When Robert Horry’s 3-point basket with 5.8 seconds left in overtime gave the Spurs a 96-95 victory in Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals, the game’s announcers called it another dagger from “Big Shot Bob.”
It was a name Horry accepted but didn’t really like, so after the game teammate Tim Duncan delighted in his teammate’s minor discomfort.
On Tuesday afternoon, someone at the White House called Horry “Big Shot Bob,” and it was perfectly fine with a player who ranks among the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history.
“President Obama walked up and said, ‘Big Shot Bob, it’s nice to meet you,’” Horry said after returning to his home in Houston from a week-long USO tour that took him to Kuwait, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Germany.
“It was very cool meeting him. It’s OK that he called me Bob. It really doesn’t matter that much to me, ‘Big Shot Rob’ or ‘Big Shot Bob.’ Either one is OK.”
The occasion was the return of the United States Forces-Iraq colors, the battle flag under which U.S. troops had served during the Iraq war. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the colors in ceremonies at Andrews AFB.
Horry had been aboard Air Force Two, the aircraft used by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, along with the other participants in the USO tour — comedian Thomas Miles, actress Minka Kelly and RB singer Jordin Sparks — when it landed at Andrews with the colors.
“That was the part that really hit you,” Horry said. “Bringing that flag home, well, it just hit you what that meant.”
The NBA reached out to Horry several weeks ago when the USO coordinators asked for a retired player the troops would enjoy meeting. A member of seven NBA championship teams in Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio, Horry was a natural.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Horry, now 41. “Visiting with the troops was what it was mostly about, just hanging out with them, taking pictures with them and talking. Just trying to break up the monotony of the war.
“I don’t know if we were in any dangerous areas in Afghanistan or not, but we kind of figured out that if they were asking us to wear IBA (individual body armor), it was probably a little dangerous.”
Amazingly, Horry ran into two old friends.
“Willie Locke was my company commander in ROTC (at Alabama),” he said. “My other friend from my hometown was Claude Burnett. His mom always baked my birthday cakes.”
Back on his home turf in Houston, Horry will try to reconnect soon with another old friend. He hasn’t spoken to Antonio McDyess for more than a month because McDyess hasn’t been answering his phone.
Horry knew McDyess’ decision to retire was final, despite the Spurs’ attempts to get him to change his mind.
“When you’ve had knee injuries like he had, you know when it’s time,” Horry said. “That last year I was with the Spurs, I knew it was time after I banged knees in a game in Sacramento. It just wouldn’t heal. Every morning I’d get up, and it would kill me just walking to the bathroom.”
Horry believes the Spurs will be well served in a short season by a core that has been together for years, instead of weeks or months. Lack of time to school new players offsets some of that edge.
“They can sneak out some wins because they’ve got their core back,” he said. “It’s hard to get in a rhythm with new teammates. I know its going to be difficult to beat those young teams, especially Oklahoma City, the Clippers and, well, yeah, the Lakers, too.
“To be honest, I’m thinking 5 or 6 seed, just because of the age of the team and not being able to incorporate new guys into the system in a short season.”