By Brian Simmons
The challenges have changed. Instead of being counted on for a clutch shot, former NBA player Robert Horry’s biggest professional battles now involve dealing with insurance
companies, but the Sugar Land resident still delivers.
The Robert Horry Center for Sports and Physical Rehabilitation, founded by Horry, his wife Keva, his friend Kegis Smith and Anastasia Patoka, celebrates its first year of business this month. In that initial 52 weeks, the center treated more than 2,000 patients. “It’s been up and down like any business, but I was glad people had faith in us,” Horry said. “You can‘t trust just anybody for physical therapy.”
The clinic, a spacious 5,000-square-foot facility, is located at 15591 Creekbend Drive in Sugar Land. The Robert Horry Center also operates a location in the Bellaire area.
Horry moved to Fort Bend after being drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992, and although he played for Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio in later years, his family’s residence remained in Sugar Land.
“It is a thriving community with not only many different cultures but people of all ages too,” said Horry, when discussing why Sugar Land was chosen as the clinic’s flagship location. “We thought it was a great melting pot to start out in.”
The physical therapy center is the brainchild of Horry and Smith who attended the University of Alabama together. Smith was a team manager for the basketball program, and Horry played for the Crimson Tide. Before Horry retired from pro basketball in 2008, the longtime friends discussed his post-NBA plans and decided opening a physical therapy clinic would be a perfect fit, Smith said. Not only was Horry familiar with the field because of his years as an athlete, he had personal experience with physical therapy after seeing his daughter Ashlyn undergo treatment throughout her life.
Ashlyn was born with 1p36 deletion syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder that is characterized by developmental delays on many levels. Ashlyn died in June 2011 at age 17 as a result of complications stemming from the disorder. Physical therapy was a constant in Ashlyn’s life, and Horry gained an appreciation for the practice. “I became interested in this from seeing how enthusiastic the therapists are,” Horry said. “It’s also a way for me to stay around sports in a different way.”
The seven-time NBA champion understands it is difficult for many athletes to leave the sports world, and the Robert Horry Center gave him an avenue to stay connected. “I’m around athletes who are the way athletes are supposed to be – they do it for the fun of it,” Horry said.
Being on the other side of physical therapy has been refreshing for Horry, and it reminds him of tutoring other students in school. “You just like to help people and in a way, you’re giving back, too,” Horry said.
While there have been hurdles along the way, the staff looks back on the first year of business and reflects on the patients they’ve served. From treating a Howard University student who flew down for physical therapy to helping a young man who was told he needed spinal surgery but was able to get better simply through exercises and rehabilitation at the clinic, Patoka is proud of what the Robert Horry Center is accomplishing.
“Physical therapy is an opportunity to help, but it’s also an opportunity for education,” said Patoka, adding that injury prevention is a big focus at the clinic. “It’s neat to be able to make a difference. Physical therapy is a little more personal than other medical fields.”
It’s been so helpful and personal in fact, that Patoka said some patients didn’t want to stop coming to the clinic once their insurance-funded treatments ended. In response, the Robert Horry Center started offering personal training as a way for patients to continue getting help. “For our older patients, it’s really more of a maintenance program,” Patoka said.
Other services offered by the clinic include: manual therapy, orthopedic rehabilitation, wellness programs, sports medicine services and occupational hand therapy. The therapists can even evaluate sports injuries and direct patients to a physician that best fits them. Patients range from athletes to weekend warriors to people recovering from surgeries, said Patoka, adding that the Robert Horry Center clients usually hear about the clinic through doctors’ referrals.
The Heart of a Champion
Horry’s name alone brings back memories of the best years in Houston professional basketball. The former forward, who was recently honored as a member of the Rockets’ Team of the 1990s, helped the squad win back-to-back NBA titles in 1994-95. He went on to win three championships with the Lakers, two more with the Spurs and earned the nickname “Big Shot Rob” for the many times he nailed important baskets in playoff games.
Those moments of basketball euphoria would not exist had Smith not encouraged Horry to shoot the trey in practice during his Alabama years, the former team manager says with a smile. Horry gives a cutting glance when this message is relayed to him and quickly dismisses the claim.
The retired star makes as many appearances at the clinic as his schedule allows. He serves as an ambassador for the NBA and travels often. However, when patients say they never see the center’s namesake around, Horry hears about it and makes sure to be there the next time, he says with a grin.
The 41-year-old looks around the facility and thinks about the year behind the Robert Horry Center and about the future, which includes plans for additional locations. “I just see it as a place for people to be comfortable,” Horry said. “A lot of physical therapy places are all about the mechanics and machine work, and it feels like an assembly line. This is more personal.”
For more information on the Robert Horry Center for Sports and Physical Rehabilitation, visit www.roberthorrysportsrehab.com.
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