Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh, you've got to be kidding me...

I'm guessing I won't be the only person to take a look at this, but when J.A. Adande's column about Robert Horry is honest-to-goodness teased on the front page of ESPN.com as:

The big shots (too many to count) and seven NBA championship rings say Robert Horry is a winner. But is he a Hall of Famer? His numbers in 16 seasons (7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.3 apg) begin a debate.

Well how the hell can I not deal with that? Because no, no they don't start any debate. They actually quite emphatically end the debate dead in its tracks. I'll have some specific research-y stuff on this in a moment, but first let's hear whatever ridiculous arguments J.A. would like to put forward.

OK, then, what is Robert Horry? The longer he plays, the harder it is to answer that question.

Is he the guy who hits all the clutch shots? Is he a cheap-shot artist? Does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

To answer those last three questions...

1. Yes, he has hit a lot of clutch shots, partially because he's been fortunate to be on three different championship-caliber teams, which pretty much no one this side of Steve Kerr can lay claim to (I'd count the 1999 and 2003 Spurs as essentially different teams, much like the 90-93 and 95-98 Bulls). Oh, and a big reason why he's called "clutch" is because he isn't very good most of the time, which makes what shots he does make in the playoffs all the more dramatic.

2. Dude does seem to have a bit of a history of cheap shots. Hell, that whole Spurs team seems to have that problem. I'd also point out the first and second questions are not mutually exclusive. To be honest, I'm not really sure. I'd have to go ahead and say, "Eh...maybe."

3. No, no, a thousand times no. Do you want me to add a "fuck you" to make that clearer? Very well then. *AHEM* FUCK...YOU.

Oh wait, there's an answer key:

(short answers: yes, no, yes)

Damn! Looks like I just failed out of Adande Academy (Adandemy?). Guess I'll never get to ask sweet Susie Q. to the school sock hop, held as always in the J.A. Adande Lounge. Or maybe it's the Airport Hilton. I get those mixed up.

but if you want the easiest way to describe Horry, consider this label: cowboy.

I already think this is inane. Seriously, my dumbass-sense is tingling. But what the hell, I'll roll with it.

I never thought of him that way until he described his vision of retiring from the NBA: "I just want to leave like Shane. They don't know what happened to you. Just go."

He was referring to the classic Western that ends with the hero -- having gunned down everyone in the saloon but the bartender -- riding off toward the Grand Teton mountain range while the young boy who idolizes him pleads, "Come back!"

That explains the Shane quote at the top of the article (which I didn't bother quoting and I'll be damned if I'm going back and changing that now). So does this mean Shaquille O'Neal is best understood as a Greek philosopher because he once asked to be called the Big Aristotle? Actually, I'd be sort of up for that, especially in light of one of my favorite Shaq quotes.


So, while in a tournament in Greece, a reporter asked Shaq, "So, Shaq, have you visited the Parthenon?" To which the Big Fella replied, "No, we've been to several night clubs, but I don't think I've been to that one yet." I love Shaq.


Anyway, if quoting somebody makes you that guy, you might as well call me Arnold Schwarzenegger. Aliens build it!!! Ha ha, that never gets old.

(That's right: I quote Total Recall, but not the Total Recall quote you all expect. Nope, I used that quote for the name of my fantasy team. And that was the only time I will ever mention fantasy sports on this blog.)

I'm sorry, J.A., you were trying to argue something dumb?

Horry has traveled from town to town, Houston to Phoenix to L.A. to San Antonio, always quick on the draw with his trusty Colt .45 (well, except for in Phoenix, where the only thing he fired was a towel in the face of coach Danny Ainge).

Doesn't that sentence suggest that, except in Phoenix, Horry was literally toting a Colt .45 everywhere as some sort of western vigilante? That...that would actually be sort of awesome, if true. I mean, it's not, and J.A. just doesn't understand how metaphors work (rule one: don't mix lame metaphors with lame jokes).

He's kind of a loner. He's loved by his teammates, but he doesn't spend too much time with them away from the gym. You're more likely to find him hanging out with the strength and conditioning coach or even (gasp) reporters.

So he's a well-liked guy by one group of people who just socializes with a different group of people? How the hell is that a loner? If this is the sort of horrifically botched argumentation used to describe the dude's character, I dread what we're going to see regarding his HOF credentials.

There hasn't been a description that has stuck with Horry his entire career. He was a small forward who moved to power forward. He has started almost as many games as he has entered as a reserve.

How about "insanely lucky journeyman"? And hasn't he been known as Big Shot Bob for awhile? Hasn't that description stuck for a really long time?

Just know this: The NBA hasn't seen a winner like Horry in three decades.

What, because he's got seven rings? Jordan and Pippen both have six, and so did Kareem. Steve Kerr was a relatively anonymous journeyman known for clutchiness (see the winning shot in 1997 and some very spirited bench play in 2003) if you're looking for someone who more closely fits Horry's description, and he retired with five. So did Ron Harper for that matter. Hell, Dennis Rodman picked up five between Detroit and Chicago. I mean, fine, Robert Horry has slightly more rings than those guys, and he's a slightly different sort of contributor than most of them (although for the sort of comparison Adande is making, Steve Kerr is pretty comparable). But to say we haven't seen a winner like him in three decades? Poppycock. Poppycock I say!

John Havlicek retired in 1978, the last member of the Boston Celtics' 1960s dynasty to check out, and one of only six players in NBA history with a championship ring collection larger than Horry's seven. Of those six players -- Bill Russell (11 rings), Sam Jones (10), Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Tom Sanders and Havlicek (eight each) -- Sanders is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. But the fact that K.C. Jones is makes the case for Horry.

No, it makes the case that Hall of Fame voters, much like in baseball, were horribly biased and non-scientific in their selections, and they tended to choose decent players on great teams. This was bullshit then and it's bullshit now, and to use it as some sort of precedent is stupid circular reasoning and an appeal to authority, both of which are logical fallacies. Fallacies I say!!!

(I know, I know...I say a lot of things. Wonder if I've hit 100,000 words yet.)

Jones averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in his nine-year career. Horry has averaged 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 16 seasons. Jones proved there's a place in the Hall for underwhelming statistics if they came on winning teams.

Right...for exactly the reasons I just explained. I'll grant that basketball is more of a team game than baseball, and so some of a player's contributions are maybe more non-statistical than they can be in baseball. MAYBE. But you honor the greatness of Horry's teams by enshrining Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and maybe a couple other guys, depending on how their careers play out. And fine, if you want to argue a reason why Tim Duncan is better than Kevin Garnett is because of his four rings, I'd be willing to hear you out. It certainly bolsters the already certain case for Duncan's enshrinement, and might really help out Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker down the road. So yeah, a ton of championships can enhance the case for enshrinement. But they sure as fuck can't create a case out of nothing. Or, in this instance, 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

With Horry, it's not just that he was around for all of those championships -- after all, the equipment manager for the Chicago Bulls has six rings. There's no way the 2002 Lakers or the 2005 Spurs would have earned their championships without Horry.

You're telling me Michael Jordan could have defeated the Suns back in 1993 if the equipment manager (his name is Sal, by the way, you putz) hadn't been reinflating Michael's Air Jordans using a pump made of solid diamonds? How else could his Airness have known his worth (well, short of a quick trip to Atlantic City, I guess)?

And by the way, there's no way those Lakers or Spurs would have even been in a position for Horry to step up if their stars hadn't gotten them there. But no, please, feel free to give all the credit to the dude who did .1% of the work just because it was the most memorable thousandth.

And those are just the series he salvaged, the times he kept his team from the brink of elimination by draining the winning 3-pointers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and Game 5 of the NBA Finals. That doesn't include the times his shots gave his team an early series lead or eliminated an opponent.

Oh, so he had other thousandths? Man, add up enough of those and you might have a whole percentage point worth of contribution. By the way, it's worth keeping in mind that it's not as though Robert Horry is all THAT much better in the playoffs than in the regular season. His playoff stats are a ro-fucking-bust 8.0 points, 5.6 boards, and 2.4 assists. Oh, that is Hall-worthy clutchiness right there.

Seriously, am I the only person who understands how math and logic and stats and stuff work? No, wait...I'm being told that everybody other than J.A. Adande understands that stuff. Carry on.

Maybe Horry didn't get his teams to that point,

No, no he didn't.

but he brought them home.

In the few instances you remember that he did.

If relievers like Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers can get into the baseball Hall of Fame, and people believe kicker Adam Vinatieri deserves a bust in Canton, there's a place for Horry in the basketball Hall.

The enshrinement of relievers has been pretty controversial, but at least you can argue that those guys played their specialized role - one that lots of other people play - to the absolute best of their ability for years and years. Sure, closers contribute way less than starting pitchers, but their role has been defined and on those terms the absolute cream of the crop have been enshrined. It's not like there's a "closer" role in the NBA that's even vaguely equivalent to this, and I'm pretty sure even if there was one Robert Horry wouldn't be the equivalent of Mariano Rivera. Oh, and it's not that "people believe" Adam Vinatieri should be in. It's "a very small amount of people seriously believe" he should be in. Pretty sure there isn't a huge argument for his enshrinement, and even if there is the huge multitude of different positions in football creates lots of different sets of criteria. Basketball is way more streamlined in terms of what it takes to be enshrined.

The playoffs are when Horry's gunslinger mentality pays off, when he's unafraid to draw and fire even if he hasn't done a thing all game -- or all season.

Thank you, J.A. Adande, thank you, for succinctly making my entire gosh darn argument for me. I'm not even going to add anything. That's pretty much the perfect counterargument right there.

The rest is about rationalizing how he isn't a cheap shot artist - and honestly, I don't much care either way - and Robert Horry adding pretty perfectly to Adande's counterargument above:

"At the end of the day, it's still going to be Kobe, LeBron and those type of guys, because they score a lot of points.

"People only remember your parting shot."

EXACTLY, Robert Horry. Hell, if you could slowly and carefully explain the following to J.A. Adande...

"They always remember the last thing you do," Horry said. "They don't remember the things before."

...well, I'd say you might teach him a basic flaw of relying on anecdotal evidence, but I'm pretty sure you'd just waste five hours.

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