Some of the worst-looking shots have a certain charm and appeal
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Sports are about force and vectors and dynamics and such. We won’t ignore desire and passion, at the risk of upsetting coaches and would-be Rudys everywhere.
But you know what I mean.
If you think you can hit a 450-foot home run because you want to, well, sorry.
And because sport is about repeating certain complex movements many times, practice is of the essence. That is, practicing correctly. Practice wrong, and you’re jury-rigging a mess, not improving. There is only one correct way to do anything from serving a tennis ball to vaulting a bar.
Watch an elite athlete running, teeing off, lifting a barbell, stroking through the water, clearing a hurdle, throwing a pass or kicking a field goal, and you will notice that at the critical moment of contact, release, effort, everybody who is great does it the same way.
They have to.
It’s about physics.
Take baseball, golf, diving. When the pitched ball is crushed or the teed ball is smacked or the human body’s spin is crazily swift, all the batters, golfers and divers — no matter how short, tall, thin or fat — can be freeze-framed, and they will look like clones.
Which brings us to basketball, and its essential component. The shot.
How we marvel at the beauty and accuracy of Stephen Curry’s three-ball, at the dependability of Kevin Durant’s long-armed jumper, at — looking back — the deadly precision of, say, Glen Rice or Ray Allen. Textbook-perfect. All the levers and gears and elastics in synchronicity.
Then there are the guys who make you marvel whenever their shots hit the rim, let alone go in. These are the players whose mechanics you don’t copy, junior. They are lost sheep who somehow find the hay field.
Their shots range from odd to difficult to bizarre, and as shot doctors and metrics take over the craft, we likely won’t see many of their daffy ilk again. But quirks are more entertaining than perfection — so keep chucking, outliers!
Herewith, my list of the 10 worst shooters (based on appearance and mechanics, not accuracy) in NBA history, as I recall it. Ranked from bad to the worst.
10. Bob Love
The former Bull is a terrific guy and was an offensive force back in the day with Chet Walker, Jerry Sloan, et al. But his jump shot came with arms held almost straight above his head, with the ball released on a flat beeline that gave it almost no chance to go in.
But it did go in, and Love made three All-Star teams and scored almost 14,000 points in his career. How, I’ll never know.
9. Anthony Mason
The former Knicks power forward had an appropriate last name because you might have expected him to have built a wall of bricks with his hesitating left-handed shot. It wasn’t that the shot was terrible, it was just that Mason seemed to wait until he was on his way down from jumping before releasing. It was as though it slipped his mind that the reason he jumped in the first place was to shoot.
The bruising nemesis for Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams in the early 1990s sadly died a year ago at 48. He had 7,279 rebounds in his 13-year career, but not once in 882 regular-season games did he attempt a three-point shot. Smart man.
8. Carlos Boozer
This list might seem Bulls-heavy, but don’t forget Boozer, a power forward, shared his moon launch with the Cavaliers, Jazz and Lakers. It’s just that we saw his endlessly calculating, high-arcing, ear-touching jump shots so much here in Chicago that the image of their ridiculous complexity will not fade.
When the muscular 6-9 Boozer’s shot was on, it hit nothing but net. Though the shot was endless, it was impossible to block unless you wanted his elbow in your grill. Indeed, Boozer’s right elbow came crazily out in front of his own face and seemed to be the main rubber band in the complex catapult that took so long to fire that a medieval slingshot launching barrels of flaming oil over castle parapets was faster.
7. Bob Cousy
For you geezers. OK, me, too — because I remember this dude from the 1950s and early ’60s playing on black-and-white TV, with his pale, hairy legs, doing his ad for Roman Meal Bread, which he pronounced ‘‘bwed.’’
The 6-1 Cooz did many unprecedented things on the parquet floor for the Celtics, and he had many running layups and even hook shots in his arsenal. But it was his long-distance set shot that was absurd. He held the ball in front of him, bent his right knee and lifted his right heel, as if preparing to walk up stairs, then fired a one-handed shot that, astoundingly, often went in. Well, sometimes it did.
I guess a lot of NBA oldsters shot that way. I just noticed the Cooz.
6. Michael Adams
The 5-10 guard, who averaged 26.5 points and 10.5 assists for the Nuggets in 1990-91, had a shot that he must have stolen from a first-grader. It could almost make you chuckle. In fact, it would make you hoot, but it was deadly.
As Leigh Montville wrote 25 years ago in Sports Illustrated: ‘‘His little-kid jump shot, lifted from his hip as if the ball weighed 50 pounds, is a heave.’’
5. Dick Barnett
Maybe you’re too young to remember this former Lakers and Knicks shooting guard. Which is a pity.
Not only was he a very good player, Barnett had a two-footed backward kick at the end of his jump shot that resembled a cheerleader doing a ‘‘Hooray for us!’’ jump. Maybe Barnett thought it propelled him upward. It didn’t. But it was entertaining as heck.
4. Shawn Marion
This 16-year small forward had a shot that looked like a practical joke. Like something you might do with a Nerf ball while messing around in your basement and talking to yourself.
The shot started at Marion’s belly and came off from in front of his face. How it went in, to help him score almost 18,000 points, who can say. It looked like he was trying to flick gum off his fingers as fast as possible. Nobody over 8 has ever shot like that.
3. Bill Cartwright
The former Bulls center had a jumper nicknamed ‘‘The Corkscrew.’’ The horrible-looking thing, which nearly dislocated your shoulders and wrists just from watching, is impossible to explain, let alone duplicate.
And, trust me, all you young centers out there, that’s a good thing. The shot exists on YouTube, which is as close as you want to get to it.
2. Manute Bol
It was hard not to name this 7-7 stick figure’s ludicrous three-point shot the most incredible of all time. But second place is good enough for the tallest man to play in the NBA. The late Bol, whose 6-11 teenage son’s name is Bol Bol, had a wacky sense of humor.
His trey, which he launched at the oddest moments, defying logic and coaching, came from behind his head and looked like somebody throwing a medicine ball toward a distant ocean. He once made six threes in a half. Absurd.
1. Joakim Noah
The worst. You knew this was here. The Bulls’ injured center wore a strapped-on paddle on his left hand during shooting practices years ago. This was to make him shoot one-handed, to prevent him from holding the ball like a 2-year-old with a boulder and firing a two-handed quasi-jumper that has to be seen to be believed.
Aptly named ‘‘The Tornado,’’ the ball leaves Noah’s two hands and spins sideways, like a lawn chair or cow trapped in a funnel cloud.
Invariably, smiling players on opposing benches try to duplicate the shot with an imaginary ball. They can’t.
Follow me on Twitter @RickTelander.