Foul Shot

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It’s easy to be seduced by the effortless stroke. A smooth and fluid release, arcing like a rainbow over the desperate hand of a seven foot tall giant, never any doubt as to the trajectory, straight in, swish, splash, nuthin’ but net. When you roll a reel of Steph Curry in action (or, forthat matter, his father), it parades a skill of such special beauty that has been refined to near perfection, a process that has taken thousands of hours on the practice court. Looking back through the history of the league at the purest shooters, those whose technique was, and maybe still is, unsurpassed; Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Jerry West, Jordan and Bryant, the story of this single action dazzles. But as magnificent as a story it may be, there are those who seek to soil it.
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Wilt was good enough not to care.
There have been some terrible shooters over the years, and by terrible I mean they missed more often than not. Hack-A-Shaq made it into the lingo (not to mention the tactical conversation) of the league on the back of the clanging, depressingly inept free throws that Shaquille O’Neil spat out. Apparently Ricky Rubio is on track to become the worst shooter ever, who knew? But don’t want to focus on this type of terrible shooter.
I want to highlight three men in particular, three men whose shooting may not even be that bad in terms of numbers. Their crimes are much worse. They are charged with blighting the aesthetics of the jump shot, or foul shot. Their shooting action is so bizarrely unappealing, so visually abhorrent, it’s enough to force my hand to my mouth. The existence of these seemingly unimportant gestures is an insult to the noble sport itself. So, in no particular order:
 

Jermaine O’Neal

 

Picked up by the Golden State Warriors this season, O’Neal is a veteran of the game, having played the majority of his career with the Pacers. He is a 6 time All Star, and nobody can doubt his quality as a centre. He blocks shots and rebounds with aggression and his jump shot actually looks pretty nice. But where his crimes lie is at the foul line. He has had an eccentric history standing at this particular area of the court, but his recently adopted style takes eccentricity to ugly new levels. The multiple bounces, as if composing himself. Then the steely stare up at the rim, mano-a-mano. He twists his back foot, like crushing out a cigarette. The deep bending of the knees, then the glorious rising up to jarringly stop at the top of the action, hold for what seems like forever, then a flick of the hands from off his forehead to shoot the ball. Good Lord, the worst part is that shuddering anticlimax when he pauses at the top. It begs for a fluid release but O’Neal refuses its pleas. That the ball goes in is no consolation.

    Shawn Marion

 
      An overall 9th pick in 1999, Marion was drafted by the Suns, and then, while having a season in Toronto with the Raptors, he won the 2011 NBA Championship with the Dallas Mavericks. A four time All Star himself, he is known for his versatility, a physical and capable defender with the attributes to be an adept and skilful scorer. His Wikipedia entry then notes Marion for also being “known for his unorthodox shooting form.” Unorthodox is one way of putting it. Is there another? Might I suggest preposterous? In this clip of him warming up before a game against the Celtics, Marion performs a passable imitation of a kangaroo hopping around the court. His action is the same way a Tyrannosaurus Rex would shoot the ball. Has the man got webbed armpits? Does he kiss the ball for good luck before letting it go? He barely leaves the ground as it is. It’s as if he changes his mind halfway through the action every time he shoots. It’s just so awful, Shawn.
 

    Joakim Noah

 
      And now we come to the worst of the worst. Joakim Noah, 2 time All Star and centre for the Chicago Bulls, deserves 501 (that’s his FG%) consecutive life sentences for crimes against shooting. He is actually a decent shooter for a big man, shooting 72% from the line in his career. But it’s the way he does it, the most bizarre, the most unpleasant, the foulest shot in the game today; the Sidling Sidespinner. Noah even acknowledges it himself; “…I know that my jump shot is so ugly that when I knock it down it’s demoralizing to the other team…” he is quoted as saying in February of this year. You hear that? It’s so ugly the opposition just gives up the ghost, thinking that if that thing can go in then we may as well let them shoot from half court because there’s something eerie going on. How does he even get the ball going straight when he’s flicking it off the side like that? And what about the right hand after the release, curled around in atrophy or maybe just desperate to get away from what it’s just done. It has to be the worst. It has to be.
 
      5AXojJ on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

 

 

      For the aesthetes of the game, please sort it out, lads.
 
 

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