Best of the Rockets

Can James Harden ever catch Hakeem Olajuwon for greatest Rocket?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We have always wondered if James Harden will ever match the success of Hakeem Olajuwon. There is no question that Harden is great, but will he be able to fill the shoes of Hakeem? These questions needed to be answered soon but when will they be?

Hakeem and Harden are honestly the best two players to ever put on a Rockets uniform. Even though these players are great, Hakeem's name weighs more than Harden. Hakeem has accomplished more by going back to back in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals. He is also No. 11 in all-time scoring. Like Harden, Hakeem terrorized defenders with his versatile post moves. He even created a move called the "The Dream Shake" which is now transcendent in the NBA. Hakeem was a twelve-time all-star, won defensive player of the year twice and made the NBA First Team six times. In addition, he was on the NBA Defensive Team five teams, and became an MVP in 1994. His accomplishments are through the roof, but Hakeem was also a team player by doing everything on the court. Hakeem even recorded two quadruple doubles in the same month in the 1987 season. His ability was so unbelievable and un-guardable that they called him the "The Dream." Players like Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan will always pay their respects to the best center in basketball. Does this huge shadow still stand over Harden? Should he have live up to these expectations?

Harden will never have a hard time breaking records nor being a MVP candidate in the NBA. He is easily today the best scorer in the league. Harden has accomplished a host of good deeds in this league by winning the Sixth Man of the Year award as well as the MVP award. He has also made the All-NBA Team six times, the All-Star team seven times, and the NBA First Team five times. Coaches in the NBA have a tough time figuring out the defense they will use for Harden. Harden gives most teams fits by getting to the line or using his unorthodox step back jumper. That step can now be seen in the WNBA, NBA, and in many, many high schools. Harden's creativity is the only thing that makes him comparable to Hakeem. Time and time again, analyst, reporters, and fans have questioned the true heart of Harden.


Hardens full ability to the game of basketball still has not been reached yet. Even though Harden has gotten better on defense, there are still questions regarding it. Analysts have pointed out the fact that he is a pretty good post defender and was second in steals last season. Harden would really become a great player if he tried to guard players like Steph Curry, LeBron James, or Paul George. He has also struggled to become a team player by not getting his teammates involved enough. That causes them to lose confidence in their shot making ability. Also dribbling the ball to the final digit has not helped his case either. Another flaw that Harden has is not approaching playoff games in a strong manner. Harden can also disappear during big games in the playoffs. He has been in Houston for seven seasons and never has seen the NBA Finals. We have always wondered if Harden will ever win a Championship in Houston. Harden will be all out of excuses if he cannot win one with Russell Westbrook.


Hopefully one day Harden will be able to get rid of Hakeem's shadow by matching his success or overcoming it.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images


The Rockets have squandered plenty of opportunities to win championships this past decade. They have had three teams that were worthy of a championship. Those three teams were star studded but what happened?

Those three teams were the 2008-2009, 2017-2018, 2018-2019 Rockets. Three capable teams to win a championship.

The 2008-2009 Rockets had a lot of potential on the court. They had Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Rafer Alston, and Shane Battier. The key role players for the team were Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Luther Head, Von Wafer, and Dikembe Mutombo. Even though the Rockets finished in fifth place that year, the Western Conference was tough. They were one spot out of third and fourth place in the conference. Two dramatic injuries that hurt the Rockets were McGrady and Yao. McGrady went down earlier that season. This caused the Rockets to lose creativity at the guard position. McGrady always struggled with injuries in his Rocket's tenure. Yao suffered an injury during semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers. That was a huge loss because the Rockets lost a superstar, presence inside the paint, and their best player. Other players like Artest, Wafer, Brooks, and Landry had stepped up their play against the Lakers. It just was not enough against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.


upload.wikimedia.org


The Rockets had a legitimate chance to win a title that year. They matched up well against the Lakers in 2009 without injuries. Having T-Mac and Yao together would have been lethal. Including having Artest and Battier who were great defenders. The role players that stepped up in the playoffs were unexpected. They were still able to take the Lakers seven games. Just imagine if the Rockets had Yao and T-Mac during the playoffs.

The next team that had a great opportunity was the 2017-2018 Rockets. This team consisted of James Harden, Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela. That year the Rockets went 65-17, which was first in the Western Conference. This team lead the league in three-point attempts, 13th in the three-point percentage, and number two points. Harden and Paul looked impressive together. Individuals were worried about the combination before the season started; Bringing Paul to Houston allowed Harden to get more rest. The Rockets struggled defensively in the beginning of the season despite winning games. Even though the Rockets could score a lot, they needed to defend. The assistant coach, Jeff Bzdelik, found defensive schemes so the Rockets could perform better. This teams favorite thing to do was to attempt three-point shots every game. They were electric and fun to watch against the Golden St Warriors. At the end of the season Harden won the 2017-2018 MVP.


Rockets Chris Paul , James Harden, Clint Capela Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images


The Rockets were troubled because of Paul's injury, and the 22 missed three-point attempts in game seven. When Paul went down in game six, the Rockets were in disarray for game seven. Fans in Houston will always have the "What if" factor when it comes to game seven. This was another blown opportunity for the Rocket's franchise. That Western Conference Finals lost was very hurtful to the team and city.

The very last team that had an opportunity was the 2018-2019 Rockets. This team started off very slowly in the beginning of the season. It was very questionable because of Carmelo Anthony and the struggles on defense. During their 11-14 start, the Rockets released Anthony and Paul was dealing with another injury. While Paul was out, Harden was able to rally the Rockets during tough games. This was able to keep the Rockets alive in the Western Conference while Paul was out. Harden also reminded the league why he was the 2017-2018 MVP that season. Other players who helped the Rockets out that season was Danuel House and Austin Rivers. They were very helpful coming off the bench.

Fast forwarding to semifinals of the playoffs, the Rockets went against the Golden St. Warriors again. In game five, Kevin Durant suffered a leg injury that kept him sidelined throughout the rest of the series. Surprisingly, the Rockets could not take advantage of Durant's injuries in both games, as they lost to the Warriors again in the playoffs. It was a confusing time for fans on why the Rockets lost. They were supposed to jump on the opportunity when Durant went down. The communication between Paul and Harden was off as well, frustrating the thousands of fans watching.

Hopefully one day the Rockets pull it together.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome