9. Mario Elie’s Kiss of Death
The 1995 Western Conference Playoffs had many memorable moments for the Rockets, but nothing was more memorable than Mario Elie’s “Kiss of Death” following his big 3-point make in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Rockets had trailed 3-1 in the series before heading into Game 7 against the Suns. By the arrival of the game, everybody knew it’d be a back-and-forth affair. With the final seconds winding down, Robert Horry whipped a pass across the court to the corner where Elie stood, wide open.
Elie leaped up and caught the ball. Before the defense could even react, he let it fly and drained it. As he danced down the sideline, he put three fingers to his lip and blew a kiss to the Suns’ bench. It was one of only two field goals he made in the game and the only 3-point attempt he made from beyond the arc.
The Rockets would go onto win the game 115-114 thanks to free throws from Clyde Drexler, but Elie’s moment set the tone for the rest of the postseason. He wasn’t a prolific scorer, but his shot overcame 46 points from Kevin Johnson and 18 points and 23 rebounds from Charles Barkley to lift Houston into the Western Conference Finals.
Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon didn’t do it alone, but they earned the name “Clutch City” for a reason. Elie is just one of a few players with memorable shots in franchise history.