The clutch gene, the killer instinct — even the players themselves struggle to articulate just what it is that allows them the level of focus and concentration necessary to make big-time shots under tremendous pressure. Whatever you want to call it, Robert Horry had it in spades. He was an assassin; he had ice water in his veins; he laughed in the face of pressure. He also turns 43 today.
Still, it’s hard to know just where he belongs in the pantheon of all-time greats. Some call him one of the best clutch shooters the NBA has ever seen, while others dismiss him as one of the most overrated and/or luckiest players in league history; the NBA equivalent of Forrest Gump, someone who just always happened to be in the right place at the right time. Granted, his career has always been something of a paradox. He won seven Championships yet never made an All-Star team. He averaged just seven points for his career, and he could go 47 minutes without scoring a single bucket only to step up and sink the game-winner without batting an eye.
Recently, Horry unwittingly found himself at the center of the Kobe/LeBron debate following Michael Jordan’s now-infamous “five is better than one” interview, an allusion to the — in many ways, problematic — argument that great players are categorically measured and ranked according to the number of championship trophies lining their display case. A chorus of hostile fans was quick to point out that, according this (flawed) logic, Horry would be ranked above just about everybody else except Bill Russell.
With all of that hardware, he’s practically assured a spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame, but until that time, try to set aside your righteous indignation and take a moment to appreciate some of the unforgettable performances he’s given us over the course of his fabled 16-year career. The godfather of late-game heroics turns 43 today, so we’re celebrating with a list of his ten best moments as one of the greatest clutch role players in NBA history.
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10. Horry’s Flagrant Foul on Steve Nash in the 2007 Playoffs
Truly one of Horry’s “greatest hits,” this was one of the rare moments when his alter-ego “Cheap Shot Rob” reared his ugly head. Horry never had a reputation for being a dirty player, so it seems more likely that he’d simply spent a little too much time around Bruce Bowen (aka “Drop Kick”) during his tenure in San Antonio. But make no mistake: Horry’s hip check on Steve Nash would alter the course of history. Horry got slapped with a two-game suspension, but more significantly, the ensuing scuffle would result in one-game suspensions for both Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for Game 5, which the Suns would go onto to lose to put them down 2-3 in the series. Even with Stoudemire and Diaw back in the lineup for Game 6, the Suns were eliminated, effectively closing the book on what many considered their best opportunity for that elusive championship.