I had the good fortune to be at the Hornets / Warriors game a few weeks back and like all fans was awed by the way these guys shoot. On that night the soulless shooters from the Bay Area were tossing them in from everywhere, rainbow trajectory nothing but net rain busters. It was overwhelming. I mean I know it’s not that easy .. I know because I’ve been there.
Well okay I haven’t been there at the NBA level or the CBA level or any level of college ball, not even major high school, but there was a time I played ball. We were athletes who wore high top black converse shoes, played in cracker box gyms with low rafters or school auditoriums with linoleum floors – sometimes on the school auditorium stage with the team benches in the orchestra pit. We ran three-man fast break patterns in practice until we could do them blindfolded and stood at 15 feet and worked up free throw techniques that we hoped would spare us the embarrassment of going 0’fer on the dreaded 3 for 2 foul shot opportunity.
We were mid century white kids with no hops and limited ball handling skills, but some of us could shoot. Not me, personally but some of us could. Now if I threw enough balls up from my ‘special’ dialed in spots, I’d get a few to clank in. I could even do it in competition with a hand in my face. Mostly I loved to run, getting out ahead of em with a like-minded and over drilled co-conspirator on the wing. One, two, three snapped passes and the full speed layup followed quickly by the coup d’ gras, a steal of their inbounds pass and another layup. Sweet. Much better than kicking the ball around the perimeter, running your offense, then hitting that guy who could shoot and watching his rainbow arch in from the top of the key. I kind of developed a dislike for that guy over time. Wonder if the Warriors sometimes dislike Baron Davis sitting out there at 35’ taking his shot with 19 seconds left of the 24 second clock. Probably not.
There was one time many years ago, and many years after my storied basketball career had ended, that for a strange spaced warped afternoon I was the greatest shooter in basketball history.
I was banging around the blacktop at Cherry Chase Elementary School a few blocks from home just getting a sweat up. Shooting from the top of the key and hustling up the rebound then pounding into the hoop for a layup. I was probably even running narrative in my head. When out of exhaustion or boredom or who knows what, I didn’t shoot the ball at the hoop as much as shoot it up in the air, way up in the air and gravity turned it back down and it swished through the rim, actually clacked through, at Cherry Chase the rims had chain nets not nylon. I thought how cool, a moon shot hoop. So I did it again from the wing with the same result, and again and again. I couldn’t miss, hell I couldn’t even almost miss, each shot a perfect swish. After 30 or so consecutive, perfectly executed moonshots from every spot on that blacktop I stopped. I had decoded the puzzle, touched the miraculous, viewed basketball perfection. The ball from my hand to the bottom of the net, guided there by unseen forces usually reserved for the Gail Goodrichs and Larry Birds of the sport.
The solution seemed to involve not shooting at the hoop or at just over the front rim – my historic target spot – but throwing the ball up to a point that will lead to the basket. Looking at the rim and tossing the ball up into the air. It might also have involved not caring if you made the shot when you shot thereby releasing yourself to make it. But then I was on the left coast and third eye related realties always seem more probable when you’re so close to the tidal pull of the ocean. I can only say that I have been smart enough not to try and work up an explanation through repeated efforts, slow motion video analysis, or CAD based structural examinations. I left shooting perfection on the blacktop at Cherry Chase for someone else to discover and went on to my day job and my personal basketball memories which have gotten better every year since.