Robert Horry won seven NBA championships for three teams in his 16-season career, and that success makes it stand to reason that he has pretty fond memories of his team with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs. The man known as “Big Shot Rob” came up huge in major playoff moments for each team and probably never needs to pay for a meal again in all three cities. He’s one of the league’s greatest-ever role players and someone whom plenty of superstars were lucky to call a teammate.
It’s pretty surprising, then, to hear Horry speak of his two most widely respected Spurs teammates in disparaging terms. Horry appeared on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday afternoon and did not mince words when comparing Tim Duncan to Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon and criticizing Manu Ginobili for mistakes that supposedly cost Horry a few more titles. Here’s the clip (the relevant sections stars around the 3:00 mark):
Horry’s reflections on the Spurs begin with a claim that Hakeem Olajuwon was “20 times better” than Tim Duncan, a claim that is patently ridiculous even if you believe the former is the superior player. Host Rachel Nichols and fellow panelists Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce clearly disagreed, and the discussion took off from there. Adi Joseph of For The Win transcribed the back and forth:
Horry: “I’ve played with both. I know the work ethic of both. I’ve seen it live. You know —”
Nichols: “Wait, did you just take a shot at Tim Duncan’s work ethic?!
Horry: “No, I’m just saying. Like, Kobe’s was the best ever. And I’ve seen these two guys in the gym. I know what Dream brought to practice. I know what Tim brought to practice. I know Tim, he brought work ethic to practice, but it’s an extra level. When you’re a superstar, you have to go the extra level. Not saying Tim’s not a superstar. But what Dream brought to the game is amazing. I don’t think people understand how good Olajuwon was because, here’s the thing, I always tell people to judge a player by what they cannot do. Who would you want on the line at the end of the game, Dream or Tim Duncan?”
Jackson: “Tim Duncan.”
Horry: “You going to go with 85% or you going to go with 70% from the free throw line?” […]
Pierce: “Listen, Dream was awesome. Dream was awesome, unbelievable. But he was not 20 times better than Tim Duncan. Not 20 times!
Horry: “I’m saying you would rather have Dream at the free throw line at the end of a game, and you’re down.”
Pierce: “Dream is lucky Jordan retired. You would only have five rings if Jordan didn’t retire.”
Horry: “Let me just say this: You got yours because, if Manu Ginobili would have did the things he was supposed to do, I would have had like 10 championships.”
Horry’s arguments are flat-out confusing. Even allowing for the hyperbole of a daytime ESPN appearance, the claim that Olajuwon (71.2 percent for his career) was a considerably better free-throw shooter than Duncan (69.6 percent) is flat-out wrong, as well as an odd way to compare big men. Additionally, the idea that the Spurs would have beaten Pierce’s Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals doesn’t make a lot of sense — the Lakers won the Western Conference Finals in five games over a Spurs team in need of fresh ideas and went on to lose to the Celtics without much controversy. It’s not clear exactly what more Manu could have done to stop Kobe in that series, and outside of his and-one foul on Dirk Nowitzki in 2006 it’s hard to think of major mistakes from the Spurs’ future Hall of Famer.
Again, Horry was on TV, so it’s possible he was just playing up his opinions for the sake of entertainment. But these particular hot takes come across as bizarre and even mean rather than controversial. Horry never seemed especially unhappy during his five seasons in San Antonio, so there was never any indication he harbored resentments towards Duncan and Ginobili. Where did this come from?
It’s probably not worth investigating the issue too much with such little information to go on. For now, though, we can at least admit that team success doesn’t necessarily lead to fond memories in the future. Whatever Horry’s problems with the Spurs, the two championships he won with them weren’t enough to make him forget.
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