The NBA and its Players Association announced last week that the league-wide No. 6 honoring the late Bill Russell will be permanently retired. Players actively wearing his iconic numeral (25 last season) are treated as grandfathers. That tally includes current Houston Rocket Kenyon Martin Jr., who will be entering his third NBA season.
Martin will be the 15th and final player to wear the number 6 in Rockets franchise history. A majority of the names who said this are perhaps better known for their accomplishments elsewhere, but it’s worth looking back at those who continued Russell’s numerical history in the annals of Houston history…
Tom Henderson (1980-83)
Henderson was part of the infamous 1972 United States Olympic basketball team, whose loss in the gold medal game in Germany remains controversial to this day.
The Hawaii graduate shrugged off the controversy and embarked on a ten-year NBA career that ended with four seasons in Houston. He was a reliable source of production, notably missing two assists from a double-double in the Game 7 Conference semifinal win over San Antonio. Elsewhere, Henderson nearly broke one of the most impenetrable NBA records in 1976-77 when he played in 87 games between Atlanta and Washington (with the latter winning the title in 1978).
Walter Berry (1989)
Before Paul Pierce arrived, the truth about the nickname “The Truth” is that it used to belong to Berry, a St. John’s grad who turned a respectable NBA career (averaging 14.1 points over three seasons) into a lucrative international Curriculum vitae transformed and mostly set in Greece in the 1990s and into the new century.
Berry’s final NBA competitions were with the Rockets after he was released by the New Jersey Nets. He averaged 8.8 points in 40 Houston games (down from 14) and later took part in the Rockets’ ill-fated four-game playoff appearance against Seattle.
Avery Johnson (1991-92)
On the court, the former Alabama head coach is perhaps best known for his efforts with another Texas basketball team. But one of Johnson’s many stops before playing NBA Finals hero in San Antonio was a 49-game stint in Houston.
In fact, the Spurs cut Johnson before he played the rest of the year with the Rockets on 10-day contracts. Perhaps his most notable performance in red was a 22-point save from the bench in a January 1992 win against Minnesota. Johnson’s No. 6 has already been retired in Texas, the honor bestowed upon the aforementioned Spurs following his pivotal role in their first championship in 1999.
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Bonzi Fountain (2006-08)
Wells was at the end of a strong NBA career when he signed with the Rockets for a bargain price in 2006.
His time at Houston was perhaps best defined by his clashes with then-head coach Jeff Van Gundy, but he managed to be brilliant on occasion before moving to New Orleans in February 2008. The following season under the supervision of Rick Adelman, Wells had six double-doubles including 14 points and 15 rebounds by the age of 31 against future champion San Antonio Spurs in November 2007.
Earl Boykins (2012)
The second shortest player in NBA history (5ft 5in), Boykins defied all odds and launched a 13-year career that ended in Houston.
While Boykins departed with relatively little fanfare, he managed one final double-digit performance before bowing out and recording 10 points and five assists in a win against Sacramento in March 2012. Boykins has remained at Texas Hoops and currently serves as an assistant coach with the UTEP men’s program.
Terence Jones (2012-16)
Injuries prevented Jones, the Rockets’ first-round pick in 2012, from making a major impact in the NBA. He managed some fun moments in red before staying mostly on the international circuits (currently playing in Puerto Rico) since his last NBA action in Houston in 2019 (when he wore the No. 9).
Notably, Jones became the second youngest Rocket to score at least 30 points in a single game during the 2013–14 season, behind only Hakeem Olajuwon. He also earned a postseason double-double in the first leg of the 2014 edition by recording 12 points and 13 rebounds in a Game 1 loss to Portland.