Robert Horry won seven championships. He won them for three teams and three coaches and played with about a dozen Hall of Famers in the process. He played next to Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan.
Robert Horry had an awesome career, as awesome as any role player could hope for. These days, he gets asked about the great players and teams and coaches of his past. And apparently, he’s decided to make his bed with the mid-1990s Houston Rockets — as was first evident when he said Rudy Tomjanovich was a better coach than Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson.
But things got weird Monday when he went on ESPN’s The Jump. While discussing whether those Rockets teams would have won in 1994 and ’95 had Michael Jordan not retired the first time, Horry took an unprompted turn to praise Olajuwon and his ability to draw double-teams.
“When we played San Antonio one time and Tim was killing me in the block, Phil refused to double-team Tim to get the ball out of his hands,” Horry said. “And Dream was 20 times better than Tim Duncan.”
Everyone on the show stopped in their tracks, particularly fellow former Spurs role player Stephen Jackson, a longtime Duncan acolyte. But Horry only doubled down. Here’s the transcript of what came next, with Horry, Jackson and host Rachel Nichols:
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?”
Free throw shooting is an incredibly bizarre way to judge two of the greatest big men in NBA history, but Horry makes it worse by getting his numbers way wrong. Olajuwon was a 71.2% free throw shooter, reaching a career-best 78.7% in 1995-96. Duncan was worse at 69.6% but reached all the way to 81.7% in 2012-13. In the playoffs, the numbers are similar: Olajuwon at 71.9% vs. Duncan at 68.9%.
As far as careers, Duncan and Olajuwon are both absolute top-tier legends. Duncan’s longevity surpassed even Olajuwon’s, and he won five titles to “Dream”‘s two. But putting one ahead of the other in either direction would be acceptable. Twenty times, though?
Nichols called on Paul Pierce, the third panelist, to weigh in. And — Horry only dug in further.
Nichols: “Truth, you want to weigh in with the truth here?”
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.”
Yes, that’s another completely unprompted swipe at a Spurs legend from Horry. Ginobili drew the assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant (another former Horry teammate) in 2008, when Bryant went off on the Spurs and led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 4-1 Western Conference finals victory before they lost to Pierce’s Boston Celtics.
No clue what prompted all these shots from Horry, but he better have highlights of his 2005 NBA Finals game-winning shot cued up the next time he goes to San Antonio.
Horry’s most productive years were with the Rockets, so maybe he wants to be remembered as one. He finished his career with five seasons on the Spurs, though, and his games played list looks like this: 448 with the Lakers, 332 with the Spurs, 295 with the Rockets and 32 with the Phoenix Suns.
When you have seven rings, I suppose, you can choose.