Putting The God In Shammgod

Bleacher Report has released an excellent, brief documentary about God Shammgod’s famous crossover dribble move, itself called the Shammgod. The documentary, done by Jake Fischer, is below and should be watched, starting…now:

The documentary is awesome, in that it captures the move’s history as told by those victimized by it and by the man who perfected it. The move itself is a single-hand crossover designed, as all crossovers are, to move a defender in the direction opposite the one the dribbler intends to move in.

Traditional crossovers are two-handed, back-and-forth affairs. Although there have been many practitioners of this particular art, Tim Hardaway is as identified with the move as anybody is. This is for good reason: he was lethal with it.

If you watch closely, you can see Hardaway going right-left-right in what appears to be hyperspeed. The defender bites on the ball going left, stepping toward it, but by the time he gets there, Hardaway has gone back to the right and slid past the defender’s left hip.

The Shammgod is slightly different, as the ball switches hands only once. It starts with the player introducing the ball pushes out the off-hand, then pulls it back on the dominant hand. If that sounds confusing, the video below better illustrates it:

The documentary in the first link explains that Shammgod’s career was not what it might have been. He came out of college early, foundered in the NBA, and eventually ended up having a long lucrative international career. He now coaches with the Dallas Mavericks. Shammgod’s handle lives on though, both in the grainy video that YouTube is so generously willing to host:

…and in the unfettered and enthusiastic respect Shammgod enjoys from his fellow players, athletes who, it should be noted, have achieved at higher levels than Shammgod ever did.

It speaks volumes to a player’s seemingly otherworldy talent when it is remembered even if the absence of considerable success. This is particularly true in the NBA, where players who do not win championships are often prematurely dismissed from conversations about greatest-evers. Shammgod, in other words, lives on, even as he himself adjusts to coaching.

Speaking of which, Shammgod’s move gave us one of last season’s very best – very best – plays, as Russell Westbrook decided to bust one out for his 22nd assist in a 26pt/22ast/11rbs triple-double.

Is it worth noting precisely how little of a chance Westbrook’s defender had on that play? Stopping Westbrook going downhill is hard enough, but poor Tyler Ulis also had to endure a perfectly executed Shammgod, and as we can all see, that didn’t go well for him. In Ulis’s defense though, Shammgod’s rarely go well for any defender. That is why we know its name.

So long live God Shammgod, and long live his brilliant move.

Loving The NBA: JR Smith and Jarrett Jack Edition

JR Smith

JR Smith is famous for many things, including his chronic shirtlessness, as well as his unwavering commitment to shooting the ball, consequences be damned. There are fans who hold this second part against him – “Why is he shooting if it isn’t falling?!?” is entirely reasonable, given what it looks like when everything is going wrong for him – but JR Smith is going to be JR Smith.

Which brings us to his work on social media yesterday:

That’s JR Smith declaring his support for ESPN’s Jemele Hill. She was suspended for two weeks yesterday after allegedly violating ESPN’s Twitter use policy. She had been tweeting about the NFL, ongoing protests against police brutality, the newly-emergent threat of owners suspending players for opposing police brutality, and the ongoing possibility of boycotts. But because this came after she accurately described Donald Trump as a white supremacist two weeks ago, ESPN insisted that she had strayed too far and suspended her. This punishment is made all the more bizarre by the fact that those supporting Donald Trump have spent the last month openly talking about boycotting the NFL; Hill mentions the same possibility, but from a different perspective, and gets suspended.

JR Smith ain’t having that. He isn’t alone in noting that Hill is being held to a wildly different standard than all kinds of other people, including the president himself. And Smith’s political awareness has been on display for more than this single post, as he succintly summarized:

“I don’t feel like the flag represents what it’s supposed to at this point.”

Siding with Hill, it would appear, is part of Smith’s larger political platform, one in he is being frank about his feelings regarding the flag. Those opposed to player protests tend to believe that these players should not regard the flag in this way, and never ask themselves if it is reasonable to ask those treated very differently by their governments if they should have similar levels of regard for those governments. Such is the current political situation, one in players are tapping into basketball’s long history of social consciousness and protest.

These are strange times we find ourselves in.

Jarrett Jack

That said, basketball can also be an escape for people, an opportunity to get away from the nation’s ongoing conflagration, a place to see some of the world’s greatest athletes playing the world’s greatest game, doing things that the merest mortal humans could never possibly imagine. For example, they can see players attempting to score from three-quarters court and missing by, roughly, a million feet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw3k4p05eFA

 

That is a real attempt at a full-court shot that is simultaneously a testament to Jack’s apparent arm-strength (he threw that ball for miles) and his apparently wanting touch (he threw that ball for miles). Jack has made long-shots in the past, but not this night.

For those wondering, Jack did literally throw the ball for miles, and even though he also missed by miles, throwing a basketball that far is very difficult to do. SB Nation’s Jon Bois did an entire video about trying to recreate the longest basketball shot ever made, Baron Davis’s 89-footer.

(Everybody should watch everything that Jon Bois does.)

 

Basketball Roundup – A Very Cool Pass and Beating The Warriors

A Very Cool Pass

The Los Angeles Clippers spent the earliest part of their summer watching Chris Paul leave for the Houston Rockets. This is a problem, as Chris Paul is really, really, really, good. Replacing him will be next to impossible and anybody expecting the team not to suffer for his absence is deluding themselves. That said, the Clippers did add Milos Teodosic, a 30-year-old Serbian point guard who apparently does stuff like this:

So, yes, not having Chris Paul is a bummer, and yes, the Clippers will be worse off without him, but if they start piling up incredibly fun assists like this one, they will be worth checking out. Because incredibly fun assists are cool, and if this tiny website is about nothing else, it is about the celebration of cool things happening on basketball courts.

Beating The Golden State Warriors

On yesterday’s Lowe Post Podcast – a very good, albeit very dry, podcast – Zach Lowe and Jeff Van Gundy discussed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offseason moves. Those moves saw the team adding a superstar (Paul George), a star (Carmelo Anthony), and quality-ish roleplayers (Patrick Paterson, Raymond Felton). It also saw the team moving away from its attempt to offensively-rebound its opponents into the ground.

Previous iterations of the Thunder had seen the team simply try to overwhelm opponents with size. This included having Kevin Durant, but also Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, two players who were simply bigger and better rebounders than the frontlines they were going up against. The idea was that the team was gonna shoot a lot, and use its offensive rebounding to get itself more shots. This was very interesting in a modern NBA that tends to eschew offensive rebounding, and it damn near worked against the Golden State Warriors in the 2015-2016 playoffs. Although the Thunder ended up losing that series, after having been up 3-1, the team still showed a way forward for beating the seemingly unbeatable Warriors.

But then Durant signed with Golden State, and Oklahoma City’s strategy was forced to change. It is one thing when one of team’s three seven-footers is also among the game’s greatest ever scoring machines; it is quite another when defenses no longer have to worry about containing a player of Durant’s pedigree. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook won an MVP last season averaging a triple-double, but the team had nothing in the playoffs. So the team has rebuilt in an attempt to get Westbrook the help that he needs.

Which leads us back to Lowe’s and Van Gundy’s analysis, which looked at everything Oklahoma City Thunder did in the offseason and concluded, “Yeah, but will it really be enough to beat the Golden State Warriors?” Van Gundy was more positive on this possibility than Lowe was, ultimately suggesting that Oklahoma’s roster moves could at least make the Thunder more competitive, but even he ultimately decided that Golden State would still win.

Which, great, yes, Golden State would still win, mostly because Golden State is currently one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled, full-stop, bar-none. But if all basketball analysis is going to begin and end with, “Will this be enough to beat Golden State?” then what is the point of basketball analysis exactly? Because anybody is capable of answering that question, and answering it quickly too: no, nothing currently will be enough to beat a healthy team comprised of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

It should be noted that this criticism should be understood to be general, and not specific to Lowe and/or Van Gundy. Lots of analysts seem to genuinely believe that the only thing worth discussing is whether or not the Golden State Warriors can be beaten in the playoffs, as if nothing else matters. But basketball isn’t only played to win championships, and a team’s ability to be worth watching isn’t pegged to its ability to beat one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen.

The OKC Thunder have added considerable talent around their MVP, and they will be a fascinating team to watch play basketball. They are beginning a new strategic era, and they have a genuine chance to challenge both the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs for second in the Western Conference. There is plenty to talk about without focusing on what is going to happen nine months from now.

Because there is more to basketball than what happens in the playoffs after all. So here’s hoping basketball’s talkers adjust accordingly, and stop worrying about what it will take to beat the Golden State Warriors, and start worrying instead about what will make the game worth watching, what will make it interesting, and what will make it compelling. Dismissing everything because it ultimately won’t be enough to be Golden State is none of that.