Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Mr. Clutch just zeros in on the win

AP , SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

Robert Horry knows he probably could have been a better player during the first 47 minutes of most games in his NBA career. He could have scored more points, earned more accolades, and made more money.

But in the final minute, few have ever been better -- particularly in the playoffs, where the Detroit Pistons are the latest team to dread seeing the ball in Horry's hands late in a close game.

One of the best clutch shooters in league history is closing in on several career playoff superlatives as he opens his sixth NBA Finals, this time with the San Antonio Spurs. The lanky forward is hoping to add a sixth championship ring to his fistful of jewelry, joining the elite club occupied by Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

By now, every serious basketball fan knows to watch Big Shot Bob when a playoff game gets tight. No matter where he goes or how much he plays, Horry seems to find himself deep in the postseason: He has reached the playoffs in all 13 of his NBA seasons, and he has built a singular reputation for his remarkable ability to shine when the spotlight is hottest.

This is Horry's gift, and his legacy -- and even though he expected more from his career, he can't complain.

"A lot of the guys in this series have been All-Stars and they've won a lot of individual awards, but for me, that never happened," Horry said. "That's never going to happen. I'm never going to be in the Hall of Fame. I've just been grateful to be in these situations."

Horry could join John Salley as the only players in NBA history to win championships with three different teams -- and only six players have ever won more than six titles, all with the Boston Celtics during the Bill Russell era of the 1960s.

Not many players who average fewer than eight points per game over their careers are as famous and feared as Horry -- and not many have had their favorite childhood park named after them, as he recently did in his Alabama hometown of Andalusia.

"The funny thing about it is people think I'm 38 years old," said Horry, who's 34. "I guess I've been in the playoffs so many times and we've gone a long time, so people think, `Oh, that guy's been around forever.' I'm really not old."

Coming off the bench in each of the Spurs' 16 playoff games this season, he has hit 23 3-pointers and averaged 8.8 points per game, fourth on the club.

He hit his latest important shot in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, making a key 3-pointer in the Spurs' win over the Phoenix Suns.

Entering this series, Horry had made 222 3-pointers in the playoffs, second in NBA history to Reggie Miller's 320 -- and Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday was expected to be his 192nd postseason appearance, one behind Karl Malone and Danny Ainge for third-most in league history. With four 3-pointers against Detroit, Horry could tie Jordan's record for the final playoff round.

Horry also believes he has taken more wide-open 3-pointers than any player in finals history, thanks to the good fortune of going into the round with talented, defense-distracting teammates such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in Houston (1994-1995); Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles (2000-2002); and now, Tim Duncan.

"I've played with some great players," Horry said. "I've played with, like, six Hall of Famers. I've been in the right place at the right time. I feel bad for those guys like [Charles] Barkley, [Patrick] Ewing. They can always say, `I'm a Hall of Famer.' I'm never going to be able to say that. I'll just say, 'Hey, I won some championships.'"

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