Dwight Howard will be the latest in a series of big whigs who have donned a Rockets jersey and played their way toward prominence in Houston.
Franchise history is filled with an assortment of talented towers, all who have left their imprint on the Rockets organization. We're not talking about the Kevin Willis' (who played power forward while with the Rockets) and Dikembe Mutombos who got to Houston when they had little to nothing left, but rather those who spent a part or all of their primes battling for the Rockets.
Hakeem Olajuwon certainly comes to mind, but where does he stand? And who joins him?
Effective behemoths have always been considered rare commodities, yet the Rockets have managed to get their hands on quite a few.
Years With Rockets: 7
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 15.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.3 blocks on 55.9 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks on 54.6 percent shooting
Really, Otis Thorpe spent like 6.5 years with the Rockets, each of which saw him play power forward. Still, I wanted to give him an honorable mention since he's listed as a center on certain mediums and because I like him.
Thorpe made his only All-Star appearance as a member of the Rockets in 1992 and had a propensity for putting points on the board in a hurry. He was on the 1994 championship squad, when he scored the second-most points per game of anyone on the team (14) behind The Dream.
Again, he doesn't fall under the category of "center," but he was tall (6'9"), and he had game when he played for the Rockets.
Years With Rockets: 1
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks on 54.1 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Averages: 5.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.9 blocks on 53.7 percent shooting
Don't let the diminutive career numbers fool you, Omer Asik got game, which he found while with the Rockets.
Much ado was made over Houston signing him to what was considered a loaded contract. The Chicago Bulls decided not to match it, and the rest is history. Sort of.
Asik went on to average 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 54.1 percent shooting in his first year with the Rockets, becoming one of only five players to post at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and one block on 50 percent or better shooting for the season. The others included Tyson Chandler, Nikola Pekovic, Al Horford and, you guessed it, Howard himself.
Superman's acquisition prompted Asik to request a trade, a favor the Rockets aren't prepared to honor. Should the right deal come along, I'm inclined to believe their tune will change.
We'll just have to wait and see.
Years with Rockets: 4
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 19.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.9 blocks on 49.9 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.6 blocks on 48.6 percent shooting
Some will have undoubtedly wanted to see Sampson higher, but 1) the Rockets have housed a lot of talented big men over the years and 2) he spent just four seasons in Houston.
In those four years, the Hall of Famer left quite the impression, averaging a double-double rather easily while also protecting the rim like it was his job (oh wait...).
Each of his four-career All-Star selections came as a member of the Rockets, and three of his four postseason campaigns came in Houston as well.
Saying that Rockets jersey looked good on him would then be an understatement. A gross one.
Four years is all it took for Sampson to be remembered as one of the greatest bigs in franchise history. Just one of many tough acts Howard now has to follow.
Years with Rockets: 8
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 19 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.9 blocks on 52.4 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats: 19 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.9 blocks on 52.4 percent shooting
Yao Ming should be higher. He really should.
Injuries forced him to retire after just eight seasons in the NBA—should have been nine but he sat out all of 2009 - ending what was a promising career that never really took off like it should've.
Global popularity helped earn Yao eight All-Star selections, only six of which he was able to appear in. He also ranks second on the team's all-time shots-blocked list (920) behind Olajuwon.
Imagine what he could have done if he was healthy and given more time. On second thought, don't. It will make your heart ache for Yao.
Glass half-full style, at least Yao was able to go out the way he came in—a Rocket.
Years with Rockets: TBD
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: N/A
Career Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.2 blocks on 57.7 percent shooting
This is one of those situations when you're either going to demand Howard be placed higher or lower. That's just how it is.
Having yet to play in a game for the Rockets, it's impossible to forecast how he'll fare in Houston. He could wind up climbing the ranks, or even dipping if he turns out to be a full-blown bust.
For now, we must go off what we know about him already. And what we know is that he's still the best center in the game, and one of the most dominant big men ever.
I don't use that term "ever" lightly either. People tend to devalue Dwight because of his free-throw shooting, absence of a title, his propensity for indecision or because they just don't like him.
Facts are facts, though. And the fact is, Howard is the only player in NBA history to post averages of at least 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game on 55 percent or better shooting for his career.
Not even the most religious of contrarians can discredit that.
Years with Rockets: 7
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 20.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.9 blocks on 44.5 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 blocks on 45.2 percent shooting
I don't want to hear that Elvin Hayes wasn't a true center. The first four seasons of his career were with the Rockets (in San Diego and Houston), all of which saw him play center.
Hayes was elected to four All-Star teams while with the Rockets and is just the third big man in franchise history to average at least 20 points a night over the course of his tenure.
He only saw the light of the playoffs twice while in Houston/San Diego, but the current Hall of Famer still did enough for the organization to the point that he's worthy of being remembered forever.
It's just awesome that he was able to spend his final days with the franchise he began his career with.
Years with Rockets: 6
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 24.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.6 blocks on 51.4 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats (ABA included): 20.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks on 49.5 percent shooting
Moses Malone was a two-way phenomenon.
During his six seasons with the Rockets, he compiled the highest points and rebounds per game average of any center in franchise history, and was selected to five All-Star games.
His only championship wasn't won in Houston (Philadelphia), but he led the Rockets to the playoffs five times. Malone was also named league MVP twice while in Houston, a pretty incredible feat if you ask me.
The Hall of Famer is one of the most distinguished big men in the history of the game, and though more than two-thirds of his career was spent donning rival jerseys, he still goes down as the second-best center to ever represent the Rockets.
He would have actually finished first if it wasn't for a certain somebody...
Years with Rockets: 17
Per-Game Stats with Rockets: 22.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 3.2 blocks on 51.3 percent shooting
Career Per-Game Stats: 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 3.1 blocks on 51.2 percent shooting
Was there ever a doubt in your mind?
Olajuwon is the greatest Rocket of all-time, so naming him the most preeminent center in franchise history was easy.
In 17 seasons with the Rockets, he earned 12 All-Star selections, two championship, two finals MVPs, a league MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. The Dream is also the all-time leader for the organization in games played, minutes played, field-goals made, field-goals attempted, free-throws made, free-throws attempted, points, rebounds, steals and blocks.
The list just goes on and on.
Because we can never say about about Hakeem and that notorious Dream Shake of his, I also feel compelled to remind you he's the only player in NBA history to notch at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 2,000 steals and 2,500 blocks for his career.
Hakeem isn't just the best center or player the Rockets have ever had the luxury of throwing on the floor, he's one of the greatest athletes to ever play this game.
Good luck following that up, Dwight.