Metaphysics & Basketball ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Metaphysics & Basketball

The Coalescence of Life and Hoops


What secrets does this round, orange symbol hold?

Several days ago I watched a hoops game featuring a 2-guard “type” shooter who couldn’t handle the ball to save his life. Throw him the rock with a little space and he’d knock down the J. Throw him the ball in traffic and he’d get knocked down, or fall over, or dribble out of bounds—whatever it took, in fact, to turn the ball over. Baffling.


Having a mind ridiculously predisposed to analogies, I started thinking, What’s the life-equivalent to being able to nail open looks but butcher your dribbling duties as a matter of course? In metaphysical terms, what is a shot?

Seems like a “shot” is that instant in the limelight where you take center-court, all eyes on you, where the clear expectation is that you will perform. The “shot,” in other words, is that shining moment that most of us live for, where you look really good while everyone happens to be watching. Is it any surprise that most people go out of their way to manufacture situations like these? We do it with a certain subtlety, perhaps (or perhaps not, if you’re in high school), but almost without a second thought. Most of us are obsessed, like incoming prep-stars, with creating our own shots.

And therefore, so the story goes, solid ball-handling gets the knock. Since we’re planning to let fly at any given opportunity, we don’t see the need to cultivate good handles. Dribbling—the not-so-glamorous, game-long necessity—require more tenacity than it does showmanship. There’s something so boring about ordinary competence. That’s why we think we can always work on it later. The big moments, the “shots,” those are what matter. The nitty-gritty maintenance stuff, right hand/left hand work, crossover dribbles, that’ll come in time. Right?

That’s what you think until you’re stumbling all over yourself, trying to control the ball without success. And just like that, the game is eluding you, the ball is bouncing away in someone else’s sweaty palms and you’re about to get posterized. Turns out that dribbling, steadily moving the ball up the floor, was important after all.

The problem wasn’t that “shots” were bad, or overrated. We just have to take ‘em in the flow of the game, even though they’ll likely be unexpected—and not pass up an open look when it stares us in the face. Real opportunities, as opposed to the manufactured kind, have a startling quality to them.

As I was sitting there, watching that game, something in me was saying that we see a lot of shooters these days, but only a few “players” who can really protect the onion down the stretch.



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8 comments:

Oneway said...

"protect the onion"? Man, you really are from Kansas. Great post. Where else can I go to find "Metaphysics & Basketball"? Brilliant and bold. You know any uber intellectual-types that read your stuff are peering down at you over their snot noses...

The irony here is that in today's urban culture, you would be hard-pressed to find many ballers with great J's. The emphasis is prominently on ball-handling, without exception. And every reason you listed for peeps desiring to improve their jumper while ignoring their handles actually applies in reverse to the scene in the city. Putting someone on the floor as a result of breakneck dribbles is the ultimate trophy on the playground, I would say on par with dunking in someone's grille. It has gotten to a point where you can see on And1's Street Ball, offered late-nate ESPN2, that once the defender gets tripped up, or loses sight of the ball, or falls due to debilitating dribbling, Hot Sauce, a player, will throw the ball into the stands. This is the ultimate sign that the killer crossover (or UTEP 2-step, who can place this reference?) has in many ways surpassed a killer j.

Furthermore, and I fully realize I may get crucified for this, but anyone who plays any pick-up ball knows when you're first matched up to a stranger you've never seen play, you have to make some assumptions, in order to employ the most efficacious defensive strategy. Making assumptions is similar to relying on stereotypes. Let's just say that if I ever met you on the court, Ariel, intially, I would crowd your j and give you the left, if you know what I mean. After you faked a jumper, drove left and scooped it in lefty, I would have to rethink.

I agree with the underlying themes of your post. The particular application you chose reveals more about you than the game, methinks.

In my opinion, what the game really lacks are dynamic passers. This is why Lebron is unbelievable. Holla

LifeMoments said...

"What secrets does this round, orange symbol hold?"

Well it has the power to make you jump to your feet when its a shoot,

Its has away of making you glued infront of your Tv watching a game,

It has been known to break marriages...("Honey you spend to much time watching sports than you spend with me" )

And its a reminder that the world is round and so are our lives.

Oneway said...

besides, not every one can handle the rock and pull up like Deron Williams.

Ariel said...

Thanks one way, you're right: I do whatever I can to annoy the numerous uber intellectuals who read this blog. "The onion"...I was reluctant to use that, but I couldn't think of another 2-syllable euphimism. Yeah, we KS folks are diehard nature types...

I did reveal my non-urban origins in this post though. When I play pickup ball around here, the shot tends to take precedent over the handles. Futility is defined as "dribble-driving" past your man, lofting that teardrop...and clunking it.

>>when you're first matched up to a stranger you've never seen play, you have to make some assumptions, in order to employ the most efficacious defensive strategy. Making assumptions is similar to relying on stereotypes. Let's just say that if I ever met you on the court, Ariel, intially, I would crowd your j and give you the left, if you know what I mean. After you faked a jumper, drove left and scooped it in lefty, I would have to rethink.>>

And rethink you would, ha hah. So when're ya coming through KS? Bring it! But yeah, crafty ballers do make those assumptions. Based on what you've said, I'd give you some room, try and watch the passing angles... it would be a good battle.

Ariel said...

>>It has been known to break marriages...("Honey you spend to much time watching sports...)<<

The key here is to "convert" your wife. This is a highly complicated process, but in the end it's the only route to domestic tranquility, and well worth it. On game days, Lindsay reminds me 3-4 times that the 'Hawks will be playing later.

A secondary benefit is the wealth of quality conversational material that such a relationship generates. You know: post-game analysis, debated calls, favorites plays, player critiques, point spreads and that all-important bracket competition.

Ariel said...

A fun subtopic here could be exemplary players...one way mentions Deron Williams, whose J is definitely admirable. Inversely, I'd point to Keith Langford, whose ball handling skills are a model of cold, hard efficiency. Not a lot of decoration, but he can go both ways and if he gets a shoulder by you - it's over.

Yeah, I'm rather easily excited on this topic.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely a basketball convert-thanks to the smooth salesmanship of my husband and the irresistible excellence of the Kansas Jayhawks. But what I have not yet acquired, what I truly envy, is all the basketball lingo that oneway, my husband, and other b-ball junkies brandish when talkin' hoops.

Do I become one of the anointed elite when I know how to speak the language?

Desiring to be like my enlightened hoops lovin' husband,

Lindsay

Jimmy said...
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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife