In honor of NBA All-Star weekend, we've grabbed some of the best and most significant performances in Rockets history from the league's glamour game. The Rockets have a rich tradition of superstars with big All-Star performances. The most impressive can certainly be debated, but these are some of the contenders.
1970: ELVIN HAYES
Rockets legend Elvin Hayes was the team's second ever All-Star after Don Kojis and went to four consecutive All-Star games as a Rocket between 1968-1972. His performance in 1970, the Rockets' last year in San Diego before moving to Houston, was his best game of the four.
This was an absolute star-studded affair featuring some of the biggest names to ever roam the court. In addition to Hayes, the West also featured Elgin Baylor, Connie Hawkins and Jerry West taking on a ridiculously stacked East squad starting Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, Billy Cunningham and Walt Frazier. To put into perspective how talented the East team was in '70, the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a reserve.
The East jumped out to a huge lead as expected, with The Big E having to go head-to-head against Reed and Abdul-Jabbar in what became the game's premiere match up. But the West battled back behind Hayes, as the team scored 50 points in the 4th quarter only to come up short against the favored East 142-135.
Reed snagged the MVP for the winners with a 21-point, 11-rebound performance, but Hayes put up a huge 24-point, 15-rebound line and was the game's true monster despite his team coming up just a bit short in the box score.
1980: MOSES MALONE
In 1980, both the Rockets and Spurs were part of the Eastern Conference, making the East squad the Moses-George Gervin Show; two Hall of Famers at the height of their powers. The West hung tough though, and the game was tied both at halftime and at the end of regulation, with the East finally pulling ahead in overtime for a 144-136 win.
And while the two-time defending scoring champ Iceman took home MVP honors for his 34 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals, it was Malone's work on the defensive end that helped really tilt the game in the East's favor. He helped hold Abdul-Jabbar and Jack Sikma, the strength of the West squad, to a combined 10-27 shooting and blocked two shots. Oh, and he also happened to throw in 20 points and 12 boards for good measure. Vintage Moses.
This one is also noteworthy for being the final All-Star Game appearance for Elvin Hayes, though now a member of the Washington Bullets.
1985: RALPH SAMPSON
No list could be complete without the one and only All-Star MVP in Rockets history, which also coincided with prime Twin Towers time. Sampson's knees had yet to give out, and the mid 1980s Rockets had yet to collapse into a haze of drug abuse, injury and infighting.
Samson put up 24 and 10 on former Rocket, then-Sixer Moses Malone in leading the West to a 140-129 victory, and the game also marked the first All-Star Game appearance for one young Akeem Olajuwon.
At the time, The Rockets' future seemed gleaming with possibility and the potential for multiple title runs. Sadly, we know reality didn't quite work out that way.
1988: HAKEEM OLAJUWON
This game marked an official torch-passing for All-Star big men, as Olajuwon took the vast majority of playing time away from an aging Abdul-Jabbar and was way too much for either Moses Malone or Patrick Ewing to handle.
In his second All-Star start, Olajuwon dominated the paint to the tune of 21 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, as Moses and Ewing combined for only 16 total points against him.
Unfortunately for Hakeem and the rest of the West squad, it wasn't enough, as they were undone by the high-flying athleticism of a young Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkens. The duo combined for 69 points, including 40 by Jordan in one of his virtuoso performances, in leading the East to a 138-133 victory.
2003: YAO MING
This one appears on the list not because of Yao's performance (he scored 2 points and only grabbed 2 rebounds in 17 minutes), but simply because of his appearance.
Battling racism off the court all season (Shaquille O'neal's comments to the press, anyone?) and misconceptions on it (the Charles Barkley donkey bet with Kenny Smith), Yao was not just an All-Star because of his play. He opened up the NBA and a whole universe of possibilities to an entire portion of the planet not traditionally associated with basketball.
In addition, he garnered 1.2 million votes as an All-Star rookie, finishing 3rd to Kobe Bryant (1.4 million) and Tracy McGrady (1.3 million) and helped set the stage for an upcoming era of unprecedented global interest in the NBA and basketball in general.
A global icon and basketball ambassador in the truest sense of the phrase was born in the 2003 All-Star game, and for that, Yao deserves inclusion on this list. That, and because of his years of ridiculous vote totals from China, he started in the game, whether healthy or not, all eight years of his career
2006: TRACY MCGRADY
We all know the T-Mac story: too many injuries and not enough post-season winning. But when he was on, it sure was a thing of beauty. The 2006 All-Star Game, at the Toyota Center, was one of those performances.
McGrady exploded for 36 points on 15-26 shooting in a dizzying display of his offensive repertoire, but his team folded down the stretch, giving up a 21-point second half lead to the LeBron James-led East in a 122-120 defeat. McGrady airballed a potential game-tying jumper with 10 seconds left, and James garnered MVP honors for the winners, robbing T-Mac the chance of hoisting the honors on his home floor.
But don't let the defeat take the shine off of McGrady's individual performance. This was the full T-Mac Monte.