Would You Rather Be Malone or Horry?


Both Robert Horry and Karl Malone played the position of power forward in the National Basketball Association for well over a decade. They are of a select few individuals who were afforded the opportunity to play basketball at its highest level and compete against the best athletes in the world. Only about 400 players from across the globe play on NBA rosters each year, and both Malone and Horry beat the odds and played in the league. They were both 6’9″, athletic big men who were very skilled for their size. They both came from humble, non-basketball conferences in college and excelled against the tougher competition of the pros. And most importantly, both men were highly successful in the NBA. However, the professional basketball careers of Karl Malone and Robert Horry could not have been more different. The former is a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Fame player. The latter was the ultimate role player, and one the winningest players in NBA history. This begs the question, ‘Whose career would you rather have, Malone’s or Horry’s?’

Karl Malone is a NBA legend. Until Tim Duncan, he was clearly the best power forward that had ever played in the National Basketball Association (and he still is the best if you consider Duncan to be a center instead of his listing at PF). Malone was asked to carry the Jazz franchise from his second year in the pros throughout the entirety of his career in Utah, and he did just that. For eighteen years, he was the face of the team and won countless awards. Karl Malone was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and also won a All-Star MVP. He led the Jazz to franchise records in wins, he holds the Jazz records for scoring and rebounding, and finished his career as the second-highest scorer in NBA history with 36,928 points (behind only Kareem Abdul Jabbar) in nineteen years of play. In his prime, Malone never finished outside of the top five in scoring. And in most years, he was a close second to Michael Jordan in scoring. He averaged 25.0 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game for his career, but in his best year, he averaged 31.0 ppg. and 11.1 rpg. Karl Malone was an unstoppable force on the basketball court. Over the first ten years of his NBA career, he kneed, elbowed, and booted opponents around the paint to get to the rim and finish. And as he got older, he learned to shoot short jumpers to elongate his basketball career. Malone transformed himself from a raw bruiser into a polished ball player, and dominated the league in the process. He was both revered and feared on the basketball court, but he never won a NBA title. When the biggest moments arose, Malone seemed to fade despite being one of the best guys on the court. He seemed to shrink every time he played a defining game. And that failure to shine in the brightest moments, ultimately has defined his career.

Robert Horry had a completely different NBA career, though. Throughout his eighteen year career, Horry only averaged over 10 ppg. three times and finished his career with only 7,715 points. However, a collection of Horry’s playoff shots were some of the most clutch and important plays in NBA history. He earned the name “Big Shot Bob” by taking and making season altering shots for every team that would have him. Horry was a bit of a journeyman, but he made a mark in every place that he stopped. He won two rings with the Houston Rockets who drafted him out of college, defending three positions on the floor, hitting threes from the top of the key, blocking shots alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, and slamming the ball on anyone who dared to contest him. From there, he moved on to San Antonio and Los Angeles where he picked up 5 more rings with clutch shooting that propelled both franchises past some of the most challenging teams of the era. Robert Horry had a knack for finding open spaces in a defense and capitalizing off their mistakes. Though he probably could have possibly averaged 12-20 points in the league, he ignored his personal statistics and chose to fill the needs of contenders. And, he excelled at it. Now, Robert Horry has more rings than Michael Jordan. He has more playoff wins than anyone in history. Robert Horry has built a career that many pros dream of through sacrificing his individual stats. But, what career path would you choose if you had a choice between Malone and Horry?

Both men had remarkable professional careers in their own right. One was the talented performer, the other was the ultimate winner, but they took completely different paths in basketball. Malone’s statistics rival the numbers of any player in NBA history. He was more powerful than Kevin Garnett, more dynamic than Tim Duncan, and possibly more dominant than Charles Barkley. He owned the left block in the post. Malone could spin for a quick turnaround jumper in the post, face up his defender and blow them, or bully his way further into the paint with his back to the basket. He rebounded like a center, but could stretch the floor with a barrage mid range shots. He caught passes from all angles and at varying speeds, and finished plays in the paint over taller players. And, he was a good passer too. Karl Malone regularly threw backdoor bounce passes to cutting guards and dropped touch passes into his center. He was an offensive juggernaut, and he was an underrated team defender too. His hands were so quick to the basketball that Malone made multiple All-Defensive teams despite not being a great individual defender. Malone’s relevance in NBA lore is set in stone despite him never winning a championship. But, Robert Horry holds a revered place in NBA history without putting up gaudy statistics. Horry stands as the only non-Celtic to collect seven championship rings. His clutch shots in the playoffs have been so far ingrained into the minds of NBA basketball fans that his candidacy for the Hall of Fame is being considered by some basketball historians despite career averages of 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Horry was wildly inconsistent statistically. He is one of two players to win a NBA ring on three separate teams, and he consistently hit big shots or made significant plays for each franchise, but his numbers rarely reflected his contributions. He could dominate offensively for a half of a game and disappear in the second half or dominate defensively for an entire game but finish with only one steal and one block. He was a unique player who could perform within a system and defer to superstars, yet play at a higher level when his team needed him. Robert Horry sacrificed his numbers to be a part of something bigger. His win-shares compare favorably to NBA players like Eddie Johnson and Juwan Howard who scored and rebounded more than he did because his teams won more games. And though his teams’ wins were definitely a function of their superstars, they were also a function of Horry’s game.

This is the issue at the crux of choosing between these National Basketball Association players.

Would you want to be the consummate professional who is invisible to the casual fan, or the NBA superstar who despite individual accolades fell short when the game was on the line? Which is more important, the success of your team or your individual legacy? Is your legacy defined by your individual accomplishments or by the efficacy of your team? The answers to these questions reveal more about you than they do about Malone and Horry. So, who would you rather be?


10 comments for “Would You Rather Be Malone or Horry?

  1. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 2:36 AM

    When Karl Malone was still in college, he threw an elbow that sent Rice center Dave Ramer to the hospital and ended his career.

  2. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    When Karl Malone was still in college, he threw an elbow that sent Rice center Dave Ramer to the hospital and ended his career.

  3. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    When you mention the names Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing, you cannot dispute that they belong in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. When you mention the name Robert Horry, the Hall of Fame does not immediately come to mind. But Horry achieved something that none of these players did during their careers – he won a championship ring. In fact, he has won seven of them during his illustrious 16-year career that has seen him in the playoffs every year. Horry hasn’t won these championships by playing big minutes – he’s averaged less than 30 minutes per game over his career – but rather by playing big game in his minutes.

  4. Anonymous
    December 14, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Late in his career, Horry was criticized for his hard foul against Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns in 2007 and his foul on David West of the New Orleans Hornets in 2008, prompting some unhappy fans to call him “Cheap Shot Rob”.

  5. Anonymous
    December 15, 2012 at 2:59 AM

    plus even if people dont remember you, as robert horry, people will still get excited when you go out and they think they see will smith. i would take horry’s career just because he has always enjoyed the thrill of winning and while he was never the main reason a team won a championship, he was always a factor for his team. malone will never be a factor in a utah championship.

  6. Anonymous
    December 15, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    When you mention the names Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing, you cannot dispute that they belong in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. When you mention the name Robert Horry, the Hall of Fame does not immediately come to mind. But Horry achieved something that none of these players did during their careers – he won a championship ring. In fact, he has won seven of them during his illustrious 16-year career that has seen him in the playoffs every year. Horry hasn’t won these championships by playing big minutes – he’s averaged less than 30 minutes per game over his career – but rather by playing big game in his minutes.

  7. Anonymous
    December 15, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    Its not a nba hall of fame. College career comes into play too which Chris Mullin was great. If there was a role player hall of fame, maybe.

  8. Anonymous
    December 15, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    When you mention the names Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing, you cannot dispute that they belong in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. When you mention the name Robert Horry, the Hall of Fame does not immediately come to mind. But Horry achieved something that none of these players did during their careers – he won a championship ring. In fact, he has won seven of them during his illustrious 16-year career that has seen him in the playoffs every year. Horry hasn’t won these championships by playing big minutes – he’s averaged less than 30 minutes per game over his career – but rather by playing big game in his minutes.

  9. Anonymous
    December 16, 2012 at 3:56 AM

    the problem w/ fans against horry going into the hall of fame is that horry didn’t get any attention until the twilight of his career- by then, he was less impressive to watch because he was older and less athletic. if you looked back on his rockets years, you’d see how much he brought to his team, and would not doubt he was a key contributor toward their championships.yes, he played on great teams w/ star players, but that also meant he recorded less minutes, and therefore less box score numbers. we can worship big numbers all we want, but unless u watched horry hit those playoff shots, bringing more energy off the bench, and felt the emotion on both sides…u cannot gauge his worth. the energy he gives his teams and fans alone should put him in the hall of fame. no, he wasn’t a star player, but that was part of his personality- he was anything but flashy and didn’t care for the spotlight. i remember when he was called for a foul in an important game, and he just laughed it off. that was the kind of player he was on the court. perhaps it is this laid-back attitude that makes him seem less believable as a star. he is probably the most underrated player of my time.and finally, the biggest argument of all- yes, at least 3 championships were swung in horry’s team’s favour thanks to him. no doubt horry brought something to the game of basketball- jaw-dropping moments- again and again. …and this is all said by a fan of webber’s sacramento team in 2002.

  10. Anonymous
    December 18, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    no, malone was constantly stopped by hakeem,barkley,drexler and jordan from winning a title. malone has better numbers by far but he wasn’t the clutch playoff performer than malone was or ever was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *