Perhaps the most famous Twin Towers in NBA history played for the Houston Rockets in the 1980s, when 7-footer Hakeem Olajuwon paired with 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson on the Rockets’ front line. Both were All-Stars, and in 1986 they led Houston to the NBA Finals.
The setting was Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Rockets.The score was tied with one second left on the clock and it looked like a Celtics-Lakers showdown in the 1986 NBA Finals was inevitable. However, the Houston Rockets’ Ralph Sampson clearly had other ideas. Sampson caught an inbounds pass and bounced in a turnaround jumper to beat the Lakers 114-112 in The Forum.
Houston came into the series as a distinct underdog to a Laker team led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Yet, Los Angeles was able to take only one game from the surprising Rockets. The loss kept the defending champion Lakers, who had won 62 games during the regular season, out of the NBA Finals for the only time in a span of eight years from 1982 through 1989.
Sampson finished with 29 points (10-15 fg) and 5 rebounds and for the Lakers, Kareem had 26 points and 13 rebounds.With the win, the Rockets brought an end to the Lakers’ four-year dominance of the Western Conference. But Houston was no match for the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, bowing in six games.
Sampson carved his place in Rockets and NBA history with this shot. He is a Hall-of-Famer, had some bad luck with injuries and still managed to etch a successful NBA career by most standards. Houston fans are proud to remember his time with the club.