When I met Robert Horry, the very first thing I said was, “Do you know who are the two people I hated the most in mid 90s?” He replied, “Me and who else?” I said “Nick fucking Anderson.” That got a big laugh out of Big Shot Rob of the 95 NBA championship team.
The reason why I hated the two so much is because I was an Orlando Magic fanatic in the mid 90s and those are the two players that broke my heart the hardest during the 95 NBA Finals between the Magic and Clutch City Rockets.
The scene of the crime was Game 1, where the Orlando Magic blew a 20-point lead but still had a three-point lead with 10.5 seconds on the clock and Nick Anderson at the free throw line. All he had to do was hit one of two. He missed the first. He missed the second but was lucky enough to get the offensive board and go back to the charity stripe for two more shots at redemption. He ended up missing both of those. That divine intervention gave the Rockets a chance and Kenny Smith came through with another three pointer to put the game into OT.
In the extra session, it was a back and forth affair that ended with a game winning tip-in by Hakeem Olajuwon. The demoralized Magic would lose the next three games.
The loss was also the beginning of the end.
Shaq would miss the majority of the next season with an injury, which allowed Penny Hardaway to become second to only Michael Jordan in NBA popularity. As fate would have it, it would be Jordan’s Bulls — looking for revenge after getting eliminated by the Magic the year before — that knocked off the Magic in the playoffs that year. The end of the season also meant the end of the Batman and Robin team in Orlando. Shaq would leave Orlando to join his new Robin in LA, while the Magic franchise struggled to recover. No player struggled to recover more from that game than Nick Anderson.
“It affected the way I played,” he said. “It affected the way I lived. It played in my head like a recorder – over and over again.”
Nick “The Brick” Anderson went from a 74 percent free throw shooter to a 40 percent free throw shooter. He played a few more mediocre years, including a very forgettable stint with the Kings and Grizzlies.
Nick is now back with the Magic organization and also serves as a commentator for Fox Sports Florida. I’m sure he was feeling some pain watching Game 6 of the Finals last night, seeing the Spurs clank free throw after free throw near the end of regulation that would have sealed the NBA championship for them. Now the demoralized Spurs are facing a confident Miami Heat team in a Game 7 on their home court and feeling the pain that Nick Anderson and the Magic felt almost two decades ago. I just hope Kawhi Leonard doesn’t lose his confidence the way Nick Anderson lost his.