Ray Patterson was general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets from 1972 to 1990. He was named NBA in 1977, and his Rockets appeared in the NBA in 1981 and 1986. Among his most notable player acquisitions were Ralph Sampson in 1983 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984. He left the Rockets in 1990 with hopes of becoming co-owner of an NHL team in Houston, and was succeed by his son, Steve Patterson (sports executive). Ray Patterson's NHL dreams never materialized, but he helped found an International Hockey League (1945-2001) franchise, the Houston Aeros, in 1994.

During the 1940s, Patterson played professional basketball for the Flint Dow A.C.'s of the National Basketball League (United States).