Houston Rockets: The creation of the legendary “Big Shot Bob”

Robert Horry #25 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Robert Horry #25 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Although Robert Horry only played four seasons with the Houston Rockets, he was a key part of both championships, which created the legend of “Big Shot Bob.”

With the Houston Rockets set to face off against the San Antonio Spurs tonight, it’s worth examining Robert Horry, who won championships for both teams and hit clutch, game winning shots for each team.

The Houston Rockets drafted Robert Horry with the 11th pick in the first round of the 1992 NBA Draft and became an instant starter for the team immediately during the 1992-93 season. In his first season, he finished fourth on the team in scoring with 10.1 points per game along with 5 rebounds per game. During that season, Horry also recorded 20+ points on seven different occasions, and the Rockets went 5-2 during those games.

During his first season, the Rockets went 53-29 and finished with the second seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets ultimately made it to the second round of the playoffs but were eliminated by the Seattle SuperSonics in a series that went the full seven games. During that series, Horry finished in double figures in six of the seven games, finishing with averages of 13 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists and he also shot 38.5 percent from downtown. All in all, Horry’s postseason averages during the 1993 playoffs were 10.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.

During Horry’s second full season, he also was a starter and averaged 9.9 points per game but had year-over-year increases in his rebounds, steals, assists, and 3-point shooting. During that season, Horry recorded four double-doubles, and the Rockets went 3-1 during those games. On the year, the Rockets finished with a 58-24 record, earning them the second seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets drew a first round match-up against the Portland Trail Blazers and defeated them in four games. During that series, Horry averaged 15 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and a team-leading 1.5 blocks per game, while also shooting a scorching 50 percent from deep.

During the second round match-up, against the Phoenix Suns, Horry averaged a team high two steals per game while also averaging 11.9 points on 45.8 percent shooting from deep, which was the highest amongst all Rockets’ starters. The Rockets needed every bit of Horry’s contributions, as they defeated the Suns in a battle-tested seven game series. During the Western Conference Finals against the Utah Jazz, Horry went on to average 8.8 rebounds per game, which was second on the team, in addition to 10.8 points per game.

The Houston Rockets would advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history, drawing a match-up against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks. During that series, Horry scored in double figures in four of the seven games in the 1994 NBA Finals, and led the Rockets in assists with 3.7 per game while averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The Rockets were able to win their first ever NBA title in team history. During that postseason, Horry averaged 11.7 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 3.6 assists per game and shot 38.2 percent from three, which were all increases from his previous postseason.

Failed Trade

During the 1994-95 season, the Houston Rockets’ title defense got off to a bad start, as the team found themselves 29-16 following their February 6th loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. This prompted the team to realize the need for an additional piece to pair with Hakeem Olajuwon, who is the best player in franchise history. The Rockets agreed to a trade with the Detroit Pistons, in which they were sending away Robert Horry and Matt Bullard for Sean Elliott. However, the trade was voided because Elliott failed a physical, which meant Horry would remain a Rocket. The Rockets instead acquired former team legend Clyde Drexler just seven days after their failed deal for Elliott, but this time kept Horry out of the trade package.

Horry went on to average 10.2 points per game, 3.4 assists per game, 1.2 blocks per game and a 3-point shooting average of 37.9 percent, which ranked second amongst all starters. Each of those were career highs for Horry at that point, but the Rockets finished the season 19-18 following the acquisition of Drexler. This caused the Rockets to land the sixth seed in the Western Conference, as they went 48-34, marking the fewest wins the Rockets ever had during Horry’s career. In the first round of the playoffs, the Rockets eliminated the Utah Jazz in five games, who had the third seed.

During the Western Conference Semifinals, the Rockets faced off against the Phoenix Suns, who were the second seed in the West, and were able to eliminate them within seven games. During that series, Horry led all Rockets’ starters with 84.2 percent shooting from the free throw line, and 45.8 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line. Horry went on to average 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds, the latter of which was second on the team.

Creation of “Big Shot Bob”

During the 1995 Western Conference Finals, the Houston Rockets faced off against the San Antonio Spurs, who were the top seed in the Western Conference. In the first game of the series, the Rockets found themselves down 92-93 with 6.5 seconds left in the game. Robert Horry had been struggling during the game, as he was 0-for-4 at that point in the game. Despite this, the ball ended up in the hands of Horry and he nailed the game-winning shot, which gave the Rockets a 94-93 victory. This proved Horry had ice in his veins as he was able to seal the game despite this being his only make of the game, thus creating the legend of Big Shot Bob.

Horry would score 21 points on a game-high five 3-pointers made in Game 2, which was a victory for the Rockets. The Rockets would eliminate the Spurs within six games, as Horry had a playoff-high 22 points in Game 6, which was second best on the team. In addition, Horry nailed a game-high six 3-pointers to help lift the Houston Rockets into the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, which is arguably the greatest championship run ever. For the Western Conference Finals, Horry averaged 14.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and nailed a scorching 42.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

In Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Horry scored 19 points while grabbing 8 rebounds, shooting 40 percent from deep and having a team high 5 blocks. The Rockets needed every bit of this, as they narrowly escaped with a victory, winning 120-118. During Game 2 of that series, Horry set an NBA Finals record with seven steals, which has still not been broken despite being set 24 years ago. Horry also finished with a double-double, as he had 11 points and 10 rebounds in addition to 2 blocks, leading the Rockets to a 117-106 victory over the Orlando Magic, and a 2-0 start to The Finals.

In Game 3, Horry continued his clutch play, as he hit the go-ahead 3-point basket with 14.1 seconds left in the game to give the Rockets a 104-100 lead at the time. The Rockets would go on to win 106-103 in part because of Horry’s 20 points and team leading 2 blocks. He also shot 40 percent from deep in that game. The Rockets would go on to win the series and bring their second championship to Houston, as Horry averaged 17.8 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high 2.3 blocks per game. Horry also shot 37.9 percent from three.

During Horry’s final year in Houston, he averaged 12 points on 36.6 percent shooting, while grabbing 5.8 rebounds, which was third-best on the team. The Rockets finished with a 48-34 record, which gave them the fifth seed in the Western Conference, drawing a first round match-up against the Los Angeles Lakers. During that series, Horry averaged 11.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds, which was second best on the team. In addition, he had 3 steals per game, which tied Drexler for the most on the team. Horry also had 2.3 blocks per game, which tied Olajuwon for the team lead also. The Rockets advanced to face the Seattle SuperSonics in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Although the Rockets were swept, Horry averaged 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, which were both third best on the team behind Olajuwon and Drexler. In addition, he shot 43.8 percent from three, which was a team high.

Horry led the Rockets with 39.6 percent from deep during the 1996 postseason and altogether had a Rockets career postseason average of 38.3 percent from downtown.

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Although Horry only played four seasons in Houston, he was pivotal in the only championships in Houston Rockets’ history. Although Horry would go on to win seven championships and hit many more clutch shots, the legend of “Big Shot Bob” originated here in Houston.