This addendum to The Pickup Diaries
describes the various crap shots that pickup ballers attempt on a frighteningly regular basis. They will be referenced in upcoming installments.The fadeaway layup:
Many pickup hoopsters are reluctant to take the ball strong to the basket. Maybe it's because most of them can't throw it down, maybe it's because they don't want to suffer the painful humiliation of having their shot blocked, or maybe they're secretly afraid of unleashing a CHAOS DUNK on the world. Yeah, that last one is pretty unlikely, but I'm always looking for reasons to reference Barkley, Shut up and Jam: Gaiden
Whatever the reason, I have seen an alarming number of fadeaway layup attempts over the years. (Of course, I consider just one of these shots to be an “alarming” number.) This is where a player either has a reasonably wide open layup or a clear one-or-two-step path to the basket...but chooses instead to shoot a fadeaway jumper from, like, three feet away.
In point of fact, there's a guy in my Wednesday night pickup league whom I've never
seen take a layup. And I've played with this guy for about eight years. Regardless of the distance -- it could be one foot or less! -- he always spins slightly and then takes a little fadeaway. Did I mention he's one of the tallest players in the league? Well, he is. However, I'm not sure his joints actually bend. He's like an old school Star Wars action figure. His arms and legs can only move up and down. Maybe that's his problem.The peer pressure three:
Generally speaking, you can pretty quickly determine which pickup leaguers can shoot three-pointers and which ones cannot. This doesn't mean the ones who can't hit treys don't shoot them. Quite the contrary. Many guys who shouldn't be shooting from any
distance often insist on jacking up all manner of ill-conceived shots. But I'm not talking about those guys. I'm talking about the guys who can't shoot from distance and know
it. So they never attempt threes...
...except for extreme peer pressure situations. This is where they are wide open for a three, their defender -- who knows they can't shoot and has wandered off to play "help defense" -- doesn't close out on them, and people on both teams are screaming "Take it! Just take it!" Their hesitation is obvious. They might even have that "deer in the leadlights" look. But, under the pressure and scrutiny of the moment, they chuck up a three-pointer that almost always results in either a) an airball or b) a deadly brick that leaves players ducking their heads and pleading, "Not in the face, not in the face!"
Occasionally, these shots will miraculously go down, which will lead to various cheers and jeers from everybody on the court and/or the sidelines. It can also lead to...The ridiculous heat check:
The heat check is where a guy who's shooting pretty well will take a bad shot in order to determine just how hot he really is. Well, that's the rationalized way to look at it. Here's the reality: Pickup ballers just like shooting. For the vast majority of players, taking a shot is the second-best experience in pickup hoops...the best experience being actually making
a shot. So "earning" the right to chuck up whatever shot you want because you've already hit a few is an irresistible pleasure for most pickup leaguers. It's kind of like how some pregnent women go eat crazy because they finally have the right to gobble up whatever they want without being criticized for it. It's basically a nine-month reprieve from having to watch what they eat.
But I digress. The thing about the heat check is that it's usually taken by somebody who has proven they can shoot over many nights of pickup ball. The ridiculous heat check, on the other hand, is where somebody who is a renowned non-shooter somehow managed to convert a three (or maybe just a really long two) earlier in the game -- maybe on the previous possession -- and now feels emboldened to attempt another three as soon as he's in position to do so.
If a heat check has little chance of going in, the ridiculous heat check has less. By about 1,049% (+/- 217%). The ridiculous heat check is usually preceded by a look of fierce determination and followed by a shy grin and self-deprecating chuckle. And, if the game was close, a possible boot to the head from an angry teammate.The reverse heat check:
This is where a known shooter has been off all night but decides to chuck up a long-distance shot -- usually a three -- because the fact that they haven't yet hit one means they're due to start hitting eventually. That mentality might have worked for, say, Reggie Miller, but pickup ballers are not Reggie Miller. In pickup league, the Law of Averages has been repealed. Missing shots isn't evidence of an upcoming hot streak. All it means is you're off. Do everyone a favor. Don't be Ray Allen in the 2010 NBA Finals. Try to contribute in some other way, even if "some other way" means taking the rest of the night off.The "This is my shot and I'm going to take it no matter what" shot:
Most pickup players have a very limited repertoire of available moves and shots. I would guess that the average number of "pet shots" available to the typical pickup baller is around two or three. If I'm being honest, it's probably closer to two. Okay, maybe one. And when it comes to their pet shots, pickup ballers will almost always take them regardless of the circumstances. Whether they're in single coverage or in the middle of a scrum, whether they're 0-for-100 on the night, regardless of whether they have a wide open teammate right underneath the basket on game point, a great many pickup players will take their pet shot because they may never get the ball back
.The imitation shot:
This is where a pickup player attempts a shot they've seen in a live NBA game or (more likely) on SportsCenter. Circus shots, reverse-double-pump layup attempts, step-back fadeaways...imagine all the shots Kobe Bryant took in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals -- you know, when he went 6-for-203 -- only in this case those shots are being attempted by a (relatively) talentless, unathletic dude who couldn't jump over a nickel. Or get dressed without assistance.
I'm sure you can guess how these shots usually turn out.The "I'm a big man so I have to post up" shot:
Some big men can score in the post. Others...not so much. But even though this is obvious, some big men will try to score down low even when that's not where their talent (assuming they have any) lies. Sometimes they will fill obliged to attempt some inside play because of simple self-awareness ("Hey, I'm, like, a foot taller than the guy defending me!"). Sometimes they get pressured by their teammates to do it ("Hey, you're, like, a foot taller than the guy defending you!"). Whatever the case, when somebody tries to do something that's completely unnatural to them, it is usually destined to fail. Sometimes tragically so. For instance, I've seen guys get their shots stuffed by guys a foot shorter than they are, watched balls go clanging off the bottom of the rim, hell, I've even witnessed men well over six feet tall shoot airballs from beneath the rim
. Multiple times. In the same game.
Of course, the opposite of this is...The "I'm going to chuck up outside shots despite my incredible height advantage" shot:
It's bitterly ironic that, for all the big men who don't have a single post move, there are also big men who can score down low but would much rather shoot from distance...sometimes long distance...sometimes very
long distance. I guess it's the pickup equivalent of Rasheed Wallace. There are few things more frustrating than watching someone who could score at will inside chuck up three-pointer after three-pointer, post up once and score and easy basket, then return to wandering around the arc clapping their hands and screaming, "I'm open, dawg! I'm open!"The panic shot:
Sometimes a pickup baller will get themselves into trouble and, not seeing any other way, they just take the shot...no matter how ridiculous that shot may be. I had a friend named Brian who once drove, got stopped at the free throw line, spun around so that his back was facing the basket, jumped straight up and flipped the ball over his head toward (I assume) the rim. Again, I probably don't need to tell you how that turned out.
It's like in that instant of indecision the default alternative is always shoot. You know, even when there's an open teammate standing a few feet from them yelling, "I've got your help!"The trick shot:
Every once in a while, someone will attempt a shot they would normally only take in a H-O-R-S-E game. For example, they might take a shot from just behind the backboard. Something like that. It's usually a good idea to avoid taking trick shots during an actual game, unless you have a secret fantasy about teammates stuffing you into a burlap sack and kicking you until you pass out.The impossible layup:
You know why pickup ballers take so many bad outside shots? It's because most of them either a) can't get to the hoop or b) can't finish even if they do get to the rim.
Let's focus on the latter category of pickup baller. There are guys who can successfully navigate their way through the maze-like defense you see at most pickup leagues but have no idea what to do once they actually reach that magical "at the rim" area of the court. I could be they don't have much of a vertical leap. They might be well-covered by one or more defenders. Or they may be facing away from the bucket at some impossible-to-shoot-from angle. And yet...and yet they are
pretty close to the hoop. So they feel obligated to just fling the ball toward the rim even though the chance it will go in are roughly the same as successfully navigating an asteroid field.
This is where Evil Ted might scream: "Never tell me the odds!"
I bring ET up because he loves
the impossible layup. In fact, he used to attempt at least a half dozen of these a night. Every once in a while, he'll hit one and everybody will ooh and aah because it's sort of like watching an airplane you thought was going to go down in flames suddenly and miraculously pull out of its death dive and land safely. One day after pickup league, ET told me, "I love to hear people ooh and aah me." To which I replied, "Yeah, but those are still shit shots."
ET doesn't take nearly as many impossible layups as he used to...and he was kind of hoping people had forgotten. But during a recent game at our pickup league, somebody tried an impossible layup that went careening out of bounds. I mean, it was uuuuugly. And one of the guys in the game laughed and said, "Man, that was a Ted shot."
Good times.The volleyball shot:
There are certain pickup big men who have no discernable basketball talent but are nonetheless tall and somewhat athletic (relative to the many non-athletes in your average pickup league). So even though they would struggle mightily to convert a layup in an empty gym, that won't stop them from going on an offensive rebounding streak during which they bat a missed shot in the general direction of the hoop four, five, six, etc. times before finally converting. Or not converting. That's also a very real possibility. It's like watching someone play volleyball by themselves.
When I first moved to the Chicago area, I joined Evil Ted's pickup league in Oak Park. There was a guy named Bill who played there. Bill was perhaps the most memorable volleyball shooter I've ever seen. I can't tell you how frustrating it was seeing someone so devoid of talent swatting shot attempt after shot attempt at the rim and then coming away from the experience with the belief that he was a genuinely skilled player. To the point where he would sometimes try to play point guard, running fast breaks and making no-look passes that would have been declared illegal if small children were in the viscinity.
"Success" can and will go to a pickup baller's head.
Labels: crap shots, pickup basketball, The Pickup Diaries