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As part of a new Pundit Arena series that looks at Cult Heroes of the NBA, John Cronin gives an insight into the career of Robert Horry.

In game one of the 1995 Western Conference finals there were seven seconds left on the clock, the Houston Rockets were down by one to the San Antonio Spurs. Robert Horry was just a second year player who the Rockets tried to trade a couple of months earlier.

Horry was 0 for 9 in the game when Hakeem Olajuwon went to work under the basket against his old foe David Robinson. He had seen that Dennis Rodman had left Horry open at the top of the key and he dished the ball out to him.

Horry pump faked sending Avery Johnson the wrong way , took one bounce and let his shot go. As a result, the most clutch athlete of all time was born, ‘Big Shot Rob’.  That shot would start a trend of ‘Big Shot Rob’ showing up for all of the big moments.

Robert Horry was never meant to be the most clutch player in the NBA. After four years with his home town college, the University of Alabama, Horry along with future NBA superstar Latrell Sprewell led the Crimson Tide to a sweet sixteen performance.

The Houston Rockets were impressed by his versatility and they decided to take him with the 11th pick in the 1992 draft. They felt that he could become a valuable role player.

In only his second season in the NBA he was starting at small forward for the Houston Rockets on their championship winning team in 1994 and again in 1995. After two championships in Houston, the Rockets decided to trade some of their role players to bring in former league MVP Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns sending Horry the other way.

In Phoenix, Horry was expected to take more of a starring role, but he could never develop into that All-Star that Phoenix hoped he would become. His time with the Suns was frustrating and it came to an end after an on-court incident where he threw a towel at his coach during a game.

His reputation was tarnished coming from Phoenix and he was traded to the Lakers in 1997. The great Phil Jackson took over the Lakers in 1999 and he took  Robert Horry out of the starting line-up, recognising that he could be more effective being a spark off the bench.

While he was not a starter, he played big minutes for the Lakers. When it came to the play-offs, he enhanced his clutch reputation, hitting numerous game winning baskets; the most important coming against the Sacramento Kings, when he hit a three-pointer to win the game when with 1.5 seconds left in the Western conference semi-finals.

The Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant-led Lakers won three straight Championships between 2000 and 2002 with Horry playing a colossal part in all of them. In 2003 the Lakers were going for their 4th championship in a row but they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference finals, and Horry’s time in L.A came to an end.

In 2003 Horry decided to go back to Texas and finish his career with the San Antonio Spurs where the ‘Big Shot Rob’ alter ego was reborn. Like Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich knew that Horry was best utilized coming off the bench; playing limited minutes, being primed for big moments.

In 2005 the Spurs went up against the Detroit Pistons in the NBA finals, in the 4th quarter of Game five he scored 25 points including a game winning three-pointer. The Spurs would go on to win their 3rd championship and this would prove to be Horry’s sixth ring.

At 37 Horry was not yet finished with his winning ways. He was a member of the 2007 Spurs Championship team who swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, giving him his 7th ring.

With seven rings; more than any player who did not play on the great Boston Celtic’s dynasty of the 1960’s. Horry goes down as the greatest winner in the modern NBA era. That may be a bold statement about a player who never put up big numbers during his time in the NBA, but the only number that matters is seven.

There are a wealth of big names that have graced the courts of the NBA over the years, and there are no doubts that many former NBA superstars would trade their careers for that of ‘Big Shot Rob’ without hesitation.

John Cronin, Pundit Arena.

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