the argument that Olajuwon was the second-best player of the Michael Jordan era. When Olajuwon left the team, the Rockets were average. Yes, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were entertaining, but the team wasn’t healthy enough to ever be viewed as a championship contender. When Harden came, he changed his view on the organization. The league transitioned into a more offensively focused league. With Harden scoring close to 29.0 points per game for five consecutive seasons, it helped him fit in.
Harden could have been the fan favorite, but his exit is going to leave a sour taste in the mouth of fans for a long time, especially if he wins a championship in Philadelphia. Olajuwon was loyal. He stayed with the team that drafted him for nearly his entire career. On top of that, he won the MVP Award and led the Rockets to two championships, which remain the only titles in team history. Even at 59 years old, Olajuwon could likely be inserted into the starting lineup and be showered with praise.