Rockets’ Mario Elie says Suns had two options on Kiss of Death

HOUSTON - JUNE 19: Mario Elie #17 of the Houston Rockets. Copyright 1994 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - JUNE 19: Mario Elie #17 of the Houston Rockets. Copyright 1994 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As Mario Elie nailed one of the biggest shots in Houston Rockets history, the three-time NBA champion explained the two options the Phoenix Suns had during the Kiss of Death moment.

The Houston Rockets have had a plethora of big moments and clutch shots over the course of their 53-year history, which is only natural considering the amount of great players we’ve seen don a Rockets jersey. We’ve seen game-winning shots by superstars such as James Harden, and witnessed one of the all-time greats in Hakeem Olajuwon lead the Rockets to two championships.

But we’ve also seen unsung heroes such as Vernon Maxwell, who carried the Rockets to victory when the stakes were highest, saving the Rockets’ first championship. But for as many key moments Rockets fans have witnessed, perhaps the biggest one came from Mario Elie.

Elie joined the Rockets prior to the 1993-94 season and is one of the few Rockets players to have won at least three championships throughout his career. But Elie etched himself in Rockets glory in 1995 with the Kiss of Death.

Rockets’ Mario Elie says the Suns had two options during “Kiss of Death” moment.

The former Houston Rockets sharpshooter recently joined ABC 13’s David Nuno and shared vivid memories of the moments leading up to the shot.

“Well we had the ball, it was 20.4 seconds left, of course we were going to hold for the last shot. And of course we were going to go to Olajuwon. Robert took the ball out, got it to Kenny, then he spaced out to half court after he entered the ball.

We had good spacing on the floor, Danny Schayes had to make a decision: either let me shoot or leave Olajuwon. He wasn’t going to leave Olajuwon so it allowed me time to get my shot off. And make the Kiss of Death.”

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The play took place during the final moments of Game 7 of the Rockets’ 1995 Western Conference Semifinals matchup against the Phoenix Suns. As Elie points out, the Suns (or any team for that matter) weren’t going to leave Hakeem Olajuwon wide open, and especially not with the game on the line.

This meant that Elie was instead left with an uncontested jumper and not a defender in sight. This  which was a high percentage shot for Elie, who was a 39.8 percent 3-point shooter during the 1994-95 season.

Elie was one of the better snipers in the league at the time, so he likely would’ve drained it even with a hand in his face. But he nailed the game-winner, which ended the Suns’ season and allowed the Rockets to advance to a Western Conference Finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.

After making the shot, Elie blew a kiss to the Suns crowd, which has been dubbed “The Kiss of Death” because of how it sank their hearts and killed any optimism they had for advancing to the next round.

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Although the Rockets have had many big moments in the history of the franchise, perhaps none of them were bigger than Elie’s series-ending shot.