Jeffrey John Hornacek (born May 3, 1963 in Elmhurst, Illinois).
I was thinking of ranking Isaiah Rider as number 9 and I have to say that I changed my mind many times. Finally, I decided that Hornacek’s presence throughout the 90s was stable in a pretty high level and he was always reliable and one of the best players in each of the teams that he played. OK, I agree that Rider was definitely more talented than Hornacek and Majerle, but he never played up to his level, he was always in another dimension and although I really liked his game I have to say that the consistency of Majerle and Hornacek and their work ethic were more important than Rider’s talents, in the long-run.
Hornacek had the looks of the ‘guy next door’. If you didn’t know him there was not a chance that you thought of him as an NBA player. He said it better that I could ever say it: “I wasn’t the fastest guy, I wasn’t the strongest guy, but my father was a coach, and I knew just about everything about basketball. That’s what got me through”. That is exactly the summary of Jeff Hornacek’s ability, he had a great knowledge of the fundamentals plus he was a smart guy and was able to turn around the situations when he was finding himself in a disadvantaged position. This was happening almost every night as he said: “I always had to figure out how to take advantage of what’s going on. The guy guarding me was 2-3 inches taller, and 15-20 lbs heavier, and bigger, stronger, and faster, I knew I had to do something different to offset that. So one thing I always did was try to outsmart them and be one step ahead of those guys”.
He was a great shooter and a very good scorer. He led the Suns in scoring in 1991-92 season with 20.1 per game and was selected as an all-star, for the West, in the same season. He played for the Suns six consecutive seasons since he was drafted by them at 1986 as number 46 overall (no.22 in the 2nd round). He played the best basketball of his career during the 1991-92 season, he was named player of the month during December 1991, but Phoenix was eliminated in the 2nd round of the western conference play-offs by the Portland Trail Blazers in 5 games (4-1). This led the Suns management to make a very important move and send Jeff Hornacek to Philadelphia, as a part of the transfer, for Charles Barkley.
Jeff played in a high level and averaged 19.1ppg. in his first season with a really bad team in Philadelphia. His second season was not bad either but he was finally traded to Utah in the 24th of February 1994 for Jeff Malone. In Utah Hornacek had the opportunity to play alongside two of the greatest players ever (John Stockton and Karl Malone). Hornacek had an immediate impact in Utah as he proved to be a perfect fit to Jerry Sloan’s system.
Jeff Hornacek helped Utah to reach the NBA Finals two times in a row, during the 90s. He was a very important piece in Utah’s puzzle but he was unlucky enough to guard Michael Jordan in 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals (alongside with his teammate Bryon Russell). I remember an incident that was really funny (for us), that took place during the 1997 NBA Finals where Hornacek’s kids were at the arena in Utah wearing Michael Jordan’s jerseys (I have to say that I remember a sport caster describing it I have not seen it with my own eyes) .
He was really underrated, I underrated him as well and I was considering to leave him outside of this countdown, for lesser players because of their talent and fancy moves. Hornacek deserves to be considered as one of the top-ten shooting guards of the 90s as he really earned it with his consistency, hard work and smartness.