It’s hard to envision 1994 NBA champions Houston Rockets without their flamboyant shooting guard, 6’4” Vernon Maxwell.
“He’s right there with Hakeem as one of the main reasons we’ve had such a great season, and it’s like nobody outside of our team notices it.”Rudy Tomjanovich, Sports Illustrated, May 30th, 1994
SOURCE: Sports Illustrated, May 30th, 1994
The emotional player who never met a shot he didn’t like flourished from the very moment he was sold to the Rockets by the Spurs for $50,000 on February 21st, 1990.
At the time, the Rockets featured the most dominant frontcourt duet of that era in superstar center Hakeem Olajuwon and blue-collar power forward Otis Thorpe. Their unmatched inside presence created numerous perimeter opportunities for Maxwell, always eager to launch a triple.
Because of them, Maxwell became one of the league leaders in three-point attempts over the first half of the 1990s. In his first full season with the Rockets, 1990-91, Maxwell exploded to 510 three-point attempts (#2 in the league), while in his five and a half seasons with the Rockets (from 1990-91 – 1994-95) he compiled 2,241 three-point attempts, an almost unbelievable number for that era!
With the 1993-94 Rockets squad making a strong championship effort in the post-Jordan era, Maxwell played his most impressive game of the regular season on December 21st, 1993, in the thrilling encounter with his ex-team, the San Antonio Spurs, which also had some championship plans of their own.
Guarded by the Spurs big guards 6’7” Willie Anderson and 6’7” Lloyd Daniels, Maxwell went off for a season-high 35 points on 14-24 shooting from the floor, to go along with 6 assists, 3 boards, and 3 steals!
Fully exploiting the three-point arc set at 22 feet for 1994-95 season, something he wasn’t allowed back when he was with the Spurs coached by Larry Brown, Maxwell hit 5-12 shot from the downtown.
Moreover, with the result tied at 88-88, Maxwell provided his usual flair for dramatics and late-game heroics by scoring a game-winning basket of an off-balance jumper, for the Rockets 90-88 away win!
Maxwell nearly matched this performance in the 1994 NBA play-offs when he torched the contending Phoenix Suns in the game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals with 34 points on 14-24 shooting from the field and 4-7 shooting from behind the three-point arc.
Even more importantly for the Rockets championship hopes it was exactly Maxwell who directed the disappearance of the Suns starting shooting guard Dan Majerle over the last four games of that series – Thunder Dan averaged only 4 points while shooting mere 18% from the field during that stretch!
The Rockets eventually overcame the Suns, won the Western Conference finals with the Jazz by 4-1, and then the NBA finals vs. the New York Knicks by 4-3, thus winning their first NBA championship title ever.