Top 5 Centers in Houston Rockets’ History

How Many Do You Know?

The Houston Rockets are an NBA franchise with a storied history of big men. From Elvin Hayes in the 1960s all the way up to their big free agent acquisition of Dwight Howard in July of 2013, Houston has always been a popular destination for dominant centers.

The following is a list of the top five centers in Houston Rockets’ history.

05
of 05

Yao Ming

Keith Allison/flckr/CC BY-SA 2.0

NBA Achievements:

  • Eight-time NBA All-Star
  • Two-time All-NBA Second Team selection
  • Three-time All-NBA Third Team selection
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team

With the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft, the Rockets selected Chinese sensation, Yao Ming. He entered the NBA with high expectations and a lot of pressure to succeed. When he was healthy, Ming was just as good as advertised. If he was judged by talent alone, Ming could easily be ranked among the top five centers in NBA history.

Unfortunately, he suffered several injuries throughout his career which caused him to miss too many games.

Despite the injuries, Ming’s accomplishments should not go unnoticed. During his NBA career, ​he averaged 9.2 rebounds and 19 points per game.

04
of 05

Dwight Howard

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NBA Achievements (Prior to Joining the Rockets in 2013):

  • Seven-time NBA All-Star
  • Three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time NBA Rebounding Leader
  • Two-time NBA Blocks Leader
  • Five-time All-NBA First Team
  • Two-time All-NBA Third Team
  • Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2008
  • NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion in 2008
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team

Howard joined the Rockets as a free agent in July of 2013 at the age of 27. Even though he was unproven as a player for Houston, his NBA accomplishments prior to joining the team could not go unnoticed.

As a young player with the Orlando Magic, Howard was widely believed to be the best center in the NBA. He had battled injuries during his two years prior to joining the Rockets but swore he was coming to Houston with no injury concerns whatsoever.

Even if he retired before joining the team, Howard has the statistics and achievements to be mentioned in the same sentence as the top five centers in Rockets’ history. He was given the No. 4 ranking strictly due to his combination of past success and future potential in Houston.

03
of 05

Elvin Hayes

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NBA Achievements:

  • NBA Champion in 1978
  • Twelve-time NBA All-Star
  • NBA Scoring Champion in 1969
  • Three-time All-NBA First Team
  • Three-time All-NBA Second Team
  • Two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team
  • NBA 50th Anniversary Team
  • Sporting News Player of the Year in 1968
  • Associated Press Player of the Year in 1968
  • Inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990

Some may be too young to remember Hayes, but it’s important to note that he was a member of the Rockets before they ever relocated to Houston. Before they were the Houston Rockets, they were known as the San Diego Rockets.

Nevertheless, Hayes is one of the best big men to ever play in the NBA. He finished his career averaging 21 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He ranks fourth in NBA history in total rebounds behind only Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

02
of 05

Moses Malone

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NBA/ABA Achievements:

  • NBA Champion in 1983
  • NBA Finals MVP in 1983
  • Three-time NBA Most Valuable Player
  • Twelve-time NBA All-Star
  • Two-time ABA All-Star
  • Four-time All-NBA First Team
  • Four-time All-NBA Second Team
  • Six-time NBA Rebounding Champion
  • NBA All-Defensive First Team in 1983
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 1979
  • ABA All-Rookie Team in 1975
  • NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • ABA All-Time Team
  • #24 retired by the Houston Rockets
  • Inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001

Not only is Malone one of the greatest Rockets ever, he is one of the best basketball players of all time. To put his greatness into perspective, he is the third-leading rebounder (17,834 rebounds) and the sixth-leading scorer (29,580 points) in combined NBA/ABA history.

Malone played 21 seasons of professional basketball. He ranks fourth all-time in minutes played (49,333) and fifth in total games (1,455).

01
of 05

Hakeem Olajuwon

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NBA Achievements:

  • Two-time NBA champion
  • Two-time NBA Finals MVP
  • NBA Most Valuable Player in 1994
  • Twelve-time NBA All-Star
  • Two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • Two-time NBA Rebounding Leader
  • Six-time All-NBA First Team
  • Three-time All-NBA Second Team
  • Three-time All-NBA Third Team
  • Five-time All-Defensive First Team
  • Four-time All-Defensive Second Team
  • NBA All-Rookie Team in 1985
  • NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • #34 retired by Houston Rockets
  • Inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008

When you think of the Houston Rockets, the first person who comes to mind is Hakeem Olajuwon. In fact, when you think of defensive greats in NBA history, Olajuwon should be one of the very first players anyone thinks of.

He holds records for the most blocked shots in a career (3,830), most steals for a center in a career (2,152) and in a season (213). He’s also the only player to ever record 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season.

Olajuwon’s most impressive achievement came in 1994 when he became the only player in NBA history to ever win regular season MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards all in the same season.