One of the most polite players in the NBA, Jeff Hornacek even found a way to say hello to his children during every one of his free throw attempts.
He also hit a high percentage of those shots, and was proficient from the field as well.
A 6-4 shooting guard, Hornacek was a career 87.7% free throw shooter. He had a set routine for every free throw attempt, which helped the ball go through the hoop and was also a discreet gesture to his children. Hornacek would wipe the side of his face before every free throw.
It was something that started to be noticed and it really puzzled people. The answer to the riddle was that Hornacek would wipe his face as his children wanted to know why he couldn’t say hello to them when they were watching him on television. With this small sign, he did find a way to do that.
Hornacek once hit 67 consecutive free throws. He was the best in the NBA for free-throw shooting percentage at 95% for season 2000. Hornacek was second in the same stat in 1998, at 88.5%
For his college career, Hornacek went to Iowa State University for four years. He was a combo-guard who did anything the team needed. He scored at high percentages, got some rebounds and could pass for 6 assists per game.
The Phoenix Suns used to find a lot of second round steals in the draft, and one of their best was Hornacek as the 46th pick in the 1986 draft.
He played 80 games in his first season with Phoenix, averaging 5.3 points and 4.5 assists. During his second season he was moved into the starting lineup. For that season he scored 9.5 points, with 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game as well. That would be the last time in his career he would score in single-figures.
Hornacek was a great fit on the Suns, he could score when needed, he could handle the ball when Kevin Johnson was looking to score or when Johnson went to the bench for a rest, and he was a versatile player on a versatile team. Hornacek could adjust his game to allow Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers and Eddie Johnson to shoot more or Hornacek could look to score when defensive players like Kurt Rambis, Mark West, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang were on the floor.
The Suns liked Hornacek but knew they had to send a major piece away to land Charles Barkley in a trade. So Hornacek, as well as forward Tim Perry and center Andrew Lang, went to Philadelphia. As the 76ers had Hersey Hawkins at shooting guard, it meant Jeff Hornacek had to play the point, something he hadn’t done as a starter for quite a while.
Hornacek did adjust to the new role, and passed for 6 or 7 assists every game with the 76ers. Philadelphia was rebuilding and by shipping Hornacek to Utah they could get a first round pick to use. The deal was Hornacek, Sean Green and a 1995 second round draft pick going to the Utah Jazz for veteran shooting guard Jeff Malone and a 1994 first round draft pick.
The Jazz upgraded their shooting guard spot as Hornacek was in the prime of his career. The Jazz went to the NBA Finals two times with Stockton and Malone, Hornacek at shooting guard and role players like Antoine Carr and Greg Ostertag at center and Bryon Russell and Shandon Anderson at small forward.
Hornacek didn’t need to be the primary ball-handler with the Jazz so his shooting percentages went up, although he still managed around 4 assists per game. 50% from the field, 40% or more for three-pointers, around 90% on free throws, he was an efficient scorer.
Hornacek was very underrated by NBA fans but he could play. Winning the three-point competition at the 1998 All-Star weekend and connecting on 8 three-pointers in a game without missing a shot are two highlights of his career.