Yesterday I was arguing with one of my friends, Yash, a diehard Lakers fan about who was the player of the decade. He was saying Kobe and I was arguing for Duncan. As we kept debating, Yash came to the conclusion that there was only one player who could truly lay claim to the player of the decade; Robert Horry.
Has there been a player who's career would be a mere sidenote in NBA history if not for his knack for hitting championship winning shots for his team season after season? Just take a look at his career averages of 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Even in the playoffs his numbers don't give you any indication of the impact he had with averages of 7.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Luckily for Horry, his career is not evaluated strictly by his numbers. Horry could go through entire seasons making no significant contributions to his team, but when the playoffs came around and somebody needed to rise to the occasion, Big Shot Rob had the ability to answer the call. Would Kobe or Duncan have as many rings as they do without Horry's presence on their championship teams? Absolutely not.
2002 Western Conference Finals Game 4. The Lakers were down 99-97 against the Sacramento Kings and with time expiring Vlade Divac makes a heady play in tipping out the ball after missed layups by both Kobe and Shaq. Unfortunately for him Robert Horry was standing there, waiting to play the hero.
Instead of 3-1 down heading back to Sacramento the Lakers go back with the series tied at 2-2. With the help of the referees in Game 6 and the Kings' collective choke job in game 7 the Lakers went on to finish their three-peat and we got to watch Mark Madsen dance for the last time.
Game 5 NBA Finals 2005. The Spurs were involved in a tight, back and forth contest with the Pistons through three quarters. Enter Robert Horry. With the series hanging in the balance and Duncan unable to make free throws, Horry stepped up, this time not just for one shot, but for an entire quarter. Horry poured in 21 in the fourth quarter including the game winning three over Rasheed Wallace with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game to give the Spurs a 96-95 victory in Detroit and 3-2 series lead.
Horry has hit more big shots than I can even remember. A game changing three with under a minute left against Philadelphia in the 2001 NBA Finals to put the Lakers up 3-1. In a series against the Suns in 2007, the Spurs lost game 4 tying the series up at 2-2 heading back to Phoenix. In the final minute Horry hip checked Steve Nash causing the Suns bench to erupt and Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for game 5. The Spurs won game 5 and clinched the series in game 6 at home.
Robert Horry was part of seven championship teams, more than Jordan, Magic, Bird, Hakeem, Shaq, Kobe, Duncan and Abdul-Jabbar among many others. Without you Phil Jackson might still be chasing Red Auerback and who knows how many rings Kobe and Duncan would have. Here's to you Rob. You showed up to play once a game every season, but luckily for you that's all anybody is going remember.