Only as good as your last shot

Alcindor There is nothing as sad or depraved than a man in the depths of a shooting slump. Sometimes it feels like locking your keys in the car or repeatedly punching yourself in the face… by accident. Eventually, it becomes so frustrating that each missed shot or rebound that turns to a change of possession is like a free fall where a ripcord is just a millimeter out of reach.

Yes, a shooting slump is like falling from the sky. Shots that might have splashed through the net with that sonorous, swish! are replaced with soft deflections off the rim that barely sail far enough for a long rebound. After the ball nicks the iron, that’s it. No more chances.

But that’s not where it gets frustrating. Through no discernible reason, sometimes the ball doesn’t go where it’s supposed to. Even though the form is the same, the touch and rotation is no different than any other shot, but for some stupid reason something is off.

Could it be the humidity? Maybe someone opened a door to get into the gym and a breeze knocked the ball off its target?

Whatever the reason, a shooting slump sucks. It sucks to watch and it sucks to go through. Don’t believe me, get ready for a couple of stories. One comes from a high-school hot shot who once believed he was the best shooter walking the earth, and the other is about a budding NBA star that once filled it up for 54 to set the single-game scoring record for Kentucky.

First things first, though. A shooter in basketball is a special breed. They aren’t like the big men that coaches and the media go crazy for because of the gift of height and build. Everyone loves the big man, because they can be taught to do things no one else can do. See, it’s not like a pitching coach like Rich Dubee for the Phillies who’s main job, essentially, is to shut up, stay out of the way and make sure his ace pitchers know what time the bus leaves for the ballpark. For instance, do you think Kareem was given that sky hook when he was Lew Alcindor or was he taught it because he was so much bigger than the other kids at school?

Think anyone else at young Lew’s school was taught a sky hook?

Anyway, a shooter has to work constantly. A shot is built from trial and error and then honed trough maddening, psychotic repetition. And then, the shooter has to figure out a way to get off the shots. That’s because even on the schoolyard, the shooter is identified and singled out. Shooters, after all, are the home run hitters. They are the ninjas of the game, typically blending in until sides are chosen and the first attempts at the hoop are up. See, a shooter is like a black belt in karate who gets into a back alley brawl in that he must identify himself. It’s only fair for some poor sap to know what he’s up against and if it’s a black belt standing across from him, last-minute negotiation might be in order.

A shooter can carve your eyes out if he isn’t identified early, so the sporting thing is to get the word out.

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