Monday, May 21, 2007

Robert Horry: Playoff Villain?

As soon as Robert Horry sent Steve Nash flying into the scorer's table at the end of Game Five, I knew it was going to be a big story. The two-time MVP upended on a cheap shot. The Spurs-Suns blood feud escalating. The NBA shooting itself in the foot yet again. And so on.

The one thing I never anticipated was Horry setting himself up to be the uber villain of the NBA Playoffs.

Considering that the Spurs already have Bruce Bowen (and, to a lesser extent, Manu Ginobili - although his Villain Star has fallen since he was at the height of his flopping and whining powers in 2005), the Pistons have Sheed, and the Jazz have a star that stabbed a blind owner in the back once upon a time (although everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten all about that), and it didn't seem like we really needed a new candidate for an evil genius. Heck, we even have an Ivan Drago-like Russian with the nickname AK-47 if we ever started hurting for a bad guy. (Although Kirilenko breaking down and crying at the end of the Game Two against Houston kinds of cuts down on his menace.)

But it seems Horry really wants the title. For years his gravest mistake was throwing a towel in Danny Ainge's face, but as I previously hypothesized, it could just be that Horry had been sent from the future by Celtics fans. Other than that he was A) a guy who made a ton of big threes, B) a dude who looked a whole lot like Will Smith, and C) (according to Bill Walton) one of the greatest post-feeders of all time. Other than running some smack and perfecting the "goaltend through the net" pseudo delay of game move, he never seemed to be a real threat to become the biggest a-hole of an entire postseason.

But now here he is. Blatantly hip-checking a defenseless dribbler into the scorer's table in the waning seconds of a game that had been largely decided. Hiding behind a coach and fan base that appear to be completely disillusioned in their belief that Nash was at fault for "flopping" on the play. Joking about the incident, even though it quite possibly decided who the eventual NBA champ would be. Basking in cheers. Swearing he would do it all over again, and showing no remorse whatsoever.

The whole thing has me reeling. Who does Horry think he's kidding? He's "old school"? Since when? The guy's most famous shot came because he was a power forward standing 30 feet from the basket watching Kobe Bryant and Shaq battle for a rebound. Pretty old school, right there. He is survived for this long in the NBA because is decidedly NOT old school. Old school power forwards don't throw a towel in their coach's face and they sure as heck don't take more threes than twos under any circumstance.

Not only that, but saying you are "hard-nosed" or "old school" is a total cop out in a situation like this, as if such a mind set gives you total immunity from sportsmanship (like Tim Whatley's getting total joke-telling immunity on Seinfeld). As my buddy Dritz pointed out in an email, "'Playing old-school' doesn't mean you foul an old friend intentionally and unnecessarily hard after the outcome of a game has been decided. 'Playing old school' means playing hard on D and if during an attempt to make a play, you accidentally foul someone hard, so be it."

I would add that "old school" can even include "sending a message." But what was the message here? Don't dribble up the sideline again or else! It's not like he was protecting the rim or showing that he wasn't going to take any more moving screens or some other bit of basketball strategy. He was just being an ass.

I said at the time that I didn't think Horry meant for this to be as bad as it was. He was just trying to dish out a little love tap but failed to consider how fast Nash was going, or where they were on the court. So it turned out worse than he anticipated. But as my Mom used to tell me when I had accidentally hurt my little brother, "It doesn't matter whether you meant to do it." For Horry to hide behind "playoff toughness" and "old school" values (for lack of a better word) is embarrassing. At best, he accidentally laid out an opponent on a bush league play and then basically celebrated himself. At worst, he tried to hurt somebody and then bragged about that. Pathetic.

Throw in the embarrassing way the San Antonio fans are hailing Horry as a hero and calling this the "biggest shot yet" for 'Big Shot Rob" and the whole thing is bound to stir up some emotions. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Utah fans shower him with the kind of boos that are normally reserved for a traitorous ex-player, despite the fact that he hasn't really done anything to the Jazz. He just has that villanous aura about him now.

And it's all his own fault because of the way he handled the incident with Nash. Instead of explaining that he didn't intend to do it, aplogizing, and bemoaning the unfortunate way it impacted the series, Horry tried to somehow blame Nash and then brag about it. And he came off looking like the lame grade school kid trying to be a bully.

I've always been indifferent regarding Horry, because I have a longer memory than most. I remembered that he threw that towel and made sure to never assume that Horry was the guy from The Pursuit of Happyness just because he looked like The Fresh Prince. I also never forgot that he went about 1-for-276 in a Western Conference Semifinal against the Spurs back in 2003, and am therefore less interested in hailing him as the greatest clutch shooter of all time. (Which makes me the polar opposite of Mike Breen, who likes to screech "Robert Horry has DONE IT AGAIN!" when Horry makes a wide-open three in the middle of the third quarter.) Not to say that I hated him or anything. I appreciated all the big plays as much as the next guy.

However, now I've gone from neutral to "against." Firmly.

And why not? Everyone postseason needs a villain and Anthony Mason has been retired for quite a while.

[Update: Horry might be making a run at Uber Villain status, but he's never going to catch Bruce Bowen. Henry Abbott over at True Hoop just posted this link, which shows him ONCE AGAIN tripping Amare Stoudemire - he of the surgically repaired knee - on his way to the basket. How can this guy live with himself? What a complete and total bastard. Thanks goodness for YouTube. Now we know he really is the basketball Antichrist.]

11 comments:

jk-1 said...

Assuming, for a moment, this was a legit "old school" foul, let's still ask this question: Why do you adhere to the "old school"? What was so good about the "old" school. There is a reason it's "old" -- because it's been replaced by something better.

"Back in the day" taking a switch to your kids' behind was acceptable, paddling in elementary school was acceptable, and working your players in practice to the point of heat exhaustion was considered good conditioning.

It's old for a reason, Bob, because we're trying to move past it and get to something better.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the reasons Horry didn't try to play it off as an accident is that it obviously wasn't an accident. You can tell not by the foul, but by the second or two AFTER. Horry just turns his back and walks away. He doesn't stop to help Nash up, or even wait to see if he gets up.

I've become willing to grant that he didn't expect to start a brawl, if only because of the look on his face when Bell went after him. But before that moment, not an ounce of surprise in him.

Anonymous said...

I must say, my favorite part of this entire article (which I could not agree with more) is actually this little gem from the ESPN article: ""They just missed him," the Spurs' Michael Finley said of the reception. "As fans, you miss having a valuable part of your team.""

Yes, a guy whose career average is 7.2 PPG and this season averaged 3.9 this season is truly valuable.

If he hadn't hit that shot against the Kings, would he be as famous as he is? Sure, he's hit other big 3's, but that's the one everyone knows. Without that single shot, he'd just be another guy who won a game or two.

If he apologized and said he meant to foul Nash but failed to take into account the speed of Nash and the proximity of the scorer's table and then apologized for it, he would maybe be an OK guy. But to make all kinds of excuses is pathetic. And the fact that the SA crowd gave him a 30 second standing ovation is disgusting.

And they wonder why the rest of the league hates them and why they have such a small fan base and low ratings...

Anonymous said...

Thank for writing everything I think, all the time.

Anonymous said...

I think Horry dosen't care if he's a villian in y'all's eye. I think he did want to give Nash something to think about a the end of Game 4. Nash embellished the fall, and again the Suns' lack of mental toughness was their undoing.

ArC said...

What's really disgusting is the SA fans, who had previously reacted with shock at Stoudemire calling their team dirty, now celebrating Horry's cheap shot.

Classless city.

Anonymous said...

FLOP FLOP FLOP

Nash is a flopper. Yeah it was a heard foul but not worth 2 games. Nor is to blame why the Suns team lost composure.

Ask yourself? Why were the Spurs drapped by assistant coached during the altercation? Because Suns coaching was not well prepared and it betrayed the Sun's fans.

Think on it.

Nash flopped but it was also a hard foul. End result, situation that was worse than it was.

Anonymous said...

The appropriate use of the term "old-school" in talking about hard fouls is as a kind of forgiveness or downplaying by the recipient of the foul. Like in the Finals last year when Stackhouse hit Shaq, the Big Fella didn't mind because he was "old-school" and therefore used to hard fouls.

It is not Horry's place to say that his foul wasn't that bad, or that Nash "flopped", or to forgive himself by claiming he's "old-school". That is just really poor sportsmanship.

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming you didn't even watch Horry's interview...just going by whatever that biased hack, Woja;fdljas;lfjski wrote... Watch Horry's interview first (although I'm sure you would much rather put a spin on it after watching it than admit you're wrong).

http://www.woai.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=397693,397692,565

Anonymous said...

the flop that horry speaks of is what happened AFTER nash fell...watch the play again...he definitely flops AFTER he hits the floor.

Nash got hit at the wrong part of his stride, didn't get bumped THAT hard by horry in the first place (just got hit at the wrong point in his stride), and then Nash tries to exaggerate the call (he didn't really have to exaggerate it at all) by flailing all over the place.

And one of the main reasons why San Antonio fans are supporting Horry is posts like this--where he is turned into a "menacing villain" by the public. It was a poorly calculated, stupid play that he got punished for. He had nothing to do with the suspensions to amare and diaw. And SA fans are giving him support for that...cuz he is not a villain. And maybe that's coming out the wrong way, maybe the fans aren't saying the right stuff...but sometimes the easiest way (and not the smartest way) to defend someone is by saying exactly the opposite of what the other people are saying.

Anonymous said...

horry interview