Throwback Thursday: Mario Elie's Kiss of death

On social media sites, Thursdays have turned into Throwback Thursdays. People post old pictures on their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts every Thursday to showcase a special moment from earlier in time. ValleyoftheSuns has decided to join the craze to bring Suns fans some of the most memorable moments (good or bad) in the team’s history.

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Houston Rockets 97-88 last night, so today we bring you back to one of the more famous playoff moments in NBA history.

Date: May 20, 1995

Place: America West Arena

Set-up: It was deja vu all over again from 1994. The Phoenix Suns were playing the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals after winning the first two games in the series only to lose three of the next four. The only difference in 95 was the Suns got to host Game 7 instead of being on the road like the year before.

The Suns got out to a hot start and led 26-13 after one quarter and maintained a 10 point lead at halftime. The third quarter is when the Rockets made their run to get back into the game by outscoring the Suns 40-28 and actually led by two going into the final quarter. The fourth was a back and forth high-scoring affair with both teams combing for 69 points in the quarter. Kevin Johnson was dominating the game for the Suns and finished with a game-high 46 points, but missed a crucial free throw in the final minute. The game was tied at 110 with 20.4 seconds left and Houston had the ball coming off a timeout.

Kiss of deathKenny Smith took the inbounds pass from in front of the Suns bench and brought it up to mid-court, where he was double teamed by Kevin Johnson and Danny Ainge. Smith threw a cross court pass horizontally to the cross-checker, Robert Horry, who got it over the mid-court line. After a couple dribbles up the court, the cross-checker threw the ball across the floor to a wide-open Mario Elie in the corner of the Rockets bench. After catching the ball and gathering himself, he lifted the three-point shot over a leaping Danny Schayes and sunk the shot with 7.7 seconds left. After hitting the shot, Elie ran down the court to blow the infamous “Kiss of Death” toward the Suns bench. The Rockets won the game 115-114 to move on to the Western Conference Finals.

Aftermath: Just like in 94, the Rockets used the series comeback against the Suns as a springboard to back-to-back championships. The Suns fell short in the playoffs for the third straight year in excruciating fashion and the window of dominance slammed shut. The next season the team traded Dan Majerle and lost several players to injuries for significant portions of the 1995-96 season, such as Johnson and Manning. The Suns ended up firing Paul Westphaul in January of 96 and the team finished the season at 41-41 with a first round loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Ironically enough, Elie finished his playing career with the Suns in 2000-01.

Tags: 1995 Danny Ainge Houston Rockets Kenny Smith Kevin Johnson Kiss Of Death Mario Elie NBA Phoenix Suns Robert Horry

  • Foreveris2long

    Man Jeffrey that is a painful memory. I will never forget Ellie blowing a kiss to the fans after that shot. I hate him and Horry as ballers.

  • Luka

    Barkley was starting to break down himself. KJ had to carry the team by himself. The Suns had all the talent in the world but the injuries were always a concern.

    Anyone else think the Suns screwed up by trading Finley away too soon? They might’ve avoided overpaying for Penny as a result.


    The past now reminds me a little of the future.We need that one stud player, go to guy, enforcer, like Barkley. Who could that be? Love,Aldich,Wade,Casol?

  • Sunsn7

    Why oh WHY do you wanna bring THAT up?! To accentuate the fact the Suns choked 2 straight yrs to the Rockets after holding a 3-1 series in 1994 AND 1995? That while Barkley was here we shoulda had at least ONE ring? Is that your point?

    Point well taken

  • EBJM

    Luka you have it reversed. KJ missed almost half that season allowing for Elliot Perry to actually start more games than KJ played in.

    The following season he still missed way more than Barkley did.

    KJ’s injury history is what prompted the trade for Kidd as KJ missed most of the season after that before retiring. (KJ missed nearly half of his final three seasons while Barkley was still playing well).

    So no, the Suns didn’t screw up unless you think Finley was more valuable than Kidd. Remember Nash played two seasons behind the oft-injured KJ before being traded to Dallas the summer KJ retired for the #7 pick that turned into Shawn Marion.

    What led to the trade for Hardaway was the injuries to Rex Chapman the previous two seasons and the Suns were able to dump Danny Manning who was never the same player after blowing out his knee playing against teammate Joe Klein in practice.

    Manning had signed for one season at $1 million turning down around $35 million from the Hawks. J.C. resigned him despite the torn ACL out of loyalty for Manning coming to Phoenix.

    The Suns were considered the “Dream Team” at the time and the rest of the league cried collusion in the signing led by no other than Pat Riley.

    The basketball Gods caught up to J.C. though as we all know how well Penny worked out. That deal also cost Phoenix two 1st rd draft picks as well.

  • EBJM

    Sunsn7 I was thinking the same thing. Aren’t these throwbacks suppose to be about the Suns successes, not their failures?

  • ShanMan

    this reminded me of the “kiss” Tim Thomas blew at Dirk Nowitski in the 2006 playoffs.With fire in his eyes, Dirk reached back to his ancestry and invaded Poland for the rest of the game.

  • Horacio Llamas

    I’m the night manager at Filibertos come see me some time!

  • EBJM

    Horacio Llamas played ball for twenty years until retiring this year and now is an assistant coach with Pioneros of Quintana Roo in Mexico.

  • Joe Kidd

    K.J.’s injury history is not what prompted the trade for Kidd. I’ll explain more later.

    And I think that Luka may have been referring more to the postseason, where he is completely correct.