Robert Horry turns 44 years-old today. We take a look back at two of his most memorable clutch performances.
In 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings faced off in the Western Conference Finals. Horry and the Lakers were looking for their third straight title, while the Chris Webber-led Kings were trying to get over the hump and make it to the Finals.
By Game 4, it appeared a changing of the guard in the West was upon us. The Kings were up 2-1 in the series, and stormed out to a 24-point first half lead against the Lakers in Game 4 at Staples Center. With a win, Sacramento would go up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, with two of the potential three remaining games at home. It would be an impossible hole for a team to climb out of, even this Lakers squad led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
In the second half, the Lakers slowly climbed back into the game. On the final possession, the Lakers still trailed by two. After failed shot attempts by Shaq and Kobe, Kings center Vlade Divac batted the ball out in what looked like the final sequence of the game. Except that Horry was standing right there at the top of the key, caught the loose ball, and in one continuous motion, hit a three-pointer to win the game at the buzzer:
In an oral history of the series earlier this year with Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams, Horry and coach Phil Jackson spoke about that sequence:
Horry: I was designing to be out there because I’m always going to go for the 3 to win. I don’t like that tie B.S. and going to overtime.
Phil Jackson: He always seemed to gravitate to the 3-point line in situations like that at the end of the game. We actually had him gravitate to those spots, corners and the top. There he was. It was a shot that really saved that series. We needed that burst of energy for our team.
Horry: The ball just happened to get to me perfect.
The Lakers would go on to win the series in seven games and sweep the New Jersey Nets to complete the three-peat. Meanwhile, the Kings would never come that close to making the Finals again. Horry’s shot helped vault Shaq and Kobe into the all-time historical greats by adding a three-peat to their resume, and also made sure Webber and the Kings would become one of the best teams that never won a championship.
Horry was not done with playoff heroics, either. In Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals, Horry – who was now a member of the San Antonio Spurs – put together one of his best overall individual performances in the playoffs against the Detroit Pistons. Horry scored 21 points, and was five for six from downtown, including a three-pointer late in overtime to send the Spurs to a victory and a 3-2 series lead:
The Spurs would win the series in seven games and prevent the Pistons from repeating as champions.
Beyond the seven championships he won and countless clutch shots he made throughout his career, the most incredible thing about Horry’s accomplishments is just how much his shots altered the trajectory of so many players and teams involved in those games. Without him, we may remember Shaq, Kobe and Tim Duncan just a bit differently. And we would definitely remember the Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons much more favorably. It’s amazing just how much of an impact he’s had on the history of the game.
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