Rockets: Horry explains tension with Suns that led to Elie’s ‘kiss of death’

Houston Rockets Mario Elie (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Mario Elie (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Robert Horry recently gave further insight into why Mario Elie may have had extra incentive to send the Phoenix Suns home in the Houston Rockets’ 1995 run.

Anytime you have success in the NBA, you’re bound to form some rivalries. The Phoenix Suns had some classic moments against the Houston Rockets during their championship runs in the mid-90s.

The most significant moment in Houston’s rivalry with Suns came in the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals when a huge corner three by Mario Elie closed the door shut on Phoenix.

Since I have an unwritten rule that states I have to show this shot any time it’s mentioned, here it is in all its glory:

#OTD Mario Elie delivered the "Kiss of Death” against the Suns ?

Rockets vs. Suns, WC Semifinals Game 7 – 6pm ET on NBA TV!

— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 20, 2020

The Rockets had gone through the Phoenix Suns the year before on the way to their first NBA title, which Robert Horry recently discussed on an episode of Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles.

Laying the groundwork for the Kiss of Death

In Game 3 of that 1994 series, Danny Ainge didn’t exactly make any friends when he took his frustrations out on Elie as the Rockets were celebrating a big win. With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Ainge decided to launch the ball straight at Mario’s face from close range instead of inbounding the ball, which Elie, understandably, took exception to.

“Everybody thinks about the Kiss [of Death], but there’s a long story that leads up to that, said Horry. “That was the playoffs that Danny Ainge hit Mario in the face with the ball. People don’t understand, Danny Ainge was a pitcher. You can’t tell me he didn’t do that on purpose.”

Ainge confirmed that the incident indeed was intentional when Robert Horry joined the Suns during the 1996-97 season. Horry continued:

“When I got to Phoenix, the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘yeah I hit Mario on purpose with the ball.’ I’m like, I’m already not liking you and now you tell me this? That just adds to it. I don’t have a relationship with [Ainge] yet. Now you’re gonna tell me you hit my boy like this on purpose?

After that incident, Horry detailed how the Rockets were out for revenge on Ainge in Game 4. “You can see that we’re not even trying to win that game,” said Horry. We’re just trying to lay Ainge out. Every move we get, we’re hitting him. You should see some of the screens.”

Ainge went on to talk more about his terrible sportsmanship moment with Rachel Nichols on The Jump in March.

So…what exactly WAS Danny Ainge thinking when he pegged a basketball at Mario Elie's head?? ? We played The Jump's favorite game with the former Celtics star when he stopped by the set.

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 2, 2020

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“That was not one of my better moments, but I was mad, you know,” said Ainge. “That’s an embarrassing moment. I love Mario Elie, by the way, as a player. I have great respect for him.”