NBA Finals’ Greatest Moments: Nick “The Brick” Anderson

All he had to do was hit one free-throw.  

Hit one free-throw to win Game 1 of the 1995 NBA finals and Shaq may have spent a career in Orlando. Penny Hardaway might have not had a career devastated by injuries.  The Magic could have had multiple championships, instead of still searching for their first.  At the very least the 1995 finals wouldn't have been a sweep by the Houston Rockets over Orlando.

But up three with a chance to secure Game 1, Nick Anderson missed that free-throw, then another.  He grabbed the rebound off of his miss and was fouled again.  Then the unthinkable happened, the career 66 percent free throw shooter missed a third, and then a fourth!  Rockets guard Kenny Smith tied the game with a clutch 3-pointer with just under two seconds left, sending Game 1 into overtime where Hakeem Olajuwon would tip in a rebound with three tenths of a second left on the clock to win.  The Rockets would go on to sweep the demoralized Magic and win their second consecutive NBA championship.

I'm not a Rockets fan. I'm not a Magic fan.  But outside of clutch jumpshots that end games or series', this was by far the most remembered moment of any Finals for me.  Off the top of my head, I didn't remember the score, or that it went to overtime, or that Kenny Anderson hit the jumper to tie it.  I just remember Kenny Anderson missing four straight free-throws.

Anderson was never automatic at the "stripe." In his best season ever, he was a 74 percent free-throw shooter.  But missing those specific four from the Finals definitely affected him, even to the point that Anderson only made 40 percent from the line during the 96-97 season; abysmal. Those misses didn't just start the decline of Anderson's career, but after getting swept in the 1996 playoffs, Shaquille O'Neill would head to Los Angeles in free-agency, and with the hall-of-fame center gone, Penny Hardaway succumbed to injuries after shouldering the brunt of the scoring responsibilities.  

Anderson was traded to the Sacramento Kings after the 1998-99 season. He left Orlando as the team's career scoring leader and was the last member of the original roster of the expansion 89-90 Magic to leave the team.  Looking back, Anderson and the Orlando Magic could have had a much larger footprint in the NBA history books.

All he had to do was hit one free-throw.

J. Lance Moose is a contributor and lead football writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JLanceMoose, and subscribe on Facebook