Born: May 3, 1963
Position: Shooting Guard
Phoenix Suns (1986-’92)
Philadelphia 76ers (1992-’94)
Utah Jazz (1994-2000)
Jeff Hornacek stood 6’3″ tall, never weighed more than 200 pounds, and certainly didn’t dunk the ball much, if at all in his NBA career. Still, the man possessed athleticism you rarely find in the NBA, or any place.
Hornacek had an innate ability to release practically any conceivable shot from any given angle or spot. Of course, he’d also make a ridiculous amount of these shots. If caught 30-feet from the hoop with two defenders on his tail with just a second left, Hornacek seemed to have the opposition right where he wanted them. A shot would be flung up on the run, off the wrong leg, with two hands, and the sucker would go in… off glass for extra absurdity.
A fantastic dribbler, Hornacek would more often dispense this kind of trickeration in the lane. Few players have utilized double-pumping hesitation better than Jeff while attempting shots. Or he’d just leave you off-balance and then toss a wrap-around no-look pass to a trailing or cutting teammate. There’s a reason why as a shooting guard he averaged five assists per game over his career. In fact, it’s better to just think of him as guard. Whether he should shoot or pass would be dictated by the circumstances.
The assist tally becomes even more noteworthy, though, when you consider he played the vast majority of his career beside Kevin Johnson (in Phoenix) and John Stockton (in Utah). Both of those point guards routinely shattered the 10-assist per game barrier, but Hornacek still carved out a sizable chunk of play-making duties.
But back to the man’s shooting…
For his career, Hornacek averaged 49/40/87 from the field, three-point line, and free throw line. Starry eyes appear whenever someone approaches those numbers for a season. Only Steve Nash has replicated that kind of shooting plateau for a career.
His shooting, his athleticism, his passing, (and also his quick hands that liked to nab steals), helped make his clubs perennial playoff teams and regular title contenders. With the Suns he wound up in two Western Conference Finals. With the Jazz, Hornacek played in four Western Conference Finals and twice advanced from that lofty position to the NBA Finals.
Although winning an NBA championship ultimately eluded Hornacek, does he really need a title when he clearly had such a great career? And, besides, NBA-champion Dickey Simpkins can’t glowingly look back at a bevvy of brassy, ballsy shots that somehow went in like Hornacek can.
Regular Season: 1077 Games
Playoffs: 140 Games