TJ's Gym Weekly News 04/18/2019
Message from TJ: Big-Shot Bob
Robert Horry is not the most well known former NBA player. If you follow the NBA peripherally, you probably have no idea who he is. He played 16 seasons with a number of teams, which is impressive, although he averaged 7 points per game, which is pretty pedestrian. His career stat sheet is unremarkable. That's not what basketball fans know about Robert Horry.
If you followed the NBA in the 90's and 00's you know him for two reasons:
1. Possibly the greatest clutch shooter in the history of the post season.
2. Winner of 7 NBA Championships.
More than Kobe, Shaq, MJ, and Lebron.
Nobody calls him Robert Horry. Players and fans alike call him Big-Shot Rob.
His wikipedia page lists his game-winning shots throughout his career, and it's truly astounding. With the game on the line, statistically, there was no one better in the history of the NBA.
Human nature, connection, and psychology have been my main focus recently.
What do people want? What do they do to get it? How do they stay consistent? How and why do they fail?
The information available is painting a remarkably vivid picture for me, and it applies in my day-to-day with anyone with whom I try to connect. Through my reading, podcasting, and viewing, I've been led down many paths, some of which are inspiring, and some of which are terrifying.
I have no idea why Robert Horry popped into my head. When he did, though, I had to know more. Recently, I've read a dozen articles written about him. I listened to 6-hour interviews with him on podcasts and watched him on Youtube, both during retirement and while he played.
Horry was a standout player in high school and college and was drafted into the NBA in 1992 by the Houston Rockets. He describes the mindset of the start of his career as quixotic but to others it was, questionable.
He was called moody, distant ,and unemotional. Teammates and coaches questioned his desire. He was aloof and didn't spend lots of time out and about with his team. He was flourishing on the court, and they wanted him to be more in the locker room and outside of the stadium confines.
His father was a career Army Staff Sergeant whose similar brooding, unexcitable personality trait is exactly what his fellow soldiers wanted from a man with whom they shared a foxhole. But in the 90's professional sports game, you were supposed to be making rap albums, wearing bling, and making it rain in the clubs.
Even if he was interested in the excessive lifestyle of the young professional athlete, Horry never had a chance to explore it. His wife gave birth to their daughter very early in his career. She was born with a chromosomal disorder that made it impossible for her to walk, talk, or live without a feeding tube, ever.
The collision of personality and a life-altering event can bring either jubilation or misery. As a study, it can also be fascinating. It exposes strengths and weaknesses and is the foundation of the next chapter for the person involved. Sometimes the next chapter happens in seconds, and sometimes it evolves over decades.
David Neeleman is the founder of JetBlue. The story he tells on the "How I Built This" podcast sounds like a series of lucky phone calls and how being in the right place at the right time led to his success. He constantly deflects praise to others. When there was a grounding of planes that led to passengers being held onboard for 12 hours, he personally took all the blame, even though he couldn't control the weather, the ground crew, or FAA policy. Regardless, he never lost his cool or sight of the goal. His reaction to the rise and falls of his company have allowed JetBlue to become a wildly successful company.
In 1994, the Rockets were on their way to winning the title, and Horry was an integral part of their success. Right around Christmas and a few months before his daughter was born, Horry was traded from the Rockets to the Pistons. He was devastated. His teammates had finally understood the person he was, and he had found his rhythm as a teammate. He loved his coach Rudy Tomjonavich. Management felt that they could become even better by trading him for Sean Elliot. Imagine how he must have felt. Completely dejected, he flew to Detroit to play the next night for the Pistons. To make matters worse, he couldn't suit up because the paperwork hadn't cleared yet. He sat in the owners box with his head down, unable to to understand what he had done. The cameras caught him looking like he was living his worst nightmare. Unbelievably, the next morning a call came through that Elliot hadn't passed his physical and the trade was off. Horry jumped on the next flight back to Houston. He could have been angry and carried a chip on his shoulder. He took a different attitude and decided to make the most of his next chapter, and he learned something about the brutal business of professional sports. It forged an even tougher mental attitude in him.
The trade fiasco and his daughter with special needs also magnified his strengths. Writer Ric Bucher calls it his "economy of motion and emotion." As a player, Horry was more interested in passing instead of dribbling, in a look instead of a yell. He would talk to sports writers but didn't offer anything newsworthy. He felt that as a player and a man he was supposed to show up and perform on the court and at home with his family. He didn't need to be "extra." He was playing with future Hall of Famers and All Stars. That was fine with him; let them do the talking.
During my high school during baseball season, I may have stayed up far too late one night, leaving me feeling less-than-stellar for one of my games. I was struggling to function only minutes before the first pitch. While barely able to focus, I had one thought: Do not screw my team. I decided that I needed to concentrate on the small, simple things and shouldn't stretch work at the margins. While up at bat, I told myself to just make contact--no swinging for the fences. I went 5 for 5. All singles that softly landed just in front of the outfielders. Dial it back and be efficient while also being effective. Even if it's because you were an idiot.
Fun side story. My coach was not amused by my "stomach flu" which my teammates mercilessly razzed me about. I ended the day with five steals as well, because Coach Edge put the sign on every time I got on base, trying to embarrass me and make me a scapegoat. On a normal day, I wasn't allowed to steal, even if the catcher showed up with no arms. Somehow, some way, the ball got overthrown or dropped every damn attempt. It was like we were playing the Bad News Bears. I'm surprised he didn't give the opposing pitcher the fist sign (HIT HIM!) when I was up at bat.
ESPN Sports Anchor, Craig Kilborn, gave Horry his nickname after his first post-season game-winning shot. "Big-Shot Rob" was born, and the foundation was set. Year after year, team after team, BSR showed up and broke the hearts of opposing teams and their fans.
When the dust settled and he retired, his coaches and teammates had nothing but accolades. Kobe called him the smartest teammate he ever had. Coach Greg Popovich said he is simply "a winner."
Ashlyn Horry, Rob's daughter, died in 2011 at the age of 17.
When investigating human nature, I try to make examples as accessible as possible to all of us. Sometimes we need stories for motivation, and other times we need them for education. In my opinion, Big-Shot Rob simplified. He stopped trying to control the uncontrollable. He maximized his strengths, both physically and emotionally.
I'd like to think that he mastered himself. If we can figure that out for ourselves, the data show that the game winners will come.
Keep at it,
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