Robert Horry was never a superstar, he did not even make it into the All-Star Game. Still, he had legendary status during his playing time – because in important moments no one was cooler than he was. That’s another reason why almost no player has more NBA rings than Big Shot Rob. Robert Horry turns 48 today.
It’s June 19, 2005. NBA Finals, with 2-2 between the Spurs and the reigning champion, the Pistons. After San Antonio won the first two games, Detroit won two consecutive games, and they were long in game 5 as the better team. The main reason is that Tim Duncan experiences a game to forget and with the great defense of the two Wallace’s (Rasheed and Ben), he is doing extremely bad. The good performance of Manu Ginobili alone will not be enough; somebody has to show up, take responsibility, otherwise, the game is over, otherwise, the championship is in danger.
This somebody is Robert Keith Horry. In a way, that comes as a surprise: Horry does not make a single point in the first half. In four games in the series, the 34-year-old has set up exactly 30 points, throughout the season not a single game with at least 20 points. In a way, it does not surprise that he has saved his best game of the season for the biggest possible stage. He is Robert Horry after all. Throughout his career, he has delivered countless crucial plays, he took important shots and given his team exactly what it needed in moments of great need. The nickname “Big Shot Rob” comes not by chance, as well as the five championships, which he has already collected at this time with the Rockets and the Lakers.
The game-winner for the Lakers in Game 3 of the first-round series against Portland in 2002. The triple at the end of Game 3 of the ’95 Finals for Houston. The buzzer-beater in the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Kings. Horry was never the star of his team, he never took the most shots. Yet he was involved in more legendary moments than almost anyone else. If he had stopped in 2003, after his time with the Lakers ended in spite of three championships in a row, he would have been a certain legend already.
Looking back at the game 5 against Pistons. At the end of the third quarter, he made a three-point shot, and that was his first successful shot of the game, followed by the big Horry show in the last quarter. He put three triples on top of that, as well as an incredible lefty-dunk about Rip Hamilton that hardly anyone would have expected. He scored 13 points in total, but it was not enough – not yet. Because San Antonio could not settle, only Duncan missed in the last minute three free throws and the last shot in regulation – a tip-in, which he had previously hit probably 600 times in series. Good that Horry still had some arrows in his quiver.
Again nothing happened, as for almost three minutes the Spurs did not manage a single point, again the season was on the verge. And again, Horry made sure the Spurs got away with a win. 1:25 minutes till the end of the game. Big Shot Rob shortened the gap to 2 points. Nearly 80 seconds later, he stood in the corner and was released by Sheed criminally – a sensationally stupid decision.
Horry’s teammate Brent Barry once recalled, “Robert could not believe it, he grinned in disbelief before the shot, probably thinking, “Seriously, you’re leaving ME?”. Ginobili found him, Horry pulled the trigger – and the Spurs won the game.
Ultimately, Horry made 21 of the last 35 Spurs points, including the most important shots in the fourth quarter and in overtime. Duncan did not want to let him go after the game – because in view of his 7 missed free throws and the misplaced tip-in, he would probably be the most criticized. Accordingly, Duncan was grateful when the Spurs actually won their third championship after seven games – the sixth for Horry. “That was probably the best performance I’ve ever experienced.”, Timmy said later about Horry in Game 5 before he started making fun of his career.
“That’s Robert, he just hangs around all season, he does not care,” Duncan said at the post-game press conference. “But then you put him in the fourth quarter of an important game and he says, “Okay, time to play!” He can just make this switch and he’s only interested in the game if it’s important.”
Images associated with Horry are those of victory cigars, an icy face, legendary shots, and seven championship rings. No one who did not run for Bill Russel’s Celtics in the 1960s has more than he does.