During Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night, the Toronto Raptors will be seeking to sink the big shot to win their first league championship.
Former Alabama standout Robert Horry knows a lot about both big shots and NBA championships.
Horry played for seven NBA title teams — the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995, Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002 and San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and 2007.
Horry played for more NBA championship teams than any other player who wasn’t part of the Boston Celtics’ dynasty led by Bill Russell. The Celtics center earned 11 championship rings from 1957 through 1969, and four of his teammates earned at least eight. Another teammate, John Havlicek, won six championships with Russell and played for NBA title teams again 1974 and 1976.
When Horry retired 11 years ago, he held the NBA record for most playoff games with 244, which still is third on the league’s all-time list. During those games, he built a reputation for clutch shooting that earned him the nickname of “Big Shot Bob.”
Horry told Yahoo Sports Canada recently that his ability to convert in the clutch came from a lesson learned at Andalusia High School. At Andalusia, Horry earned All-State honors three times and received the Naismith High School Player of the Year Award for Alabama in 1988.
“We were playing in my high school’s Christmas tournament,” Horry said. “We were up, and we actually lost our Christmas tournament because I missed shots at the free-throw line, and to see how disappointed my teammates were after that shot — here I am, the star player expected to get them to the mountaintop and we failed — and I think after that moment I never wanted to see my teammates down like that, so it just put something inside of me where I wanted to go out and make shots and win games, just play hard — not for me, but for my teammates.
“To be honest with you, it was cockiness because I knew I was going to make it. Here I am, number-one player in the state of Alabama and it’s a free throw. It’s free, and I missed it, and I realized you can’t go in cocky — you got to go in there with confidence.”
After Andalusia, Horry played four seasons at Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide win three SEC tournament title and reach the Round of 16 in two NCAA tournaments.
Horry entered the NBA as the 11th player picked in the 1992 draft. His memorable baskets include:
· The game-winning jump shot with 6.5 seconds remaining in the Rockets’ 94-93 victory over the Spurs in Game 1 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals.
· A 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left to give the Rockets a 104-100 lead over the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of the 1995 NBA Finals. Houston won 106-103 as part of its sweep of Orlando.
· A 3-pointer with 47.1 seconds left and the Lakers leading by one against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of the 2001 NBA Finals. Horry also made four free throws in the final minute as Los Angeles won 96-91 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
· A 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to complete the Lakers’ first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2002 playoffs with a 92-91 victory.
· A 3-pointer as time expired in Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals to lift the Lakers to a 100-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Los Angeles’ victory tied the series 2-2, and the Lakers won in seven games before sweeping the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals.
· A 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds remaining in overtime in Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals. The shot gave the Spurs a 96-95 victory and a 3-2 series lead over the Detroit Pistons.
“If you’re in big-time situations all the time — like for me, high school was big-time situations, college big-time situations — you adapt,” Horry said. “You learn how to visualize what you want to accomplish, and I learned that from a guy in college who said visualization is a vital key to whatever you do, and it’s almost like saying: If you can see it, you can achieve it.
“For me, it was you want to visualize making shots, visualize the plays, visualize how you’re stopping guys, and that kind of calms you down mentally and puts you in a situation where you can succeed, so that was just me. I put myself in situations to succeed because I had already visualized that night.”
The Warriors and Raptors square off at 8 p.m. CDT Monday with Toronto holding a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. ABC will televise the game.