Robert Keith Horry Jr. (1970- ) starred with the University of Alabama (UA) basketball team and went on to a notable career in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for 16 years on three different teams that won a total of seven NBA championships and became known for his ability to hit game-winning baskets, earning him the nickname "Big Shot Rob."
Horry was born in Harford County, Maryland, August 25, 1970, to Robert Horry Sr., an Army Staff Sergeant and Vietnam veteran, and Lelia Horry, an elementary school teacher. His parents divorced soon after he was born, and Horry moved with his mother and older brother Kenneth to Alabama, settling in Andalusia, Covington County. There, he worked summers as a lifeguard, nurtured a lifelong love of fishing, and refined his basketball talents at North Cotton Street Park, which now bears his name.
In 1988, the 6'9" Andalusia High School Bulldog forward was named Alabama High School Basketball player of the year and accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama. During his college career from 1989 to 1992, Horry helped lead the Crimson Tide to four consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearances and two regional semifinal Sweet Sixteen runs, averaging almost 16 points per game his senior year. Also in his senior season, Horry was named to the All-Southeastern Conference team, the All-Southeastern Conference defensive team, and the All-Southeastern Conference academic team. He remains the school's all time leader in blocked shots with 285.
After college, Horry was the first-round pick of the Houston Rockets in the 1992 NBA draft and the 11th player taken overall. Teamed with established NBA stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith, Horry became more of a role player, scoring on occasion, playing strong defense, rebounding, and setting screens to get Olajuwon and Smith open. Horry was also very versatile for a tall player, adept at making long- and medium-range jump shots, dribbling past defenders, passing to open teammates, or finishing with dramatic dunks. These skills made Horry an immediate success in the NBA, and he was named to the all-rookie second team in 1993. His ability to make game-winning shots was notable during the Rockets' successful championship runs in 1994 and 1995. In 1995, he made last-second baskets that enabled the Rockets to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of the Western Conference finals and the Orlando Magic in the third game of the NBA finals.
In 1996, Horry was traded to the Phoenix Suns, but his stint with the Suns was brief. After a dispute between Horry and the Suns' coach, Danny Ainge, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997. As with the Rockets, Horry soon found his niche playing alongside established star Shaquille O'Neal and then-budding star, Kobe Bryant. With Horry adding chemistry to this mix of star players, the Lakers were able to make playoff runs in the late 1990s, but they never reached the NBA finals. However, with the arrival of a new coach, Phil Jackson, in 1999, the Lakers began to reach their full potential, winning NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The last of these three championships might not have been possible without Horry. In the fourth game of the Western Conference Finals against the top-seeded Sacramento Kings, Horry scored 18 points to help the Lakers overcome a 24-point halftime deficit. Horry also made a last-second three-point field goal to enable the Lakers to win by a score of 100-99 and to even the series, which they eventually won in seven games. Horry was not so successful in the 2003 playoffs, shooting poorly and missing a last-second shot that would have won the fifth game of the semifinal series for the Lakers; they eventually lost.
After the 2002-2003 season, Horry became a free agent. He accepted an offer with the San Antonio Spurs so he could be closer to his family, which had stayed in Houston after he was traded to Phoenix and then to Los Angeles. This move to San Antonio was particularly important for Horry given the challenges facing his family. In 1997, he had married Keva Develle, a woman he had met at the University of Alabama. The couple has a son, Robert, and a daughter, Ashlyn, who was born in 1994 with a rare chromosomal abnormality known as 1p36 Deletion Syndrome. Because of Ashlyn's health challenges, the family was unable to follow Horry to other NBA cities. The Horrys have been active in raising awareness about and funding care for children with this birth defect through the Ashlyn Horry Foundation.
Arriving in San Antonio in 2003, Horry joined a team that had won the NBA championship the previous spring, and the Spurs' wealth of talent meant that his playing time would be reduced. Still, Horry remained a steady contributor during the regular season and in the playoffs, where the Spurs eventually lost to the Lakers. However, the Spurs rebounded to win the NBA Championship the following year. In the 2005 playoffs, Horry turned in perhaps his most memorable performance, making 45 percent of his three-point shots and averaging 9.2 points per game. His greatest contribution came in the fifth game of the NBA finals against the Detroit Pistons, in which he scored 21 points in the second half, including a dramatic left-handed dunk and a last-second shot in overtime. Horry again contributed timely baskets and numerous blocked shots to the Spurs' successful NBA championship run in 2007.
Horry retired in 2008 but remains high in the NBA record book for most playoff games played, three-point shots made in the playoffs, and number of three-point shots made in a playoff game without a miss. Since retirement, Horry has been providing commentary with the Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN) and is scheduled to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Horry and his family reside in the Houston, Texas, area.
Jonathan W. Bolton
Published February 16, 2010
Last updated October 7, 2010