The “What-if” Factor
One argument I’ve seen often for Elliott’s miracle shot being the greatest in Spurs history is that came in their first-ever championship run. As a result, the remaining rings wouldn’t have been possible without the shot catapulting San Antonio to the 1999 title.
While I agree that it was easily the biggest shot of that run and that run led to other championships, it’s hard to see the Memorial Day Miracle as the make-or-break moment for that team.
What if Sean Elliott missed that shot? Well, the Spurs would’ve just needed five or six games to knock Portland out. The Blazers had lost four straight to San Antonio when you look at the regular season plus Game 1 of the series.
If Robert Horry misses that shot, it’s Detroit’s basketball up by two with 5.8 seconds left in the game, and 90 percent free-throw shooter Chauncey Billups would be waiting to ice the victory. Obviously, the fact that this shot happened in the NBA Finals only maximizes the “what-if” factor.
The Spurs certainly had the capability to still win the series if Horry’s shot rattled out, but it was unlikely. Although San Antonio blew Game 6 at home to a determined Pistons team, their Game 5 win gave them the confidence they sorely needed to be able to finally pull away in the fourth quarter of Game 7.
Advantage: Robert Horry
Two huge championships, two epic moments. It’s a close call, but ultimately Robert Horry’s dagger in Detroit was more impactful as a whole than Sean Elliott’s tiptoeing game-winner.
Still, no fan of the Spurs will ever see the words ‘Memorial Day’ without thinking of the shot that propelled San Antonio to its first ring. Not many people can say they have a holiday associated with them.
As we continue to wait to see what the future holds for the NBA and the Spurs, I’m looking forward to the next big shot, whenever that might be.