It was a risky ice breaker but it was the truth and something I wanted to get off my chest for over a decade. During my first lunch with Big Shot Bob, the first thing I said when I sat down was, “In 1995, do you know who were the two people I hated the most?”
He casually replied, “Me and who else?”
I laughed and said, “Nick Anderson!”
He also laughed because he got the joke and he’s the one that got the championship that year after the Houston Rockets swept my hometown Orlando Magic.
The reason for the hate is because of Nick Anderson’s missed free throws at the end of regulation in Game 1… and the insane NBA record-setting play of Robert Horry throughout the entire series. His play was so insane, he was actually second to Hakeem in Finals MVP votes — not Clyde Drexler. I even had one person in the Rockets organization tell me the NBA considered giving Horry the Finals MVP but didn’t because of NBC.
People who didn’t watch the series, in the 90s, have this belief that Hakeem schooled Shaq like Hakeem did the Admiral that season. Not true at all. Shaq more than held his own against the Dream, with near triple-doubles and a couple of facials against his idol. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take anything away from Hakeem or his 33 points per game in the Finals but the two giants basically canceled each other out and the series was determined by the role players.
Remember Kenny Smith’s shot to put Game 1 into OT? How about Clyde Drexler abusing Dennis Scott for 4 games or Sam Cassell coming off the bench and lighting up the Magic like he was an All-Star? Then there’s Robert Horry, setting multiple finals records with steals (7) and 3-pointers and a Finals average of 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 4 steals!
So what fueled Horry so much in the Finals?
Before the series, NBC did a report card comparison of the two teams and gave Horace Grant an “A” rating and Horry a “C.” That pissed off Horry and the rest is history as Clutch City won their 2nd of back-to-back championships during Michael Jordan’s “vacation.” Damn, and all of this would have been different if Sean Elliot’s kidneys were holding up in 1994. Luckily for Horry and the Rockets, they didn’t.
“I do think about the trade every day, and it helps me. I got traded for not shooting. I don’t have that problem now. The next time they trade me it’ll be because I shot the ball too much.”
In Robert “box of chocolate” Horry’s last season with the Rockets, he would routinely show off his all-around game and provide the team with whatever they were missing that night. On one night, he had a 40-point, 9-assist game with 8 3-pointers; A few nights later, he had a game with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks; He barley missed a triple-double a couple of times that season by 1 or 2 rebounds or assists; He also had 5+ steals or blocks in another game.
Another aspect of his game people might not remember from his Rockets’ days was his athleticism, which made him and his facials, windmills and reverse alley-oops a regular guest on Inside Stuff’s Jam Session and ESPN’s Plays of the week. Those memories don’t help the argument about how good he was back then but does support the fact that most people who didn’t watch Horry play in the early to mid-90s have no idea how exceptional his game was.
“Robert Horry, the stat sheet doesn’t do any justice for what he gave us,” Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. “He did a lot of other things, and was a big factor for us.”
The next year the Rockets made a blockbuster trade to get Charles Barkley a ring by becoming The Big Bucket List 3 of the 90s. Horry and Sam Cassell were shipped to Phoenix, where Horry did very little…with the exception of hitting maybe the most important shot of his career: He threw a towel at coach Danny Ainge, hitting him in the face and next thing you know he was heading to the Lakers where a rookie Kobe Bryant and fresh from the Magic Shaquille O’Neal were playing.
You probably know the rest of the story: Horry hits a 3. Blazers crying. Horry hits a 3. Vlade Divac calls it luck. Horry hits more clutch shots. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Then he heads back to Texas and joins the Lakers rival, San Antonio Spurs. It was in San Antonio where he had this insane 4th quarter (and dunk on Rip Hamilton) against the Pistons in GM5 of the NBA Finals…
The performance was so insane, Bill Simmons said it, “ranks alongside MJ’s final Bulls game, Frazier’s GM7 in 1970 and every other mega-clutch Finals performance.”
For the past couple of years, Horry has been working with the Lakers TV broadcast and as an ambassador of the NBA, traveling around the world and spreading the message of David Stern and Adam Silver.
He’s also been involved with a few businesses in Houston I’ve been lucky to work with him on, including a marketing company, gym, restaurant, The Robert Horry Sports Rehab Center and Ashlyn Horry Foundation.
I love the guy now as much as I hated him in 1995 and honestly believe the “first stretch four” deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and not just the Alabama Sports of Hall of Fame. Yes, his career stats will probably be the worst in the hall, but he has more playoff records than most and more rings than everybody that wasn’t a part of Russell’s Celtics.
If your criteria for getting into the HOF is based on a player’s value on championship teams and memorable moments when the game counts then Horry should be on your first ballot. If your criteria is based mainly on boxscores and all-star appearances then there’s a long list of ringless individuals for you to consider. Individuals who coaching greats like Rudy T, Phil Jackson and Coach Pop wouldn’t take over the man with the following resume.
- 7 championships
- 1 of 3 players to win consecutive championships with 2 teams
- 1 of 2 players to win on 3 different teams
- Most 3 pointers all-time in the NBA Finals with 56
- Most 3pt field goals made without a miss in the playoffs (7)
- 7 steals (NBA Finals record) in GM2 of the 1995 Finals
- 1st player to have 100 steals, 100 blocks and 100 threes in 1 season
- 9th all-time in playoffs 3pt Field Goals made
- Top 15 in steals and blocks in playoffs
- Scored 21 points in 4th/OT in GM5 of the 2005 NBA Finals
And if all that still isn’t enough. Earlier this year, I got to hang out with Hakeem and Horry at a Gatorade event in H-Town and before the two were introduced to the crowd, Hakeem put his hands on Horry’s back and said, “You know you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.” I couldn’t hear exactly what Horry said back but I could tell from his expression he was saying it’s not going to happen.
He’s probably right and that makes me angrier now then watching Nick Anderson brick four straight free-throws in 1995.
Notable playoff clutch shots
- June 11, 1995, NBA Finals, Game 3, Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets
With the Rockets up 101-100 with 20 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, Hakeem Olajuwon kicked it out to Horry, who hit a 3 over Orlando’s Horace Grant to give Houston a 104-100 lead with 14.1 seconds left. It led them to a 106-103 win and a 3-0 series lead. Houston won Game 4 to complete the sweep and win back-to-back NBA titles.
Horry hit all 7 of his 3-point shots. It wasn’t enough as the Lakers lost 103-101 and the series 4-1.
- June 10, 2001, NBA Finals, Game 3, Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers
With the series tied at 1, the Sixers were down 89-88 with under a minute and with Shaquille O’Neal on the bench having fouled out for the Lakers. Brian Shaw found Horry in the corner. He hit the 3 with 47.1 seconds left to give the Lakers a 4-point lead. Horry, who had been a 44% free throw shooter in the playoffs to that point, also made 4 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. The Sixers never recovered.
- April 28, 2002, Western Conference First Round, Game 3, Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers
- May 26, 2002, Western Conference Finals, Game 4, Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers
The Kings led 99-97 with 11.8 seconds left. After Kobe Bryant attempted a game-tying shot and missed, Shaquille O’Neal attempted a putback. When that missed, Vlade Divac knocked the ball away to try to run out the clock. However, it came right to Horry, who hit the game-winning 3 at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 100-99 victory and tie the series at 2 going back to Sacramento for Game 5. L.A. eventually beat the Kings in 7 and went on to win their 3rd straight NBA championship against the New Jersey Nets.
Horry inbounded to Manu Ginóbili, who was cornered by two Pistons defenders. Ginóbili passed it back to Horry on the left wing, who then hit a 3 with 5.9 seconds left to give the Spurs a 96-95 victory and a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6. Horry scored 21 points combined, in the fourth quarter and OT to carry the struggling Spurs.
- April 30, 2007, Western Conference First Round, Game 4, San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets
The Spurs led by one with 30 seconds left when Horry hit a game-securing 3 from the right corner over the outstretched hands of Marcus Camby, handing the Spurs their fifth straight playoff victory in Denver.