Jeff Hornacek had a successful 14-year NBA
career playing for the Phoenix Suns
, Philadelphia 76ers
, and Utah Jazz
. He was born on May 3, 1963, in Elmhurst, Illinois
. Hornacek played his college
ball at Iowa State
. Hornacek did not put up outstanding numbers there. In his senior year he avergaed 13.7 points
and 6.6 assists
, and this was by far his best season. As a result, Hornacek was not drafted until the second round, when Phoenix
took him with the 46th pick, in the 1986 draft.
Hornacek can play either guard position. He stands 6 feet 4 inches tall, and weighs 190 pounds. He is big enough to play shooting guard, and has the passing skills to play point guard. The Suns used him mostly as a point guard until the arrival of Kevin Johnson in 1988. Hornacek averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 assists in his rookie season, in only 19.5 minutes of playing time. His minutes and his numbers increased in the next few seasons. In 1988, Kevin Johnson was acquired in a midseason trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Hornacek was moved to shooting guard. This was the key move in his development as a player.
With Johnson handling the playmaking responsibilities, Hornacek was free to look for his own offense, averaging 17.6 points in 1990, and a career-high 20.1 in the 1992 season, his only All-Star season. Hornacek was always an excellent mid-range shooter, and soon developed a deadly stroke from behind the arc. In his first three seasons, Hornacek shot only 31 percent from downtown, but for the rest of his career was a 41 percent three point shooter.
During the 1992 offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers were looking to trade their malcontent star forward, Charles Barkley. Hornacek was coming off of his career year, and the Suns wisely made a deal that sent Hornacek, plus two scrubs, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, to Philly for Barkley.
Hornacek's career in Philadelphia was a resounding disappointment. While he played well, there was no way he could replace Barkley on the floor, and the Philly fans (who are some of the toughest fans anywhere) let him know it. Hornacek averaged 19 points and 7 assists in his only full season in Philly. In the middle of the 1994 season, he was sent to the Utah Jazz for guard Jeff Malone. Malone never played very well for the Sixers, and early the next season got hurt and was never the same player afterward. So it could be said that Hornacek ripped off the Sixers coming and going.
Hornacek was an excellent fit for the Jazz, who already had Karl Malone and John Stockton, and did not need him to carry the team. Hornacek's job was simply to knock down shots, and he did. His best season in Utah was 1995, when he averaged 16.5 points and shot 51% from the floor and 47% from downtown. The Jazz believed that Hornacek was too small to adequately defend the shooting guard position, and almost every offseason would see a bigger guard challenging Hornacek for the starting job, and every season without fail, the bigger guard (Chris Morris for example)would spend the year buried on the bench.
Hornacek was with the Jazz for their playoff runs of 1997 and 1998, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls both times. Hornacek played well in 1997, but shot the ball poorly in the 1998 playoffs, as chronic knee problems began to limit his game. In his last two seasons, Hornacek was a nearly-immobile shooter, but still a very accurate one. In his last season, 2000, he still managed to lead the league in free-throw percentage, at an incredible 95% (he missed nine free throws all year!), score 12.4 points per game, and shoot 48% from behind the arc.
Rather than trying to hang on past his time in the NBA, Hornacek announced his retirement after the 2000 season. The Utah Jazz have since discovered that even a fading Hornacek was a far better player than his replacement, the fading John Starks.