As we creep closer to the 2022 NBA Finals, today marks the 20th anniversary of a legendary play by one of the most legendary clutch players in history.
Robert Horry’s buzzer-beater to top the Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals was a crucial moment in the Lakers’ run to the 2002 title. L.A. was able to prevail in seven games, but no one will really know how things would have gone had Horry missed that 3-pointer. However, it’s just one moment in a long series of clutch playoff plays from “Big Shot Bob.”
Horry went 7-0 in The Finals, a mark earned with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. With so many deep playoff runs and incredible moments to choose from, Horry’s postseason experience makes him the perfect candidate to break down some of the greatest moments on his Finals Files podcast. His favorite Finals moment, though, may come as a surprise to some.
“I think my favorite Finals moment is personally in 2005 playing with the Spurs,” Horry said. “The second half I had against Detroit and, you know, going out and scoring 21 points in the second half.”
He knocked down five 3-pointers and scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period, including the game-winning 3-pointer with just 5.9 seconds remaining in overtime.
While the 3-pointer was introduced to help spark scoring and add some novelty to the game, Horry believes some teams in today’s NBA rely on it too much.
“I realized they have fallen in love with the three-balls … so much that they don’t penetrate and kick or penetrate and score. I wish I’d been allowed to shoot 10 threes a game, like they are now. I’d average 15 or 16 points (per game).”
In the 2022 playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks lead the NBA in 3-pointers made (267) and attempted (705). But their love of the 3-pointer was their undoing in Game 1 of the West finals when they shot 11-for-48 on 3s in a loss. In Game 4, the Mavs shot 46.5% on 3-pointers and sank 20 of them, but to Horry, relying so much on 3-pointers is folly.
“You gotta beat the Splash Bros with good defense and not [trying to outshoot them],” he said.
In the Eastern Conference finals, defense has been key as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat — the NBA’s top two defensive teams in the 2021-22 regular season — square off. To Horry, Boston may provide an interesting matchup with Golden State if both were to reach The Finals.
“The Celtics are almost identical to Golden State in the sense they got two Splash Brothers,” he said. “You watch [Jaylen] Brown and [Jayson] Tatum and they [are Boston’s version of the Splash Bros.], but bigger.”
Horry is quick to praise the overall skill level of players today compared to those from his playing days. He pointed out ballhandling — usually a skill reserved for smaller guards in his day — are mastered by bigger guards such as Dallas’ Luka Doncic.
“These guys in this era are so much better than when I played, man. They do things that are at a high skill level,” Horry said. “That’s crazy because these guys now they grow up, all they do is eat, drink and breathe basketball … they can handle the rock and are able to get to the hole with ease.”
The remaining quartet of teams chasing the Larry O’Brien trophy, however, all boast star power. Horry has been impressed by the poise and maturity Brown and Tatum have shown throughout the 2022 playoffs.
“You can [get physical with] them and they never retaliate. They never say anything. They just keep giving you buckets,” he said. “Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, those type of guys that you look down like, ‘damn, dude, can you say something, man?’ They’re just flat-out good players.”
On another end of the spectrum, Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Golden State’s Draymond Green have shown they aren’t afraid to ruffle some feathers if it will get their teams going.
“Jimmy Butler is boisterous, he’s gonna get in your face. Certain guys around the league, feed off guys who talk trash and get in guys’ faces. It’s like an energizer,” Horry said.
The long and arduous journey that leads to an NBA title usually takes an unusual physical and mental toll on players. Horry tacked on an extra 244 playoff games to his regular-season load, which meant short summers and quick recovery turnarounds.
“After we three-peated [in L.A.], the following season, we start the season and I was still tired,” Horry said. “You gotta understand, your body goes all the way until May or June, you know? And then all you have is July and August and you’re back training, back in the gym, trying to prepare for the next season because you don’t anybody to, you know, get in front of you.”
He marvels at LeBron James’ postseason accomplishments and the fact that, at age 37, he is still elite despite having reached The Finals in 10 of his 19 seasons. LeBron has gone to great lengths to keep his fitness in top form despite the massive amount of minutes he has played. James failed to make the playoffs this season, his first postseason-less campaign since 2004-05. To Horry, that time away from the playoffs may pay off for L.A. come 2022-23.
“LeBron, what he is able to accomplish with all the time that he spends on the court. That many Finals, how many people got there?” Horry said. “It’s not crazy for him to spend [so much] on his recovery every year, right? He has to because, you know, his body is his money-maker, so you gotta spend money to make money.”
Can't wait to train there this summer!! LET'S GO https://t.co/RznnWpIgPb
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 29, 2022
Golden State is in a similar scenario. They are trying to make their sixth Finals in eight seasons with Curry, Green and Klay Thompson all pursuing their fourth NBA titles. Despite their vast experience, Horry actually favors someone else to win it all.
“You know, the Laker in me doesn’t want to root for Boston, but if they could get healthy … I think Boston might have a good chance of winning it all.”
The Finals Files podcast will continue to run throughout the 2022 playoffs. Horry is thankful for co-host Jabari Davis, who helps lead the podcast’s look back at Finals gone by.
“Jabari, he has that voice he’s been around the basketball world for a long time. He’s a great host and I just work off of him,” Horry said. “This show, I think people who love basketball [can tune in] for some of the inside stuff [from past Finals].”
Robert Horry and Jabari Davis take listeners through the greatest Finals series in NBA history in their Finals File podcast, a production of iHeartMedia and the NBA, which is available on the iHeart app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.The duo makes use of archival audio to help relive some of the most compelling and memorable NBA Finals. Horry’s 7 NBA Championship rings and vast postseason experience make him the perfect candidate to add perspective on such important historical feats.