The Houston Rockets definitely aren’t the best professional basketball team in NBA history. Yet, in the 5 decades since the team was established back in San Diego, the team has clinched an impressive 7 division titles, 4 conference titles, and 2 NBA Championships. So how did the Houston Rockets go from a 15-67 inaugural season to a back-to-back winner of the title?
The Beginning Years
By 1966, many people in the NBA began to notice a public interest in sports in the San Diego area thanks to the hockey team known as the San Diego Gulls. With the westward expansion of the NBA in mind, the NBA convinced the owner of the Gulls, Robert Breitbard, to buy a San Diego NBA franchise for $1.75 million. The name “San Diego Rockets” came from the idea that San Diego was known as the “city in motion” and missiles were also built in the area.
The team drafted its first official roster during the 1967 NBA Draft under the leadership of former Royals coach Jack McMahon. The inaugural season for the San Diego Rockets was well-below expectations, ending with a pathetic 15-67 record. Luckily, the drafting of Elvin Hayes to the Rockets led the team to a playoff appearance in the 1969 season. Yet, the team only lasted in San Diego for 4 seasons until the team was sold in 1971 and relocated to Houston, Texas.
While in Texas, many doubted the potential success of the Rockets due to a seeming lack of athletic interest in the State of Texas. One of the first major moves after the relocation to Texas was the hiring of new head coach Tex Winter, who didn’t mesh well with team standout Elvin Hayes. Hayes eventually left the team for that exact reason. Yet, the loss of Hayes didn’t impact the team for too long, with the Rockets clinching a playoff appearance in the 1975 postseason.
The late 1970s were a time for changes for the Houston Rockets. The time period meant signing Moses Malone (league-leader in rebounds), finally advancing to the conference finals against the 76ers, and the sale of Rockets for a whopping $9 million. After the turn of the decade, the Rockets made the NBA Finals in the 1981 season, although they lost to the Boston Celtics.
Just a year later in 1982, the Rockets were sold again, this time at an $11 million price tag to a businessman named Charlie Thomas. After Thomas acquired the team, a University of Houston standout by the name of Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted for the 1984 season. The assistance of Olajuwon led the Rockets to a season-high of 58 wins and another appearance in the NBA Finals during the 1986 postseason, again falling to the Boston Celtics.
The Rockets were sold just a few short years later in 1993 to Leslie Alexander for a price of $85 million. The next year was history-making for the once-struggling Rockets, able to advance to the NBA Finals during 2 consecutive seasons and win both. The back-to-back championships would remain the Rockets’ most significant achievement as a team today.
The Rockets have experimented with several different logos in the 5 or more decades spent as an NBA team.
1971 - 1972
The first jersey in Houston lasted only two seasons between 1971 and 1972. It was mostly red with “Houston” written in yellow all capital letters surrounded by white outlines.
1972 - 1995
The jersey worn between 1972 and 1995 was also red, using white lettering and a brand new font to spell out “Houston” instead.
1995 - 2003
The jersey released in the season beginning in 1995 was mostly white with sporadic pinstripes going down the front. It included a basketball and rocket logo with “Rockets” written on the front. The player number had somewhat of a 3D appearance.
2003 - 2018
The jersey here was first worn in 2003. The main color of the jersey was red with “Rockets” written in small white lettering along the front.
2017 - Today
Today, the Rockets don an all red jersey with a simple design. The jersey has “ROCKETS” written in simple lettering and boasts black vertical stripes along the sides of the jersey for a little added color.