NBA on TNT & NBA TV Analysts Reflect on the Back-to-Back Championship Winning Clutch City Houston Rockets

NBA TV will commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back championship seasons with Clutch City, a documentary airing during The Finals on Monday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET.  Produced by the Sports Emmy Award-winning NBA TV Originals, Clutch City examines the Rockets’ 1993-94 and 1994-95 teams as Houston greats Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Sam Cassell and Vernon Maxwell reflect on their experiences and how their team chemistry helped them succeed. 

Following are NBA on TNT and NBA TV analysts sharing their recollections on Houston’s championship teams:

Shaquille O’Neal on how all of the pieces fit together for those Rockets teams: “Of course Hakeem Olajuwon was great, but I don’t think people realize how many weapons they had.  You have Vernon Maxwell, who was a big shot maker.  You’ve got ‘Big Shot Bob’ [Robert Horry], Sam Cassell, Mario Elie with the kiss of death.  Even though you had Hakeem, the organization did a great job of putting personnel around him to make him look good.  Without ‘Big Shot Bob,’ or Kenny [Smith] hitting nine threes, Hakeem wouldn’t have two titles.  He gets most of the credit, but he had a lot of weapons around him.”

Charles Barkley on the greatness of Hakeem Olajuwon: “They were a terrific team.  I always tell people about Hakeem Olajuwon…as far as big guys, Hakeem is the closest, until Shaq came along, to being flat-out unstoppable.  It was an honor to play against Hakeem.”


Barkley on the match-up problems presented by Olajuwon: “There were very few players that you’re like ‘we’ve got to find a way’ [to stop him].  You have to have a game specific plan every game for one guy.  When you get them in a seven-game series, it’s a nightmare.”


Barkley on why Houston’s guards were able to be so successful within their offense: “Those weapons were open because we [the Phoenix Suns] had to double and triple team Hakeem.”

Grant Hill on his memories of facing the 1994-95 Rockets team in his first year in the league: “As a rookie playing the defending champions, after they made the trade for Clyde Drexler – one of the greats to ever play – it was individually challenging, but also very intimidating.  You were playing against a team that was really just very well-rounded.  They had the best center in the game, an experienced group of perimeter players around him, it made it very challenging.”

Isiah Thomas on the Rockets’ guard play during the back-to-back championships: “Their three-guard rotation was very similar to the one we had in Detroit. Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell and Sam Cassell dominated the league.  They were all excellent scorers and great spot-up three-point shooters.  This awesome trio was interchangeable and totally complemented the team’s star player, Hakeem Olajuwon.  They performed exceptionally well and truly deserved to be NBA Champions.”


Thomas on what it takes to win consecutive championships: “For individual players, you must be healthy, have perseverance and a strong commitment to mental concentration, and physical stamina.  For a team, you must have a commitment to selfless play, offensively, defensively, and on and off the court.  You most definitely need the three Ts – talent, teamwork and toughness.”

Steve Smith on his experience facing Clyde Drexler in 1994-95: “Clyde was the biggest two-guard I ever played against. He was 6’7”, 6’8”

…strong…running you over.  It’s funny, now Clyde and I are friends, he lives here in the offseason.  On the court, he didn’t say two words to his opponents.  He was all business, a phenomenal athlete and competitor, and the whole league kind of said, ‘Wow, they are adding Clyde Drexler to a team that was already dynamic?’”

Smith on what it was like to play against the 94-95 Houston Rockets: “You think of this day and age of shooting the three ball…they shot the three ball extremely well.  They were blessed to have a dominant low post player that you had to double team.  They were the epitome of an inside and outside game.  They had guys that were willing and able to make big shots, but it all started with ‘Dream’ on both ends.”

Smith on what made the Rockets special: “They had a lot of versatility. They had a lot of guys that made big shots, took big shots.  They had Hakeem and that really separated them from the pack because he could do whatever he wanted on the court.  They had one of my favorite coaches, Rudy Tomjanovich, because he’s from Hamtramck, Michigan, where my mom went to high school.  He was an excellent player’s coach.”

Smith on Vernon Maxwell: “‘Mad Max’ was one of my favorites. He was an elite competitor.  He was also a talker…me and him had great conversations throughout the game.  Great friend.  He doesn’t get enough credit for being a big shot taker in this game.  He never backs down from anyone.  Mad, Mad Max.”

Dennis Scott on the depth of the championship Rockets team: “The biggest thing that team had was their depth. When you look at their guard play – with Vernon Maxwell, Sam Cassell and Kenny Smith – you had guards that could basically kill you in different ways before you even got down low to Hakeem Olajuwon, who was the best player on the planet at that time, with his Dream Shake and shot blocking ability. We [the Orlando Magic] were stuck deciding between double teaming Olajuwon or letting Shaq go one-on-one with him. Obviously, neither one of them worked."


Scott on losing to the Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals: "For me, the pain still hurts because I thought we were the better team. They just came out and showed their will was better than ours."

Mike Fratello on what made the Rockets a championship team: “They didn’t run tons of complicated sets, but what they ran with their personnel was very effective.  It forced you to make decisions because of the tremendous inside presence of Hakeem Olajuwon.”

Fratello on what made those Rockets teams special: “It was a beautiful blend of the pieces matching a system and it seemed to me that they loved playing for Rudy.  He made the players want to be part of his team and play for him.”

Fratello on Olajuwon being an all-time great: “If you didn’t go double him, he was going to beat up most centers in the league and have a huge night.  At the same time, not only was he a terrific offensive player, but he was also a premier defensive player.  Not just his shot-blocking or rebounding ability, but he was also very high in the league in steals all the time because he had such quick feet and hands.”

Fratello on match-up problems caused by Olajuwon: “He very often forced you to scratch your head and decide what you wanted to give up on a given night.  Do you want to let him get 35 or 40 points and shut the rest of their guys down, or are you going to try do a job on him so he doesn’t dominate?”