Not all professional athletes can handle pressure.
Despite the fact that they’re professionals and are paid a lot of money, some ball players would simply rather not take a shot with the game on the line.
Robert Horry was different.
Before arriving in the NBA, Horry was a star for the University of Alabama and elevated the program into the national consciousness.
Then, during his 16 seasons in the league, Horry frequently made the big shot when his team needed it.
"Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond." — Robert Horry AKA Big Shot Bob pic.twitter.com/bCKd1w8BE0
— Mike Farrell (@mfarrellsports) July 15, 2015
His ability to perform in the clutch led to his nickname, Big Shot Bob (or Big Shot Rob), as well as seven championship rings.
No matter which team he played for, Horry gave the organization a chance at greatness.
This is the story of Robert “Big Shot” Horry.
Andalusia High School Star
Robert Keith Horry was born on August 25, 1970, in Harford County, Maryland.
Shortly after his birth, Horry’s mother and father divorced.
His mother then moved the family to Andalusia, Alabama, and Horry would eventually attend Andalusia High School.
— Rocco DiSangro (@RoccoDiSangro) November 26, 2016
He played basketball for the school, and his tall frame and skill set helped him become one of the best prep players in the state.
After starting as a sophomore, Horry came alive during his junior year.
He excelled on both sides of the court, averaging more than 22 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists per game.
By the time he finished his high school career, Horry averaged nearly 26 points and 10 boards per game and led Andalusia to 90 wins as a starter.
He was a three-time All-State player and was also selected as the Naismith Alabama High School Player of the Year after his senior year.
Developing His Killer Instinct
As a pro, Horry was known as someone who could hit a clutch shot.
That ability was developed in high school during his final season in 1988.
Playing in a Christmas tournament, Andalusia was leading in the final game but lost due to missed free throws by Horry.
Seeing the disappointed looks on the faces of his teammates changed Horry’s perspective as a player.
“… 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,” Horry said in 2019. “… I realized you can’t go in cocky—you got to go in there with confidence.”
Playing for the Tide
For several decades, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team has consistently been one of the best programs in the country.
On the flip side, the Tide basketball team is not as well known.
Until the 1981–82 season, the hoops team appeared in just two NCAA Tournaments.
Wimp Sanderson arrived in 1980 and began to turn the program into a winner.
From 1981 through 1987, Alabama was a March Madness participant every year.
That continued after Horry accepted a scholarship opportunity to play for the school before the 1988–89 season.
Robert Horry days until Alabama basketball tips off. Roll Tide pic.twitter.com/RrMmq2KYOS
— 🅱️🅰️Ⓜ️ (@big__bam) October 16, 2017
He started nine games as a freshman and tallied 6.5 points per game on a .427 field goal percentage.
In 2015, Horry commented that the transition between high school and college wasn’t that difficult.
“The transition was smooth,” said Horry. “The biggest thing that I had to get used to was that the play in college ball is hard for the entire game.”
Alabama won 23 games that year but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
During Horry’s sophomore year in 1989–90, his points per game jumped to 13.1 while the Tide went 26-9 and lost in the NCAA Regional Final to Loyola Marymount by two.
Horry and the Tide Keep Rolling
In 1990–91, Horry’s points per game average dropped, but his blocks (2.3) and total rebounds per game (7.9) both increased.
Sanderson’s bunch won 23 games and once again lost in the Sweet 16, this time to Arkansas, by 23 points.
As a senior in 1991–92, Horry had many of his best averages as a collegian.
These included total rebounds per game (8.5), assists (2.5), blocks (3.5), and points per game (15.8).
— Antonio Rodríguez (@TonyStoryGNBA) July 8, 2020
In a game against rival Ole Miss, Horry hoisted 28 attempts during the contest, the most by any Tide player in nearly two decades.
Alabama would finish the year 26-9 and lose in the second round to North Carolina.
Horry ended his college career as a member of the SEC All-Defensive, All-Academic, and All-Conference teams.
During his time in Tuscaloosa, the Tide won three conference titles and went to the NCAA Tournament each year, advancing as far as the Sweet 16 twice before losing.
Horry also left Alabama as the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 286.
Horry Becomes a Rocket
The Houston Rockets were just a few pieces away from being a contender.
Having missed the postseason in 1991–92, Houston hired interim head coach Rudy Tomjanovich full-time before the 1992–93 season.
At the time, the roster for the Rockets included Hakeem Olajuwon, Tree Rollins, Kenny “the Jet” Smith, Vernon Maxwell, and Otis Thorpe.
With the 11th overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets selected Robert Horry.
— Tony Reid (@reidrattlecage) June 1, 2015
His addition gave the Rockets the spark they needed.
Horry started 79 games during his rookie year and averaged 10.1 points, 1.1 blocks, and 5.0 total rebounds per game.
He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team after the year.
Houston went 55-27 and defeated the LA Clippers in the First Round in five games.
In the Conference Semifinals, the Rockets and Seattle Supersonics battled in a slugfest that went seven games.
In the final game of the series, Horry displayed ice in his veins when he nailed a jumper with just over 30 seconds left to take the lead.
The Sonics battled back and won the game (and the series) in overtime, but his shot in Game 7 is Horry’s all-time favorite moment as a pro.
It was also the moment that showed the sports world the arrival of “Big Shot Bob.”
“It has personal meaning to me,” Horry said in 2020. “We were playing in Seattle in Game 7, and I hit a jumper on the right wing in my first year. I hit a jumper and we went into overtime. And it gave me that boost and encouragement that, you know, it’s just a game of basketball. It’s fun. You go out and play, you enjoy.”
Nearly Traded, Horry and Houston Win a Title
Halfway through the 1993–94 season, Houston wanted to add the Detroit Pistons’ Sean Elliott, and the Rockets were willing to give up Horry to get him.
In a deal to acquire Elliott, the Rockets packaged Horry and forward Matt Bullard.
Thankfully (at least for Horry), Elliott failed his physical, and the trade was voided.
Instead of holding a grudge, Horry used the failed trade attempt to fuel him for the rest of the season.
That year, the Rockets won 58 games and headed back to the playoffs.
They defeated Portland, Phoenix, and Utah in the first three rounds before eliminating the New York Knicks in seven games in the 1994 NBA Finals.
June 22, 1994: Houston's Robert Horry with a slam dunk off the lob pass from Vernon Maxwell during Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Rockets would beat the Knicks, 90-84, and clinch their first NBA Championship.
— NBA Cobwebs (@NBACobwebs) June 22, 2022
It was the organization’s first-ever championship.
The Rockets Win Again
In 1994–95, Houston went back to the NBA Finals after a 47-35 regular season and dispatching Utah, Phoenix, and San Antonio in the first three rounds.
By then, the Rockets had a solid team that included Sam Cassell, Mario Elie, and future Hall of Famer, Clyde Drexler.
Although he was only in his third year, the Houston vets trusted Big Shot Bob, and he provided plenty of big moments.
In the first game of the Conference Finals against the Spurs, Horry hadn’t hit a shot all night until he made one with less than seven seconds remaining to give the Rockets the lead and the win.
Then, in the NBA Finals against an Orlando Magic team that included Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Horace Grant, Big Shot Bob came up huge again when he connected on a game-winning three-pointer to give Houston an eventual 106-103 victory in Game 3.
📅 On this day in 1995, the Rockets' Robert Horry set an NBA Finals record (which still stands) with seven steals in a 117-106 win over the Magic in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Horry and LeBron James are the only players in Finals history with at least 40 3PM, 40 STL, and 40 BLK. pic.twitter.com/RJtOUmHGbV
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) June 9, 2020
The Rockets, who had been the sixth seed in the postseason, would sweep the number-one seed Magic in four games for their second straight title.
Horry Sets the Record Straight
At the time of the Rockets’ championship run, Michael Jordan had retired to try his hand at professional baseball.
He returned to the Chicago Bulls with a few months remaining in the 1994–95 season but was not yet in playing shape.
Many NBA pundits believed (and still believe) that the Rockets wouldn’t have won their two titles if Jordan had remained with the Bulls instead of playing baseball.
As recently as 2022, Horry strongly denies that assertion.
“I’m contractually obligated to tell you as a Houston Rocket, we kicked their ass more times than they kicked our ass when we played them in the regular season,” Horry said on the Parkins & Spiegel Show in April of 2022. “I think you should go back and look at that and understand that I know MJ is the GOAT and I played for Phil and I know how Phil coaches. There’s no way the Chicago Bulls would’ve beat the ’94 or the ’95 Rockets. So take that.”
Houston Sends Horry to Phoenix
In 1995-96, Horry had a great season when he posted personal bests in average points per game (12.0), assists per game (4.0), and blocks per game (1.5).
Meanwhile, the Rockets went 48-34, defeated the LA Lakers in the First Round, and were swept in the Conference Semifinals by Seattle.
Despite the fact that Horry had just put together his best season, and helped the franchise win two titles, Houston traded him to the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 1996 for All-Star Charles Barkley.
Horry played in 32 games for the Suns but clashed with head coach Danny Ainge.
At one point during the 1996–97 season, Horry and Ainge got into a shouting match during a game and Horry threw a towel at his coach.
something i just thought about: robert horry never becomes big shot rob if this hadn't happened. pic.twitter.com/gGoNGKj7pZ
— bomani (@bomani_jones) June 2, 2021
The incident got Horry suspended by Phoenix and then traded for the second time that year, this time to the Lakers.
Horry Joins a Contender
When Horry arrived in Los Angeles during the 1996–97 season, the Lakers were mired in a drought, at least according to their standards.
The franchise had last appeared in the NBA Finals after the 1990–91 season but had not won a title since 1988.
LA was devoted to returning to their championship-winning ways and drafted high school phenom Kobe Bryant in the ’96 draft.
Then, the team traded with Orlando to get O’Neal.
However, even with the addition of Horry, the Lakers couldn’t get past the Jazz in the 1997 Conference Semifinals.
At various times during the season, the Lakers vets teased Bryant about his inability to hit big shots.
However, that just motivated Bryant even more to become one of the greatest players in league history.
— Business Insider (@BusinessInsider) June 12, 2015
Horry noticed the rookie’s willingness to get better when he joined the team that season.
“He (Kobe) was just driven. He was driven to be the best and you respected that,” remarked Horry in 2022. “… he’d go right back in the lab, tryna get better. And like it was just one of those things. We used to mess with him so much about things he couldn’t do. And that dude would be in the gym next morning, 5 AM, 6 AM, trying to prove us wrong… And that’s what made him great, man.”
Big Shot Wins Three More Championships
Kobe Bryant’s confidence and ability improved as did the rest of the Lakers.
Before the 1999–2000 season, the organization hired former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson.
The Lakers that year boasted a potent roster that included A.C. Green, Ron Harper, Derek Fisher, Glen Rice, John Salley, and Brian Shaw in addition to Horry, Bryant, and O’Neal.
With Jackson, everything fell into place for the franchise.
LA won 67 games and beat Sacramento, Phoenix, and Portland in the first three rounds before taking on the Indiana Pacers in the Finals.
Horry found himself stuck behind Green during much of the year, but Big Shot Bob came up big when needed.
Against Indiana, Horry scored 17 points during Game 4 and connected on two three-pointers in Game 6 to help the Lakers to their first title since ’88.
In 2000–01, the Lakers returned to the Finals and played against Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Horry played behind newly acquired Horace Grant during the year but he was called on to take the wind out of the Sixers’ sails.
In Game 3, Horry scored 15 points, including 12 in the final quarter, to help beat Philly by five.
— Retro Sports (@RetroSports411) June 7, 2016
Game 4 saw Big Shot Bob pour in three treys to propel LA to a 100-86 victory.
A Lakers win in Game 5 gave the franchise back-to-back titles and Horry now had five rings.
A Three-Pointer for the Three-Peat
The good times continued in 2001–02 when LA had 58 wins and eliminated Portland and San Antonio in the first two rounds.
In the Conference Finals against Sacramento, Big Shot came alive again in Game 4.
With the game winding down, Bryant missed a game-tying layup and O’Neal missed an attempt to score on the rebound.
Then, former Laker Vlade Divac tried to knock the ball away from the scrum only to inadvertently send the ball to Horry.
Without hesitation, Big Shot calmly drilled a three-pointer to win the game.
Then Shaq missed.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 26, 2019
That victory propelled the Lakers to defeat the Kings in seven games.
In the 2002 NBA Finals against the Trailblazers, Horry buried a three-point shot to win Game 3 while standing in front of the Portland bench.
LA would win the series in four games for its third consecutive title and Horry’s fifth of his career.
Horry Joins San Antonio
After the 2002–03 season, the Lakers faced San Antonio in the Conference Semifinals and lost to the Spurs in six games.
Weeks later, Horry signed with the Spurs.
He averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 total rebounds per game in 2003–04 and San Antonio was eliminated in the Conference Semifinals by the Lakers.
One year later, the Spurs were a difficult team to beat and only lost 23 games during the regular season.
— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) September 9, 2022
The roster that season included Horry, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson.
San Antonio cruised through the first three rounds of the postseason, beating Denver, Seattle, and Phoenix by a combined 12 games to four.
During the 2005 NBA Finals, Horry tore the hearts out of the defending champion Detroit Pistons in Game 5.
In the fourth quarter and overtime alone, he racked up 18 points including seven points during a 58-second stretch.
San Antonio would win the series in seven games and Horry had a sixth championship ring.
Ring Number Seven
He wasn’t done yet, and neither were the Spurs.
After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in seven games during the 2006 Conference Semifinals, the Spurs returned to the NBA Finals in 2007.
Now in his 15th season, Horry had slowed considerably, starting only eight games.
San Antonio won 58 games that season and beat Denver, Phoenix, and Utah in the first three rounds.
During the series against the Suns, Horry gave Phoenix point guard Steve Nash a massive hip check that sent the guard sprawling.
— Jay-NoZ (@broaddayjay___) May 16, 2022
Horry was suspended for two games because of the incident.
In the end, it didn’t matter as the Spurs eliminated Phoenix in six games and the Jazz in five games.
Then, San Antonio faced young phenom LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.
Even with James, the Cavs proved to be ill-matched against the Spurs and were swept in four games.
According to MJ fan logic, this would make Robert Horry the GOAT. pic.twitter.com/9NBm0vCrLj
— Facts over Opinions (@FunFactsnStats) August 20, 2022
Big Shot Bob now had seven rings, which put him at ninth best all-time behind eight players who suited up for the dynastic Boston Celtics in the 1950s and 60s.
Horry returned to San Antonio for one final year in 2007–08 and averaged 2.5 points, 2.4 total rebounds, and 0.4 blocks per game.
The Spurs won 56 games and lost to the Lakers in five games during the Conference Finals.
After the season, Big Shot Bob hung up his own spurs.
In 16 seasons, Horry averaged 4.8 total rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and 7.0 points per game.
He was never selected to an All-Star team, and Horry’s numbers have not helped him get elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
However, he does have seven championship titles, which has led many former players and basketball writers to call for his inclusion in the Hall.
Robert Horry is a real life 007 😂 pic.twitter.com/yp60raMb9G
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) September 6, 2022
Horry won titles with three different teams, which makes him just the fourth player in history to accomplish such a feat.
Life After Retirement
In the years since his retirement, Horry has spent time with his family and remained involved in their athletic endeavors.
His first daughter, Ashlyn, died in 2011 due to a rare genetic disorder.
Son Camron played tight end for Texas A&M in 2019, and youngest son Christian has been coached by his father for his AAU basketball team.
Although he had won two titles with San Antonio, Horry has irked the Spurs fan base with frequent negative comments about coach Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili.
In 2021, he made a comment about his former Spurs teams that was meant to be a compliment but only enraged fans more.
“In San Antonio, we never had any damn drama,” said Horry. “That was the most boringest team. The most exciting thing we had was when Tony [Parker] and Eva [Longoria] started dating.”
Horry is currently 52 years old and married his girlfriend, Candice Madrid, in 2019.