Sunday, January 22, 2006

The mid-range jump shot

There are few things as sweet as a jump shot released with the proper arc, the wrist breaking with the release, the arms held up on the follow-through, and the net collapsing upward in on itself as the ball passes straight down through the cords. It has its own beautiful sound, more like a splash than a "swish".

For twenty-three years I have been trying to work out the kinks in my jumpshot, and I still haven't quite reached the promise land. There are two crucial motions that have been tripping me up for decades. The foundation is the footwork. I always start with my left foot half a step forward, rock forward on the left heel as I step forward with my right. If I pop straight up my percentage goes way up. The problem comes with the slight drift forward or backward, which throws off the shot. The crucial second portion is the position of the hands -- they should hold the ball above the head, not below -- and the gentle wrist-flip release of the shot. It should not be a push or shot-put upwards--that type of motion is hard to control and introduces too many unnecessary complexities, in addition to keeping the ball low for the defender. The arms must stay up during and after the release of the shot, ideally until the ball reaches the rim. The follow-through insures the proper motion during the shot somehow. This makes sense and I've never questioned it.

It's a beautiful thing when it works, this negotiation with gravity, the fantastic calculations one makes without thought, calibrating the push of the legs off the ground with the gentle flip of the wrist, the rainbow of the perfect jump shot.

There are moments -- an hour, five minutes, a day -- where the motions feel perfect and fluid, where the ball seems as if it's pulled by a string into the basket. But these moments always pass too quickly. There's a place somewhere where the shot will always go in, where my feet and hands will always click, and where my follow-through will always produce the proper motions before.

1 comment:

Pete said...

My idea of heaven too. This is the best post I've ever read. Thank you.