In Defense Of Robert Horry

I’m a lifelong Lakers fan, coming of age in the Showtime era of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, James “Big Game James ” Worthy, and Kareem “Cap” Abdul-Jabbar. More recently I savored the Threepeat of Shaq and Kobe, but my favorite Laker player of all time is Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry (a nickname he apparently dislikes).  I dig his style, the way he picks his spots during the course of a long season, and, of course, his uncanny ability to knock down a three-pointer when nothing else will do.

Now that the Lakers have fallen on hard times (short-lived, I hope), I’ve temporarily transferred my play-off loyalties to Horry’s new team, the San Antonio Spurs.  Imagine my outrage when Horry was universally branded the bad guy in Game 4 of the current Phoenix-San Antonio series!

In the interest of fairness, I feel about the Suns — who have now knocked the Lakers out of the play-offs two years in a row — like I felt about the 1980s Celtics.  They’re whiny cheaters … and an incredibly talented team who have redefined basketball.  In short, they’re the perfect arch-rivals.  Why couldn’t the Lakers have drafted Leandro Barbosa when we had the chance?

That being said, I think Nash is more to blame than Horry for the suspension of his teammates Stoudamire and Diaw and therefore for the Suns’ loss to San Antonio in last night’s Game 5.  Here’s my man Rob’s woefully under-reported account of the controversial foul, buried beneath the Phoenix reaction:

Meanwhile, Horry said he was an old school guy and that in his early years, his foul would have been no big deal. He said he bumped Nash when he realized he wouldn’t be able to get in front of him to draw an offensive foul. 

‘If it would have been anybody but Steve Nash, it probably wouldn’t have been two games,’ he said after the Spurs shootaround. ‘But you know Steve is a great player, MVP. He’s a focal point of the NBA now and they just have to protect their players.’

Horry said Nash over-dramatized the bump when he went flying into the scorer’s table.

‘I thought I’d just bump him a little bit,’ Horry said. ‘As you know, the great acting skills Steve has, when he hit the floor, then flopped and did ‘Oh, I’m dying here’ it happens. I really wasn’t trying to hurt him. I had no malicious intent to hurt Steve. I like Steve. He’s a good person.’

Horry already was a target for Phoenix fans. When he was with the Suns in 1997, he tossed a towel in the face of then-coach Danny Ainge.

Now Phoenix fans have changed Horry’s nickname from ‘Big Shot Rob’ to ‘Cheap Shot Rob.’

‘It doesn’t bother me,’ he said. ‘I was already hated here in Phoenix anyway, but the messed up thing is the boos were kind of disappearing. Damn, now I’ve got to start all over.’

Now if you watch the replay carefully, that’s exactly what happened — Nash was bumped into the scorer’s table, then he threw himself on his back to dramatize the foul.  But that doesn’t fit the “narrative”, does it?  The Suns are supposed to be the brave, scrappy underdogs, and the Spurs are known as the wily, boring old guard. The Nash side makes a better story, whether it’s “true” or not.

No, I don’t think Stoudamire and Diaw should have been suspended for violating the letter (rather than the spirit) of the “don’t leave the bench” law. But I also don’t think Robert Horry, of all people, should be branded a dirty player because of a Steve Nash flop.  If you ask me, the league should be looking for flops as well as dangerous play — Raja Bell got away with another acting job last night.

The bottom line is that the Suns are the story this year, and just about everyone would rather watch a Suns-Cavs final than a Spurs-Pistons match-up. Me, I can’t wait for Game 6 tomorrow!

The Storybook Ending

I think of myself as your average American sports fan.  I follow the ups and downs of the Lakers religiously (ever since the glory days of the Magic-Bird wars). I attend the odd Dodgers, Angels, or Clippers game. I coach my son’s basketball and soccer teams. And I usually catch a few televised games on the weekend. As I wait for today’s Super Bowl festivities to begin (just wishing for a close game and some great ads), I can’t help think of the greatest football game in recent memory — Boise State vs. Oklahoma in this year’s Fiesta Bowl.

It literally had all the elements of a great story. The David vs. Goliath build-up. The early hope-against-hope of a nearly unthinkable upset. The sudden turn of fortune, making you think all was lost. A rookie coach who wasn’t afraid to actually use every play in his playbook. The breathtaking comeback. And, of course, a true fairytale ending — running back Ian Johnson winning the big game and proposing to his girlfriend, Boise State cheerleader Chrissy Popadics. If it had merely been a movie, the critics would say it was unbelievable.

If you’re not a sports fan, those are the moments we hope for, and it’s something no other form of entertainment can give us.

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