As a prep for next week’s discussion about who the greatest athlete of the last 20 years is, I wanted to share about one of my favorite athletes (and who I think is a great athlete although many disagree) of all time. Let’s rewind to a little over 6 years ago.
Game 4 of the 2002 Conference Finals. Lakers vs. Kings, Kings leading by 2 with less than 10 seconds to go. If you are a Kings fan, there is only one person on the other team you don’t want shooting the last shot. It’s not the future MVP Kobe. It’s not even the unstoppable monster in the paint known as Shaq. Not Fisher nor George nor Rick Fox (who would want Rick Fox shooting the last shot of the game anyways? Maybe if you’re throwing the season away for high hopes in the lottery…). As the ball gets tipped out after Kobe and Shaq both miss their chance to be the hero, it takes a long hop right into the hands of the 6’10” forward sitting at the top of the key. He releases the ball with a less than perfect form from behind the arc and at that moment, time slows down. The ball seems to be slowed down by the gaze of 19,000 pairs of eyes, fixated on the orange sphere that flies through the air at one end of the Staples Center. As the ball swishes through the net, Robert Horry becomes an instant legend.
This shot is just one of many that he will eventually have in his career. His ability to hit these types of shots and bring this intangible quality to whatever team he is playing for has allowed him to win 7 championship rings (1 more than Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar and Cousy, and the only player not part of the 1960’s Celtics to win that many rings) and make the playoffs every year of his 16 season career. He also holds the record for most playoff games played (surpassing Abdul-Jabbar in the 2008 playoffs), the most 3 pointers made in NBA Finals games (53, Jordan is 2nd with 42), and the most 3 pointers in a playoff game without missing (7 against the Utah Jazz in 1997). His season averages of 7.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 2.2 apg don’t scream Hall of Fame (HOF), but you cannot deny his ability to make other teams squirm with anxiety whenever he takes the court in a playoff game.
He is the epitome of clutch. When a game comes down to the final seconds, his blood turns into ice and he shoots every shot with a calm that most athletes could never have.
So is he HOF material? Is it really coincidence that he won 7 championships with 3 different teams? Did he just get lucky? I’m not saying that Robert Horry was THE reason why those teams won the championship, but I believe you cannot call it a coincidence either. The 1960s Celtics were just a dominant team that was playing in an era where no one was able to challenge them. To win that many championships in the league today while changing teams, where the draft and talent levels has leveled the playing field, is an incredible feat. I’m not arguing that he should be in the HOF next to Jordan, Russell and Chamberlain when he retires, but I think they should make a new wing for players like Horry. For admission into that part of the HOF, you must meet the following criteria:
1) Win at least 3 championships on 2 different teams (if you win 3 on one team or 2 on two teams, you’re not in yet)
2) Hit at least 3 game winning or game changing shots (not an exact science, but you’ll be able to tell that kind of shot by the number of hits on youtube)
3) Make it to the playoffs at least half of the season in your career (self-explanatory)
This would allow players like Posey or Fisher to make it to the hall of fame and become NBA legends, even though their regular season achievements may not warrant it. Although you need a good regular season to make the playoffs, postseason play separates the men from the boys. The people who have this extra gear in May and June deserve to be credited with their ability to step up in the playoffs.
My final point has to be that almost no other athlete has a song written strictly for him/her. Below is one of my favorite videos about Horry that shows the infamous shot I mentioned above as well as other highlights of his career.
I wasn’t sure what to write about for this blog entry, but once again, as always, Robert Horry saved the day (just watch the video and you’ll get it).
P.S. If they ever make a movie about his career, they HAVE to use Will Smith…