As we inch closer to the 2022 NBA Finals, today marks the 20th anniversary of a legendary play by one of history’s most legendary clutch players.
Robert Horry’s buzzer-beater to top the Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals was a pivotal moment in the Lakers’ run for the 2002 title. LA might have won in seven games, but no one will know really how things would have gone if Horry had missed that 3-pointer. However, this is just one moment in a long series of “Big Shot Bob” clutch playoffs.
Horry went 7-0 in the Finals, a mark achieved with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. With so many deep playoffs and incredible moments to choose from, Horry’s post-season experience makes him the perfect candidate to break down some of the greatest moments on his Finals Files podcast. His favorite moment from the Finals, however, may come as a surprise to some.
“I think my favorite moment in the final personally is in 2005 playing with 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, including the game-winning 3-pointer with just 5.9 seconds left in overtime.
While the 3-pointer was introduced to help trigger scoring and add novelty to the game, Horry believes some NBA teams today rely too heavily on it.
“I realized they fell in love with three-balls…so much so that they wouldn’t penetrate and hit or penetrate and score. I wish I could shoot 10 threes a game, like that. It is now. I would average 15 or 16 points (per game).
In the 2022 playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks lead the NBA in 3 points made (267) and attempted (705). But their love of the 3-pointer was their downfall in Game 1 of the Western Finals when they shot 11 for 48 of 3 in a loss. In Game 4, the Mavs shot 46.5 percent on 3-pointers and sank 20, but for Horry to rely that much on 3-pointers is madness.
“You have to beat the Splash Bros with good defense and not [trying to outshoot them],” he said.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, defense was key as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat — the NBA’s top two defensive teams in the 2021-22 regular season — face off. For Horry, Boston could offer an interesting matchup with Golden State if the two were to reach the Finals.
“The Celtics are almost identical to Golden State in that they have two Splash Brothers,” he said. “You look [Jaylen] brown and [Jayson] Tatum and them [are Boston’s version of the Splash Bros.]but bigger.
Horry isn’t shy about praising the overall skill level of today’s players compared to those of his time. He pointed out that ball handling – usually a skill reserved for smaller guards in his day – is mastered by bigger guards such as Dallas’ Luka Doncic.
“These guys in this era are so much better than when I was playing, man. They’re doing things that are at a high skill level,” Horry said. “It’s crazy because these guys now that they’re growing up , all they do is eat, drink and breathe basketball… they can handle the rock and are able to get to the hole easily.”
The remaining quartet of teams chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy, however, all boast stardom. Horry was impressed with the poise and maturity that Brown and Tatum showed throughout the 2022 playoffs.
“You can [get physical with] them and they never retaliate. They never say anything. They keep giving you buckets,” he said. “Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard, those kind of guys that you look down on, ‘shit, man, can you say something, man?’ They’re just 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 can get their teams going.
“Jimmy Butler is loud, he’s going to get on your head. Some guys in the league feed off guys who talk trash and get into guys’ heads. It’s like a stimulant,” Horry said.
The long and arduous journey that leads to an NBA title usually has an unusual physical and mental impact on players. Horry added 244 more playoff games to his regular-season load, which meant short summers and quick paybacks.
“After we groped [in L.A.], the next season we start the season and I was still tired,” said Horry. “You have to understand, your body is going until May or June, you know? And then all you have is July and August and you’re back in training, back in the gym, trying to prepare for next season because you don’t have anyone to, you know, stand in front of you.
He marvels at LeBron James’ playoff accomplishments and that at 37 he’s still among the top flight despite reaching the Finals in 10 of his 19 seasons. LeBron has gone to great lengths to keep his fitness in tip-top shape despite the sheer amount of minutes he has played. James failed to qualify for the playoffs this season, his first campaign without a postseason since 2004-05. For Horry, that time away from the playoffs could pay off for LA in 2022-23.
“LeBron, what he’s able to accomplish with all the time he’s on the court. So many finals, how many people have made it there?” Horry said. “It’s not crazy for him to pass [so much] on his recovery every year, right? He has to because, you know, his body is his livelihood, so you have to spend money to make money.
I 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 attempting to contest their sixth Finals in eight seasons with Curry, Green and Klay Thompson all chasing 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 put down roots 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 grateful to co-host Jabari Davis, who helps direct the podcast’s gaze to past Finals.
“Jabari, he has that voice that he’s had for a long time in the basketball world. He’s a great host and I just work with him,” Horry said. “This show, I think people who love basketball [can tune in] for some of the things inside [from past Finals].”
Robert Horry and Jabari Davis take listeners through the greatest Finals series in NBA history in their Finals Files podcast on iHeart Radio. The duo use archival audio to help relive some of the most gripping and memorable NBA Finals. Horry’s 7 NBA championship rings and extensive playoff experience make him the perfect candidate to add perspective on such momentous historic exploits.