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On Wednesday, September 28, the Houston Rockets’ loveable mascot Clutch the Bear was honored by his peers as the Mascot of the Year for the 2004-05 NBA season. Announced at the NBA Mascot Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, the award was the first of its kind in the nine years that the conference has been in existence. The conference is a five-day gathering of all the NBA mascots where ideas and practices are shared, and new material is developed for the upcoming NBA season. Robert Boudwin is the “man behind the mask,” and is now entering his 11th season as Clutch. The University of Delaware graduate has been a team mascot in high school and college, and has become one of the more recognized mascots in professional basketball.

“It feels good. We’re the first mascot to receive this, and it’s cool because it’s acknowledgment from your peers,” Boudwin said. “We’ve gotten other accolades, but this is by far the most special because it’s from the guys that live, breathe, and wake up and think about it, and who know the business the best. It’s quite an honor.”

There are actually two trophies that are awarded, yet only one official one. The first trophy is a glass basketball replica trophy which Boudwin keeps at his own home. The second one is similar to the NHL’s Stanley Cup, a large gold basketball trophy with name and year inscribed on the base which will remain at Toyota Center until next year’s conference when it is awarded to the 2006 winner.

Clutch has always been a dominant presence among the youth of Houston. His ability to liven up Houston with his love and hilarious antics has been a staple in the Houston sports community.

Clutch has always been a dominant presence among the youth of Houston.“My goals are to be loveable and huggable with the children,” Boudwin said. “I’m there to inspire the home court advantage, to be a cheerleader for our team, and to actually try and influence the outcome of a game and help us win. I’m there for comic relief and to make people laugh, and to give them a break from the intense, physical athletic competition. Outside of games, I’m there to help market our team and spread our brand and image of the Rockets. I also help the youth make a lot of future-oriented decisions with a lot of the school shows that we do.”

Being a team mascot has been Boudwin’s love and focus for the past 15 years. His energy and spirit have been vital to maintaining a balanced poise for Houston and the Rockets. As is the case with anyone who’s the best at what they do, Boudwin has even more surprises up his sleeve for Rockets fans this season.

“We always have some new material,” Boudwin said. “We’re always trying to find the balance between innovative new material and some fan-favorite traditions and stuff. There are some favorites that you’re gonna see that have been there year after year that fans just love, and then there’s always going to be some new and innovative stuff. I’m excited for the season to start. I can’t wait.”

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