First of all, this was all brought to light by several current NBA stars listing their own individual Mount Rushmores.
First to make the statement was LeBron James:
Several other NBA stars voiced their opinions, most notably was Kevin Durant:
Durant was asked for his Mount Rushmore. Goes with Jordan, Magic, Bird and Kareem.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 14, 2014
Putting together the Rockets’ Mount Rushmore was no simple task. The franchise has a storied history of Hall of Fame talent, from its beginnings in San Diego, all the way to their current home in Houston.
So who should be on the Mount Rushmore of the Houston Rockets?
The criteria I used for picking the four players to make the famous monument were based upon a combination of career stats as a Rocket, overall impact on the franchise and each player's individual Rocket legacy.
Just Off the List
As it was a tough call to narrow it down to just four players, there was bound to be someone left hanging.
Although Yao did some great things in Houston, Rockets fans will always remember him for what he could have been. The 7’6” 310-pound Chinese big man was derailed by injuries in the last couple years of his career, which is the main reason he is not on the monument. However, Yao still had several outstanding seasons in Houston.
During his eight-year career with the Rockets, Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. The former No. 1 overall draft pick was a seven-time NBA All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection. Yao garnered tons of attention, growing the popularity of the Houston franchise, as well as playing a huge role in growing the popularity of basketball all around the world—especially in China.
If it weren't for the injuries that cut short Yao’s career, he very well may have ended up on the franchise's official monument.
The Mount Rushmore of the Houston Rockets
The Rockets drafted Tomjanovich No. 2 overall in 1970-71 while the team was still in San Diego. He spent his entire 11-year career with the Rockets and was absolutely key in easing the transition for the franchise from San Diego to Houston.
Tomjanovich averaged 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during his career. The five-time All-Star was never the same after he was famously punched in the face and almost killed by Kermit Washington during an on-court fight in 1977. If it weren’t for that incident, Tomjanovich was bound to have gone on playing at the same high level for several more years.
The reason he made the monument is not only for his play on the court, but also the impact he had on the franchise after he hung up his hightops. Tomjanovich was the head coach for the Rockets’ two championship teams in the 90s, the only championships in franchise history. He is one of the most respected people in the history of the Rockets franchise and definitely deserves to be on the team’s Mount Rushmore.
Calvin Murphy was also on the first team to play in Houston, where he played his entire 13-year career. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. Standing at only five feet and nine inches tall, Murphy has the unique distinction of being the shortest player to ever be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.
He had a career average of 17.9 points and 4.4 assists per game and is the Rockets’ all-time leader in assists. He was a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1970-71, was selected as an All-Star in 1979 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
The argument could be made for a couple other players to make the monument ahead of Murphy, such as Elvin Hayes, but the fact that Murphy spent his entire career with the Rockets sets him apart. After he was done playing, he continued in several roles with the franchise, most notably serving as a television analyst for the team.
Moses Malone is regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time and compiled quite a list of accomplishments during his time with the Rockets. He was a five-time NBA All-Star, a four-time All-NBA selection, a one-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection and a two-time NBA MVP.
During his time in Houston, he averaged 23.7 points and a ridiculous 15 rebounds per game. There’s not much else to say about Moses Malone; his resume speaks for itself.
He is the second greatest player in Rockets history and without question belongs on the team’s all-time monument.
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon is one of the greatest centers of all-time. He completely redefined what a big man could do throughout his career. His list of accomplishments as a Rocket is unparalleled by anyone in franchise history.
“The Dream” was a part of both Rockets’ title teams, was a two-time NBA Finals MVP, a one-time NBA MVP, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA selection and a nine-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection.
Olajuwon averaged 25.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game in Houston. He is also the Rockets’ all-time leader in games, minutes, field goals (made and attempted), free throws (made and attempted), rebounds (offensive, defensive and total), steals, blocks and points.
The greatness of Hakeem Olajuwon cannot be overstated. He is undoubtedly the greatest player to ever put on a Rocket uniform and obviously deserves a spot on the franchise’s all-time Mount Rushmore.