When I was a kid growing up in New York in the late ‘90s and early aughts, it wasn’t easy being a Rockets fan. Once the Olajuwon-Barkley-Drexler-Pippen team split up, the franchise dipped into obscurity, save for some Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley highlights on SportsCenter.
I didn’t get to watch much. Before League Pass and the Internet, I only got to watch the Rockets on SportsCenter and the occasional national TV game. In the years between Hakeem and Yao, only Stevie Franchise’s explosiveness gave TV programmers a reason to put Houston on the schedule. I was grateful for every game.
And from the ages of 10 to 13, when young males learn everything about what they think is cool until they get to college and learn how wrong (or, in my case, how right) they were, there was no one I was more grateful for, the Franchise aside, than Moochie Norris.
After watching Moochie play, or, rather, after looking at Moochie play, 10-year-old me from then on thought the only way to look cool on a basketball court, and thus, in life, was with high socks, as many armbands as possible, and a giant afro. Moochie never graced the cover of ESPN the Magazine, but when Ben Wallace’s giant ‘fro was on there, you better believe it went right on my wall, as an homage to every modern player sporting the glorious hairdo.
As a player, Moochie wasn’t part of a Rockets playoff team until his second, afro-less stint with the team in 2005, when he played seven total minutes in that abbreviated postseason run. He never even shot 30 percent from deep, was a solid assist man (5.9 per 36 minutes, according to basketball-reference) and didn’t shoot particularly well from the field.
But, from my perspective, and what I can only assume is every other Rockets fan close to my age, I did not care one lick how he played. Moochie was the coolest. Steve Francis had some of the most mind-blowing highlights I’ve ever seen, but I didn’t want to be like Steve. I wanted to be like Moochie.
In starting this series of Blasts from the Past (Darren and Colin already had great contributions to it here and here), I knew I’d choose Moochie, and called dibs early on. Then something magical happened: I did some research, and found what has to be a 15-year-old Page 2 interview with ESPN, it was golden.
Some of my favorite parts:
Who's got the worst hair in the NBA?
Norris: I'm gonna say Ben Wallace, because we're in competition for the best hairdo.
Does anyone rival Jeff Hornacek, how bad his hair was?
Norris: No, not that I can think of. He used to make me laugh the way he moved it to the side when he was shooting free throws.
Bashing on Jeff Hornacek? And I thought I couldn’t love him any more.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Norris: I listen to jazz, rock 'n' roll, I'm a Celine Dion fan. I just bought Creed. I just like all kinds of music. I like it all.
CREED. CREED, Y’ALL. Forgiving him for this because it’s too hilarious.
Your least favorite place?
Norris: Utah. That's the one place I feel like I got nothing to do when I'm up in the city visiting. I mean, I would love to go up in the mountains and just mess around and stuff like that. But I never do anything when I'm in Utah, so it's probably my least favorite place. Utah and Denver is runnin' neck and neck.
Now researching how to legally adopt myself to be Moochie Norris’ son (sorry Dad).
Rockets.com in its infancy did a “Day In The Life of Moochie Norris” piece around what I’m assuming is roughly the same time. We’ll call it Peak Moochie. Moochie took a pair of Rockets fans around with him all day, and it is genuinely 1,000 words worth of smiles. Again, my favorite parts.
The first stop for the group was Cracker Barrel restaurant, where Moochie usually drops in for breakfast from time to time. Everyone ordered the “Old Tymers Breakfast,” one of Cracker Barrel’s specialties. Moochie had to take it a step further by requesting three extra pancakes. Mincks and Ortega were surprised that one of the smallest guys in the NBA could eat so much.
“Cracker Barrel usually just makes me want to lay down, but today I’ll just have to run it all off at practice,” said Norris.
You thought Moochie Norris was athletic before, but imagine how he’d have been had he not put the lard concentrate Cracker Barrel serves into his body on the reg. What could have been, Moochie.
When practice was completed, the two fans waited for Moochie to shower and change. They were allowed to take pictures with all the players and Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Many Rockets players, especially Maurice Taylor and Steve Francis could not believe that anyone would spend money to hang out with Moochie.
“I really hope you guys get a refund,” joked Taylor.
Mo Taylor was second on my list of potential Blast from the Past candidates. HOW COULD YOU MO.
The next destination was a trip to Norris’ hair salon, A Cut Above. Being that Moochie annually competes with Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons for the best NBA hairstyle, he likes to show versatility ranging from braids to the retro afro.
Today Moochie gave complete autonomy to his hairstylist Terri, who proceeded to wash and massage his scalp before braiding his hair in a unique pattern of cornrows. This process took around two hours to complete.
“The massage is the best part, but I still have to keep the wig tight at all times,” said Norris. Terri disagreed. “I usually have to call him when I see him on TV with his hair looking a mess,” she said.
Moochie and Terri, coming this fall to the WB.
The whole thing wrapped up at Moochie’s “favorite restaurant,” Benihana. It was there that one of the greatest photos since George Eastman invented film was taken:
Moochie is 43 now, and despite being a DC native, he still calls Texas home. He’s on Twitter, has a high-school-aged son named after him (his real name is Martyn), and posts religious-related stuff and retweets throwback photos and videos. His head is shaved. Father Time remains undefeated.