Game Time: Best of the Best -- Top 10 Moments from Clutch City Rockets (w/video)

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Consensus Number One
I am a total sucker for lists.

This makes me like roughly 95 percent of society; the fact that I openly admit I'm a sucker for lists makes me a little more unique. There are so many list books, list columns, list blog posts (many by yours truly) that it seems by admitting you like something so formulaic, you're somehow viewed as lazy or shallow.

Screw that. Lists work because they encompass everything that is fun about healthy debate -- opinion, logic (or lack thereof), and something being deemed as good, better, or best.

And if you don't think people care about lists, then you didn't see former Miami Hurricane Alonzo Highsmith's reaction when I told him the 1986 'Canes were chosen the most hated team in sports history by SI.com. He acted like he just won another national championship.

As you have likely seen, the Houston Press has its own sports list this week ranking the ten best (and five worst) sports moments in our fair city's history. Again, love it. I'm all in. However, in weighing in, I wanted to do something a little different...

I think a big part of qualifying to truly rank sports moments or teams or players is that you have to have consumed them in some viable way. Being a general sports fan is enough of a consumption level to rank the most hated teams. However, when it comes to something as nakedly emotional as your hometown sports moments, you almost have to have been there or at least had a major rooting interest.

When it comes to ranking the all-time sports moments in Houston, my basis of emotional investment didn't begin until I moved here in 1994, which obviously means I wasn't living nor dying during Mike Renfro's "catch," the 1980 or 1986 MLB playoffs, Mike Scott's no-hitter, or 35-3 in Buffalo. It's disingenuous for me to rank these as a "Houstonian" because I wasn't one then.

Now, the 1994 and 1995 Rockets? I was in Houston by then. I loved those teams. Great heart, great coach, mostly likable guys, one world-class nutjob in Vernon Maxwell, and the most athletic center in league history at the apex of his game. They won as frontrunners, they won as underdogs. They invented Clutch City, they cemented Double Clutch.

And not surprisingly, their titles were ranked as our city's best sports moment.

I can't speak on the history of Houston sports, but I can speak on the Clutch City Rockets teams. I watched every minute of every game during those playoffs. So if the Houston Press' top ten overall list is the swimming pool, allow me to construct a hot tub off to the side, and give you the best of the best....

In chronological order, the best of the best -- the ten best moments of the Clutch City Rockets' back-to-back titles:

1. Mad Max's 31 point second half -- Game 3 vs Phoenix '94
The second round of the playoffs was off and running, and the Rockets had just finished coughing up a 20-point lead on their home court, and were going to Phoenix down 2-0 in the series. Headlines of "CHOKE CITY" were plastered across newspapers (back when newspapers were hip and cool). They needed a spark, and Vernon Maxwell gave it to them, exploding for 31 points in the second half of Game 3 to help the Rockets cruise to a 118-102 win. The seeds for Clutch City were planted that day.

(jump to 4:30 in the video for the Mad Max explosion)


2. Dream gets the MVP Award before Conference Finals vs Utah
The New England Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl are given credit for doing a team introduction instead of individual players. Hakeem Olajuwon's receiving the MVP award in 1994 before the conference finals was, in a way, a precursor to the Patriots as he dedicated the award to his teammates and coaches and had them all come up and accept the trophy with him, a touching moment that symbolized this "team first" group.

(jump to 7:30 in the video for the award presentation)


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