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Former NBA forward Robert Horry in 2012. FLICKR / via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This feature on NBA forward Robert Horry appeared in The Birmingham News on May 31, 2005.

PRIME-TIME PERFORMER
Former UA star Robert Horry comes through in the clutch

By Ed Odeven
For The Birmingham News
PHOENIX — His nickname is “Big Shot Bob.” And it probably says it all, since former Alabama basketball star Robert Horry has a knack for knocking down clutch shots.

For 13 consecutive years, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Andalusia High product has appeared in the NBA playoffs. He is in his second season with the San Antonio Spurs. Before that, he was knocking down big shots for Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers.

With each passing year, he seems to add to his remarkable list of postseason accomplishments. But whatever you do, don’t call him old.

“Right now, especially when you hear people calling you old — and it’s like, ‘I’m only 34 — you know you’ve been in the league for a while,” said Horry. “There’s a lot of guys in this league a lot older than me. Nobody called Reggie (Miller) old.”

Monday night against the Suns, Horry played in his 190th playoff game, tops among active players and fifth on the all-time list, sharing the spot with a fellow named Magic Johnson.

The man with five championship rings — more than any player in the league — also is second in league history in playoff three-pointers with 222. The Pacers’ Miller, who is retiring, is first with 320.

Horry is often the first player off Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s bench. Technically, he’s Tim Duncan’s backup at power forward, but here’s a revealing stat: In Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix, Horry outscored the Suns bench 22-21.

“He takes big shots,” Duncan said. “He makes big shots. I don’t think there’s a person in the locker room that’s going to dispute the shots that he takes.”

Like the three-pointer Horry made to seal the Spurs’ 111-108 Game 2 victory last Tuesday over the Suns. With 2:31 remaining and Phoenix leading 102-100, Horry’s trey from the right wing gave the Spurs the lead for good.

“Robert ‘Big Shot’ Horry is a great role players, especially for a team like San Antonio,” Suns center Amare Stoudemire said. “He’s so active (that) you have a tendency to lose contact with him, and he comes in and drains big shots.”

“We know how good he is down the stretch, taking those shots, so we just trust him,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said.

Horry, who won back-to-back titles with the Rockets in 1994-95 and picked up three more rings with the Lakers from 2000-02, isn’t just a three-point specialist, though.

In Game 3 against the Suns, a 102-92 Spurs win on Sunday, Horry had an 11-rebound, three-assist, one-steal performance to go along with his seven points.

“He’s just a terrific veteran player,” said Suns point guard Steve Nash, the league’s MVP this season.

He’s also an adept shot-blocker, swatting more than 1,000 shots — in the playoffs and the regular season — since donning a Rockets uniform for the first time in ’92.

“I’ve always been someone who could help you with my defense,” said Horry. “But everyone wants to talk about the offense.”

Still, his trademark with the Spurs, just like it was with Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers, is to remain out of the spotlight until the very end.

“I try to be the stealth guy that hides in the corner,” Horry said.

But he doesn’t stay invisible for long. Just ask Popovich.

“Down the stretch and in the fourth quarters, he knows what’s going on at the defensive end and the offensive end, doing the little things — taking a charge, getting an offensive board,” said the Spurs coach. “It’s not just shooting threes. He’s a smart guy. Tim really enjoys playing with him out there and he helps Tim be a smart player, too, because of his presence.”

Duncan finds himself often double-teamed. This, of course, enables Horry to get open on the perimeter. It worked in Houston with Olajuwon. It worked in Los Angeles with Shaq. Now it’s working in San Antonio with Duncan.

“He can spread the floor, and he opens it up for Tim Duncan and makes it tough to double Duncan,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. “When he’s in the game, it causes a lot of problems.”

Horry looks at himself as a no-nonsense, never-back-down-from-pressure guy. And he’s used to being in the background, even on a Spurs team that has Duncan and backcourt stars Ginobili and Tony Parker.

“I’m just happy to be on a team that has a chance to compete for a championship,” Horry said.