The first round of the NBA playoffs is entering crunch time, and with elimination games looming, we've reached fertile ground for one of the NBA's richest traditions:
Completely unexpected but welcomed role-player heroics.
Indeed, few things warms the cockles like watching a guy who spent most of the regular season staring into the middle distance wake up and catch fire just in time to help his team clinch the series and, you know, maybe lock down another one-year contract in the process.
To honor these role players, I've created the Robert Horry Award — an honor given to the reserve or supporting player who cruise-controlled the regular season only to explode in the playoffs when it mattered most.
Named after the Bench Lord of the Rings himself, the Robert Horry Award recognizes the player who best embodies the belief that less can be more if you time it right, and the following are my top 20 candidates for this season's Horry.
Technically speaking, Jason Terry died in 2013, but we continue to honor his memory by entering the ghost of Jets Past as a candidate in this year’s Horry Award race.
And it’s well-earned. Terry was a habitual playoff powder keg in his heyday, and the sad spirit that remains of him currently playing for the Milwaukee Bucks continues to step up and provide big minutes off the bench for a team that disdains shooting basketballs from distance as a practice.
Signature playoff move: Perishing suddenly.
Jeremy BrevardJeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
It’s an exceedingly rare vintage these days, but the Diaw God Mode game is still one of the most beautiful and unstoppable individual performances you can see in an NBA basketball game.
They’re like Halley’s Comet in their frequency, but you’ll never forget the sight of Boris and his French dodo bird stature pirouetting through traffic and finger-rolling in layups over three defenders.
Signature playoff move: Halftime espresso.
Chris NicollChris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Has a long and distinguished track record of microwave games and feast-or-famine shooting, but Williams is almost too consistent nowadays to seriously contend for the Horry.
Anyone you can reasonably count on for at least one breakout game a series is far too firmly on the tracks for our purposes. Being a true blue Horry Man means waking up and playing mediocre every day of the year except for four random days in April, May and June when you decide to spontaneously combust for 28 and 8.
Signature playoff move: Wildly difficult moving floater in the lane (repeat 12x).
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Johnson probably doesn’t want to win the Horry this year, but he’s making a strong case proving he’s the secret sauce that will get Utah past the Clippers and into the second round.
Signature playoff move: The slowest, angriest buzzer-beater.
Jeffrey SwingerJeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Believe me when I tell you that I know Waiters isn’t in the playoffs and don’t care because we are doing this.
Because it doesn’t feel right talking about microwave playoff magic like Dion “Y’all Seen Casino?” Waiters, who’s hurting more than anyone after the tragic series of events that led to the damn Bulls getting to take their unmistakable brand of trashketball into the postseason.
Signature playoff move: Stay home and write longform.
Brian SpurlockBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Dellavedova has two jobs in the NBA, and those jobs are pissing off Steph Curry and pissing off Steph Curry again.
Granted, Delly probably won’t get to do that job this year, but the Australian guard is always good for two or three havoc games every postseason, where he transforms into travel-sized Tony Allen and plays lockdown defense on a guy who makes a comically greater amount of money than him.
That’s Horry award material.
Signature playoff move: Enthusiastic dehydration.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
The Crawdaddy is a respected veteran with a unique skill set whose contributions can’t always be measured in makes and misses, and shuffling him into a league with Horry doesn’t do him proper justice as a scorer and a team leader on the floor.
He is still Jamal Crawford, however, and the fact that his average points per game jumps from 15.3 (career average) to 18.5 in the postseason doesn’t feel like a happy accident.
Signature playoff move: Come in for final minutes of elimination at Staples as broadcasters remark what a swell old relic that Jamal Crawford is.
Richard MacksonRichard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
He’s a whoozie, he’s a wha-zee. Ibaka is fairy dust, and on any given night he can either look like a franchise player or the tall guy at the Y who can’t make layups.
Ibaka is a little mainstream for a traditional Horry winner, but he’s got more than enough random, 3-point deluge games on his resume to hang tight and ride this stretch-four craze to a title or two somewhere.
Signature playoff move: Infringe on Dikembe Mutombo’s brand.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Someone has to score points for Toronto besides DeMar DeRozan, and as Kyle Lowry’s postseason yips return for their annual bloom, Powell has stepped up big for the Raptors in the first round and continues to do all the right things to ensure someone will give him a big enough contract down the line to make sports writers angry.
Signature playoff move: Remind Drake for the third that he is not Corey Joseph.
Nick TurchiaroNick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway Jr. has actually had a great season almost across the board, but the gear he's flipped since the Hawks entered the postseason is unlike anything he's showed us before.
A month from now, Smith is going to go 8-of-14 on 3s to save Cleveland from elimination, and that, my friends, is when I debut my theory that J.R.'s thumb injury was, in truth, just the latest and greatest ploy in his annual sandbagging regimen.
As history has taught us, the most powerful and fleeting form of Rondo only occurs when National TV Rondo fuses with Playoff Rondo to create Good Rondo — the most fleeting and ephemeral of Rondos, and coincidentally also the one front offices talk themselves into before making a big mistake.
Four or five times a year, Jefferson comes off the bench with all systems go and his Bengay drying just so, and the ensuing 12-19 minutes of basketball is just a montage of him dunking on the other team’s most fragile player and melting dams with his eyes.
Then there are the 90 other games of the year where he comes in, misses a pair of corner threes and clocks out for a matinee.
Signature playoff move: Throwing down his biannual poster dunk and disappearing into the night.
Reinhold MatayReinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Whichever lanky Pat McCaw type the Warriors are wedging in there these days
If GSW's deepest bench players do their job perfectly, they'll each have three steals, 12 points and a championship ring by mid June.
Signature playoff move: Come in, exert maximum effort and dip at halftime to miss traffic.
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Green is fast, bouncy and plays like Great Value Tracy McGrady on the three days of year when the lunar calendar aligns perfectly with his Netflix schedule.
Signature playoff move: Two made threes and a dunk followed by a series of increasingly optimistic heat checks.
Mike DinovoMike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
One of the main stipulations in Ariza's contract is every year he must play for whichever Western Conference team has the longest realistic shot at winning a title, and it's worked out pretty great so far.
Signature playoff move: Miss every 3-point attempt except the game-winner as time expires.
Mark D. SmithMark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
I’m working on a theory that Jones isn’t actually just LeBron’s extremely well-paid and attentive fall guy, and their continued inseparability from franchise to franchise is one of my favorite weird NBA bromances of all time.
Signature playoff moves: Snap up pants, claim everything in the bag is his.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
JaVale giveth, the JaVale JaValeth away.
We’re still early in the going, but as it stands, McGee is my leading dark horse for the Horry and a poster child of hit-or-miss greatness in the modern NBA.
Do I also privately believe JaVale has a real percentage chance of winning Finals MVP in June? Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered.
Signature playoff move: Place ball through hoop, hope the hoop was the right hoop.