THROWING IT OUT THERE | By Desmond Bieler

The Sons of Lady Luck

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Top o' the Monday Morning to ya! Once again, it's that time of the year when the phrase "luck of the Irish" gets bandied about, and Charlie Weis replies, "I have no idea what you mean." But we have some idea, and it inspired us to seek nominations for the luckiest people in sports. For whatever reason (possibly because it's NBA season), our crack staff had only NBA figures on the collective brain, so this week's list is a specific response to a more general question.

OneRobert Horry

Let's start right off by saying, yes, anyone who has earned the nickname "Big Shot Rob" has created no small amount of his own good fortune. But come on -- this is less about kissing the net and more about kismet. Seven is supposed to be a lucky number, right? Well, watch us get all numerological on this guy. Horry's career scoring average is 7.0, which befits someone who's often been not even a sixth man so much as a seventh man, yet he's managed to rack up seven championship rings. That's seven more rings than Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone combined, and one more than a certain Really Big Shot Mike. And he's done it with three different teams, no less (hey, three, that's the magic number!). Fact is, Horry has repeatedly been in the right place at the right time to hit clutch baskets. And not just when the Sacramento Kings' Vlade Divac did the smart thing by swatting the ball away from his net at a crucial point in the 2002 Western Conference finals, only to see it bounce straight to Horry, who hit a three that let his Los Angeles Lakers tie the series. That play was described by then-King Hedo Turkoglu as "the luckiest thing I've ever seen in my life." But beyond isolated moments in individual games, fate has seen fit to place Horry on championship squads through unlikely means. In 1994, he was traded by the Rockets to Detroit for Sean Elliott, but Elliott failed his physical, canceling the deal and leaving Horry with Houston, which went on to win the next two NBA titles. Certainly, Horry played a role in those title runs, but think about it: The Rockets had tried to get rid of him, and they might still have done pretty well with Hakeem Olajuwon in his dominating prime. Then, after Horry was traded to Phoenix, his feud with Suns coach Danny Ainge led to him throw a towel in Ainge's face, which led Ainge to deal him to the Lakers, who just so happened to be looking to dump their own head case in Cedric Ceballos. Three championships later, it must be said that that whole chain of events worked out pretty well for our man. Okay, credit Horry with having the good sense to sign as a free agent with the Spurs, who were coming off a championship of their own, in 2003. But we can't let him go without noting that Horry has often been cited for having an uncanny resemblance to Will Smith. You know, you could do a lot worse than that.

TwoKeith Van Horn

"Hey, Keith, whatcha up to?"

"I dunno, not much, really."

"Well, how would you like to come out of retirement so we can trade you to the Nets? Don't worry, you won't have to play, and you'll make $4.3 million."

"Um, yeah, I could do that."

ThreeIsiah Thomas

If you're not aware of how disgustingly awful and awfully disgusting the Knicks have been under Thomas's direction, then you might be the luckiest person in sports. Yet despite this and previously unsuccessful stints with the Pacers and the not-coincidentally-defunct CBA, he still has a job, and a pretty well-paying one at that.

FourPhil Jackson

As with Lucky Guy No. 1, we must stress that, yes, Jackson is a very good coach. A very good coach who has gotten to work with, and only with, some of the best talent the NBA has ever seen. Listen, Phil, you want to be thought of as more good than lucky? Go win a title coaching the Knicks.

FiveAll Cavaliers Not Named LeBron James

This includes everyone from the coaching staff to the front office to the cotton-candy vendors. Winning a lottery that's weighted in your favor is kind of lucky, but winning a lottery the year it means getting the league's most marketable player, with the likelihood of multiple championships, and he's a local guy to boot, well, that's just fantastically good fortune.

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