Man with the Midas touch
Until last year when LeBron James won his first title with the Miami Heat, the Akron product did not find his place in the pantheon of greats even if he has been ‘great’ -- minus the ring -- since his rookie year in 2003. This brings us back to one of the greatest debates in NBA history. Do rings decide greatness or is greatness devoid of a championship title?
Going by the first-half of that question, Michael Jordan has won six NBA titles and that places him alongside greats like Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Scottie Pippen, but behind Robert Horry on the list of highest NBA championship winners.
Does that mean Horry and the other winners who lead up to Bill Russell, who won eleven titles for the Boston Celtics in 13 long seasons, are better than the fabled Number 23?
With a great deal of conviction, one can say that ‘greatness’ does not necessarily result in titles. It surely results in revolutions but not always are they complemented and capped off by a ring.
Jordan may have won one less title than Horry but he changed the face of the sport for generations to come while the latter was more than a good player but nothing has that placed him alongside and most certainly not ahead of the Chicago Bulls legend.
Not taking anything away from him, Horry did have that Midas touch.
The power-forward, who was here no more than a week ago, has gone under the scanner for most part of his career and his exploits with four teams – Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs -- that resulted in six titles with three of them is something that will go down in history as special.
Horry, however, picked his second title with the Rockets in 1995 as the dearest to him. “We had virtually no chance to win that one. We were ranked sixth and we were up against some of the biggest and toughest teams the NBA had ever seen. We had a great run and that too all on our own. We had a young and ambitious team and it was somehow possible,” said the 42-year-old during an interview with Deccan Herald.
“The title we won in 2001 (with the Lakers) after losing just one play-off game was another title that I will really cherish,” he added.
The 2.08-metre forward made most of those titles come to light with his clutch plays. This is not to say that he did not do nothing else on court. It’s just that he kept it for much later in the game – ideally, with two or three seconds on the clock.
“You just have to believe in yourself, in your coaches and have the confidence to step in and take that shot,” said ‘Big Shot Bob’ when asked about why he was so comfortable in making the clutch shots. “I always had that confidence and I played for the love of it so it was all worth it.
With 20 seconds left and the shot-clock winding down, Horry was handed the ball by Hakeem Olajuwon and was expected to nail down a three-pointer with Orlando Magic’s Horace Grant in his face, and he did that with 14.1 seconds left in the game. The Rockets, who until then held a slender one-point lead, made it 104-100 and eventually 106-103 to win Game 3 before going on to win the series 4-0 and the 1995 championship.
“I’d say the game against Orlando. It all came down to one shot. That was the springboard to my career. It put me in the spotlight and I have not looked back since,” said Horry, who added that Olajuwon was his favourite player while Charles Barkley was the hardest he had played against.
Talking about the upcoming season, Horry said: “It’s going to be a very funny season because so many guys have moved from one team to the other. I think OKC (Oklahoma City Thunder) have a real good shot at the title. After losing last season, they would’ve gone back to the drawing board -- and that’s what makes championship teams.
“Miami Heat too have their title to defend so they will obviously be dangerous. And then of course there are the Lakers and the Spurs who are always in the hunt. There is no real challenge from the East this time. Minnesota (Timberwolves) are looking real good this time and I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it far. In a nutshell, this year is going to be fascinating,” he said.