Houston Rockets: How the team ruined a strong narrative in 95 NBA Finals

Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets of the Western Conference (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets of the Western Conference (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Former Houston Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

Casting Call

In the previous entries I wrote about the Rockets run of 1995, I talked about the team’s journey and vital roles for key players. But let me summarize a few Rockets players real fast before we move on to the story of the 1995 NBA Finals.

#34 Hakeem Olajuwon – Future Hall-of-Famer, reigning MVP, former Phi Slamma Jamma at the University of Houston. Finals MVP the year prior who would best rivals Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the Rockets championship.

#22 Clyde Drexler – a future Hall-of-Famer who played with Hakeem Olajuwon at the University of Houston during their Phi Slamma Jamma days.  Twice appeared in the NBA Finals before being acquired in a trade to Houston along with Tracy Murray for Otis Thorpe. Key member in the Rockets series wins against the Jazz, Suns, and the Spurs.

#30 Kenny Smith – North Carolina Tar Heel who was drafted by the Kings in 1987. After a short stint with Atlanta, picked up by Houston in 1990 and was an underrated point guard. Had to endure a tough series with the New York Knicks and Derek Harper in 1994’s NBA Finals before besting him in Game 7.

#10 Sam Cassell – Sophomore from Florida State University, drafted by Houston in 1993. Made a big shot for the Rockets in a critical Game 3 win against the Knicks in 1994 while also had a strong Game 7 against the Suns in that year’s semifinals and the 1995 semifinals as well.

#25 Robert Horry – In this third season from Alabama, drafted as the 11th pick overall by the Rockets in front of Harold Miner (aka the next MJ). Was traded to the Pistons in 1994 along with Matt Bullard before it was nixed due to Sean Elliott failing a physical. Made a big shot against the Spurs in the 1995 Western Conference Finals.

#17 Mario Elie – Former New York high school star who played with Golden State and Portland before joining Houston. Hit an iconic shot known as the “Kiss of Death” against Phoenix in the semifinals.

Rudy Tomjanovich – Former Rocket player turned head coach turned future Hall-of-Famer from Michigan. His playing career got sidetracked by an incident in 1977. Took the Rockets to win an NBA title in 1994. Flat-out bested the great Phil Jackson in seven of ten meetings from 1991-1995.

Supporting Cast

Remember these names because they play a key role in the story. But let’s not forget the others.

  • #7 Carl Herrera – Venezuelan who was a key member in the 1994 championship. Out with an injury.
  • #32 Pete Chilcutt – Started as a forward for Houston in their first and second-round playoff series until Horry was bumped to four to make room for Elie.
  • #52 Chucky Brown – Journeyman who played with the Cavaliers, Nets, Mavericks, and teams in Italy and the CBA. Did have a few tiffs with Charles Barkley.
  • #27 Charles Jones – Oldest member on the Rockets who waited 15 years for his first chance at a championship.
  • #31 Tracy Murray – UCLA grad where he was a two-time All-Pac 12. Traded to Houston from the Blazers along with Elie. Actually got traded twice in one day to two teams.
  • #55 Zan Tabak – Croatian who didn’t play for Houston until three years after he was drafted.
  • #15 Tim Breaux – Another CBA player who played in Spain and France before joining the Rockets. Once hit a half-court shot at the buzzer during a game against the Spurs.
  • #44 Adrian Caldwell – A native Texan who played college ball at both Southern Methodist University and Lamar University.
  • Leslie Alexander – The Rockets owner
  • Bill Berry – Assistant coach who won a national championship at Michigan State in 1979 along with Ervin Magic Johnson.
  • Larry Smith – Former Rocket player turned assistant coach. Known as Mr. Mean.
  • Carroll Dawson – Assistant coach who later became a general manager. Once survived a lightning strike while playing golf. He has a jersey retired in the rafters with his initials on it.

Vernon Maxwell was also on the Rockets team but left after a first-round game against the Jazz due to personal reasons. A decision he regrets to this day. But he was a core member of the 1994 Rockets championship.

With the cast in check, it’s time to break down the NBA Finals. We know about our Rockets. Let’s dive into their opponent in the NBA Finals.