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It appears difficult to rank Robert Horry’s seven NBA titles and his various star teammates. Perhaps as tough as mimicking one of his many clutch playoff shots.

With the same ease that partly defined his game, however, Horry explained why he actually considered former Rockets teammate Vernon Maxwell superior to the late Kobe Bryant in one way. 

“You were faster than Kobe,” Horry said on the MaXed Out podcast, sponsored by Bovada. “If you got in a 40-yard dash, you would’ve beaten Kobe.”

Granted, Horry described Bryant as “athletic as hell.” Horry also stressed that he considers Bryant “one of the best f—- players to play with” after winning three of his five NBA championships with him on the Los Angeles Lakers (2000-02). Nonetheless, Horry held Maxwell in high esteem for both playing critical roles in the Houston Rockets winning consecutive NBA titles (1994-95). 

The Competitive Fire of Vernon Maxwell

“If I had to pick someone that I’m going to go to battle with, it’s always been you,” Horry said. “I’ve seen the eye of the tiger. I’ve seen what you do. I’ve seen the nastiness in you. For me, every player that wants to play in the NBA has to have a little bit of nasty. If you want to be successful, you have to have a lot of nasty.”

Maxwell certainly had a lot of nasty.

Horry recalled that Maxwell once told former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, “I’m going to bust your ass tonight!” Shortly afterwards, Horry said that Maxwell then turned to former Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen and remarked, “A rook over there is going to bust your ass tonight!” 

Horry also admired Maxwell for how he stayed consistent as a 3&D player despite often staying out late on the road.“The next game you’re like, ‘Damn, that man smells like liquor and he gave them 32 and he D’d up against one of the better players in the league!” Horry said.


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The Impact of Maxwell’s Leadership

After the Rockets selected Horry at No. 11 in the 1992 NBA Draft, Horry showed some initial rookie hiccups during Houston’s pre-season trip to Japan for a pair of exhibition games against the former Seattle SuperSonics. During that trip, Horry described himself as feeling “sick as a dog.” That didn’t matter to Maxwell, who told Horry, “‘Mother—-, I don’t care if you’re sick and throwing up! Get your ass out there!”

“From that moment, I was feeling like I don’t want to hear Max yelling at me,” Horry said. “So I’m going to get my ass up and play. So for me, that goes to show you what kind of competitor you were and how you wanted everybody to go out there and compete no matter what.”

Big Shot Bob

Maxwell often laughed and nodded his head when Horry shared those stories. He called Horry “one of my favorite teammates” for the same reasons Horry won a combined seven NBA titles with the Rockets (1994-95), Lakers (2000-02) and San Antonio Spurs (2005, 2007). Horry earned himself the nickname “Big Shot Bob” for making clutch shots while also fitting in with other stars, including Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, the Lakers’ Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and the Spurs’ Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

“There were times where I wanted to tell everybody to go f— themselves because they’re not passing me the ball. But that just wasn’t me,” Horry said. “If I ever had the mismatch, I wanted the rock. I just wanted to play my role because it what was best for the team.”

Nothing captured what Horry did best for his teams than when Horry hit a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Lakers a one-point over the Sacramento Kings and secure a 2-2 tie in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. 

Horry shared that the play “wasn’t run right” because Bryant charged toward the basket before Horry had time to set a screen. Horry stood at the top of the key waiting for Bryant to kick the ball out, but to no avail. Shaquille O’Neal missed a putback off of Bryant’s miss, leading Kings center Vlade Divac to tap the ball away from the rim in hopes of running out the clock. Instead the ball landed in Horry’s hands just in time for him to hoist it in the basket.

Horry called that shot “one of my greatest moments” because of the series implications, the loud crowd reaction and the countless free drinks and meals he received in Las Vegas from fans that wagered on the Lakers to win that game. 

“When I die, I want that play played at my funeral,” Horry said. “It’s one of the most exhilarating things for me. I still get goosebumps when I see it.”

Horry and Maxwell seemed to have goosebumps just with talking to each other. They regaled each other with stories and compliments that capture their deep respect for each other.