Houston Rockets: Rudy Tomjanovich talks about his infamous catch phrase

Legendary Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich (Photo by JOHN GRESS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN GRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
Legendary Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich (Photo by JOHN GRESS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN GRESS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Legendary Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich talks about how his memorable catchphrase came about. It has stuck and stood the test of time. Let’s look.

As the Houston Rockets wait for the season to hopefully commence soon, they’ll have a lot of time to reflect on how their current season has gone, work on making adjustments and heal from various dents and dings over time.

I’m most interested to know how Eric Gordon‘s recovery is going as he was battling a nagging knee injury up until the point of the NBA season being halted.  He was playing through pain and was regularly missing games because of it.

But hopefully, this stay from basketball has helped him so that he’ll be stronger than ever when the league returns to action, whenever that may be.

Mike D’Antoni had committed to a totally different style of basketball by trading away Clint Capela, Gerald Green and their first-round pick this season in order to prove that he could win without a center.

Capela was in and out of D’Antoni’s doghouse anyway so the happening was inevitable but I’m absolutely surprised that the trigger was pulled on it.  Hopefully, this team will have an opportunity to close out the season with this lineup and have some success.

This whole season will have an asterisk next to it because of the complete stoppage of events caused by our fight to minimize the effects of COVID-19.

But while NBA arenas are dark at the moment, the Houston Rockets had great news to share as one of their greatest sons, Rudy Tomjanovich has finally been inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

It’s a long time and snub after snub continued to happen over the past decade since he has been eligible for enshrinement and it’s now a reality that the greatest coach this franchise has ever had will be crowned the highest award anyone with the NBA can earn.

His infamous catchphrase “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion,” has been the battle-cry for us Houstonians for as long as we can remember and it’s at the forefront of my mind when I’ve had to compete in various events over the years.

Rudy spoke with the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen about how the phrase came about and as he usually does, did not accept full credit for drumming up those eight words heard around the world.

Here’s what he said:

"“I’m often asked where that statement came from, and it was not original,” Tomjanovich said. “It came from Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns after we had beat them two years in a row when they had us on the ropes and had us down. He said, ‘the Rockets have the heart of a champion. You think you got ‘em, but you can’t close them out.”"

I was a teenager and I remember Kevin Johnson and those long bouts that this team would have with Charles Barkley and Phoenix Suns.  Hell, if it wasn’t for the Houston Rockets, they’d probably be in the history books as the champions and Barkley wouldn’t be ring-less despite being oh so close to the prize.

It was truly a unique era of basketball that I still long for to this day where the rules have shied

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players away from physical contact and hand-checking are absolutely out of the question these days.

That’s what Rudy T. embodies — he was part of an era of basketball that we may never see again and he was able to be successful all throughout that period.

He was a good basketball player but an even better leader, as well as a coach in his professional career and the Houston Rockets, should be fortunate that they had the opportunity to have through the various phases of his NBA timeline.

We all have that heart of a champ within us but it’s matter of how we use it as we go about our daily lives, especially through these uncertain times.

Next. Rockets: Rudy T.'s HOF entry long overdue but worth it. dark

Congrats again Rudy — I can’t wait to hear the speech that you’ll have an opportunity to deliver later this year.

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