Mario Elie Rumors
When the Raptors won the title in 2019, it was the only time that the NBA champions did not have a lottery pick on their roster since the league changed to a weighted lotto system in 1990. In fact, the 2019 Raptors had the lowest drafted players among NBA champions since the Houston Rockets in 1993-94. (Although those numbers were a bit impacted by the fact that Mario Elie was selected at No. 160 overall, fully one hundred spots later than the final selection eligible in the modern draft).
There are touchstones collected on the way to championships that resonate even decades later. The Rockets’ consecutive championship years brought the birth of “Clutch City.” They culminated with the “Heart of a Champion.” Mario Elie produced the “Kiss of Death,” a triumph that still has him stopped around Houston “all the time.” “It’s pretty cool,” Elie said. “People remember that. They tell me where they were. They don’t call me Mario. They say, ‘Hey, ‘Kiss of Death.’ That’s my new name.”
When he did, giving the Rockets a 103-100 lead in the closing seconds of Game 7 in Phoenix, he marked the occasion by pressing three fingers to his lips and blowing a kiss goodbye to the Suns’ bench and particularly to reserve center Joe Kleine. “I saw the shot and it was a Hollywood movie, just hanging in the air,” former Rockets star Kenny Smith said of the moment long before he became one of the faces of TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” “I was just waiting and waiting and waiting. And it went in.”
The Chicago Tribune reported in March 2000 that Spurs guard Avery Johnson was angering teammates with selfish complaining after being benched in several fourth quarters for Terry Porter, who was a better 3-point shooter. During a 92-81 Spurs loss at Cleveland on Feb. 15, 2000, Johnson and teammate Malik Rose argued over a defensive play when Cavaliers guard Andre Miller got a 3-point play. After the game, a nude Johnson tried to slap Rose in front of his locker while on his way to the shower, a source told The Undefeated. Rose lunged forward to hit Johnson and slipped and fell after stepping into teammate Mario Elie’s bucket of ice. Rose was held back by teammates Felton Spencer and Jerome Kersey. Still nude, Johnson started pacing around the locker room, throwing stuff around and breaking a television while having words for Popovich, Robinson, Rose and Porter about the team no longer being his. The Spurs didn’t re-sign Johnson, although the franchise did retire his No. 6 jersey after he retired, and he instead signed with the Denver Nuggets.