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"Michael Jordan was like that" - When the Houston Rockets thought they found their own MJ

It was the comparison almost every NBA player couldn't live up to.
December 25, 2003; Houston Rockets guard Cuttino Mobley shoots a free throw against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center

Cuttino Mobley

When Cuttino Mobley hit his stride with the Houston Rockets, the team thought he could become the face of H-Town in the NBA. Mobley was so promising that some of his Rockets teammates felt they had their own Michael Jordan in him.

"He can score on anybody," then-Rockets veteran forward Matt Bullard said of Mobley via Chron. "You can make it in this league if you can do one thing well. I'm living proof of that. But what he does draws the focus of the other team. Michael Jordan was like that. He could score on anybody. That created openings for guys like John Paxson. Cuttino can do that, but he is still learning."

A potential franchise player

The Rockets drafted Mobley out of Rhode Island in 1998, and it didn’t take long before he made his presence felt on the court. In just his second season with the team, “Cat” was already averaging 15.8 points per game.

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In January 2001, Hakeem Olajuwon was declining, Charles Barkley retired, and Scottie Pippen was shipped to Portland. The Toronto Raptors came close to stealing Mobley from the Rockets, but Houston was so sold on “Cat.”

The Rockets were able to keep Mobley by giving him a $30.9 million contract extension. Houston then promoted Mobley to the starting lineup with a vision of making him the franchise’s new superstar. It was at this point when the scoring machine earned comparisons to Jordan.

He’s no MJ, but he learned from MJ

Of course, becoming your team’s version of Michael Jordan was easier said than done. That being said, Mobley didn’t wind up becoming like Mike in Houston. Nevertheless, he still played his best years in the NBA with the Rockets.

And even though Mobley turned out to be far from the player Jordan was, he is still grateful to have learned a lot of things from “His Airness."

“As a rookie, I was in a locker room shared by Barkley, Pippen, and Olajuwon. Charles and Michael Jordan were good friends, and obviously Scottie, so he would come around a lot… And he mentored me. And then when MJ was around, and Charles, they all chipped in. So not are you only on the highest stage, but you’re with four of the top 50 players to ever play the game. I got that awareness at 23 years old and it stuck with me,” Mobley said in 2018.

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