June 9, 1987 – Magic’s Junior Sky Hook

In Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, the Celtics had led by as many as 16 points but with 12 seconds left were only up by two, 106-104.

The Lakers came down and passed the ball inside to the leading scorer in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who was fouled on the shot and sent to the free throw line.

Kareem made the first free throw but missed the second one.

However, in the scramble for the rebound the ball was knocked out of bounds and given back to the Lakers.

The Lakers called timeout and set up a play to throw the ball back inside to Kareem but instead Magic Johnson drove into the middle of the key and shot a perfect Kareem like hook shot over Boston’s Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish.

The made shot gave the Lakers a 107-106 win and propelled them to go on and win the NBA Championship 4 games to 2.

Magic Johnson, who shot what announcer Tommy Heinson called a “junior sky hook” was named Finals MVP.


June 4, 1976 – Possibly the Greatest Game Ever Played

PlayoffsSome basketball purists have called the June 4th game between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 NBA Finals one of the greatest games ever played!

Despite being down 18 points at the end of the first quarter and 16 points at halftime, the Suns fought back and briefly held a one point lead with just seconds to go in the game.

With time winding down, the Suns fouled the Celtic’s John Havlicek who could’ve won the game if he had made both free throws but since he only made one the game went into overtime.

In the first overtime both teams scored six points and were once again tied when the buzzer sounded.

In the second OT the Celtics led 109-106 with about 20 seconds left to play but the Suns scored, stole the inbounds pass and scored again to take a 110-109 lead with six seconds left.

The Celtics inbounded the ball to Havlicek who banked in a jump shot off the dribble to seemingly give Boston the win at the buzzer.

However, the official (no, it wasn’t Joey Crawford) ended the victory celebration said there were actually two seconds left on the clock when Havicek scored.

What followed was one of the smartest plays in the history of the NBA.

Instead of taking the ball the length of the floor in two seconds, the Suns’ Paul Westphal called a timeout even though his team didn’t have any left.

A technical foul was called and the Celtics Jo Jo White made the free throw to give Boston a 112-110 lead. But since they had inbounded the ball and called timeout Phoenix now got the ball at half court.

They inbounded the ball to Garfield Heard who then hit a turn around jump shot at the buzzer to send the game into a third overtime!

The Celtics went on to win the game in the third overtime 128-126 but after nearly 40 years it still remains as possibly he greatest game ever played!

Here is a clip showing Garfield Heard’s buzzer beater.

If you get the chance do yourself a favor and watch a replay of the entire game.

May 26, 1987 – Larry Bird Steals the Ball (and the Game)

Larry Bird’s entire career was a highlight film but one of his most famous moments came on this day, May 26, in 1987 during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

The Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons were tied at 2 games apiece and the crucial Game 5 was being played at the historic Boston Garden.

Detroit was ahead 107-106 with only seconds remaining in the game when the ball was knocked out of bounds as Boston’s Larry Bird tried to score.

Surprisingly (especially if you were a Celtics fan) the ball was awarded to Detroit and Isiah Thomas got ready to inbound the ball with only five seconds left on the clock.

All Detroit had to do was inbound the ball safely and they probably would’ve won the game and taken a 3 games to 2 lead.

However, as Thomas tried to inbound the ball to Pistons’ center Bill Laimbeer, Bird jumped into the passing lane and stole the ball.

As soon as he caught it Bird turned and passed the ball to a cutting Dennis Johnson who laid the ball in with only one second on the clock to give the Celtics the win.

Even though he finished the game with 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists it’s his steal that has gone down in NBA history.

You can watch Larry Bird’s iconic steal below. (Notice the reaction of the Celtics’ bench – especially Bill Walton’s!)

Will the Refs Determine Who Gets to the NBA Finals?

I certainly don’t want to take away from what they have accomplished this year but is there anybody in America, outside of their home cities of course, who are hoping to see a Houston Rockets & Atlanta Hawks match-up in the NBA Finals?

I’m willing to bet most fans want to see LeBron & Steph square off against each other and so does the NBA!

The best player in the game versus the best shooter in the game would surely draw HUGE television ratings as well as sell a boatload of NBA authorized replica game jerseys.

Of course for that to ever happen the Warriors need to beat the Rockets and the Cavs need to beat the Hawks in the finals of their respective conferences.

Even though many people think that’s going to happen anyway, what if it doesn’t? Or what if it starts to look like it’s not going to happen?

Would NBA game referees ever take the matter into their own hands?

Is James Harden going to shoot as many free throws as he normally did during the regular season?

We all want to think that would never happen; that the NBA or its referees really don’t care who plays well enough to win or who doesn’t.

Is that wishful thinking? Are we being naïve?

Before you answer those questions watch the following interview with former NBA referee Tim Donaghy and hear how he and some of his colleagues intentionally influenced certain games.

Could something like this ever happen again?

Alan Stein’s “Great Players”

AlanHere is an awesome list compiled by Alan Stein who is one of the most respected teachers of the game in the entire country:

  • Great players… can pivot both ways off of either foot and can dribble, pass, and finish around the basket with either hand. They don’t have a ‘weak’ hand.
  • Great players… love and respect the game of basketball. They don’t play for money or fame; they play for love.
  • Great players… are unselfish passers. They hit open teammates. They know the goal is to get THE best shot; not THEIR best shot.
  • Great players… don’t commit stupid fouls.  They know their greatness is eliminated if they are on the bench in foul trouble.
  • Great players… are students of the game. They watch film. They study opponents. They study themselves.
  • Great players… value every possession.  They aren’t careless with ball.  They make smart passes and take high percentage shots.
  • Great players… don’t wait for the workout or practice or game to start… they prepare for it! They prepare mentally and physically.
  • Great players… are super competitive. They hate losing more than they enjoy winning. They compete in everything they do!
  • Great players… always know the time and score. They know how many time-outs they have as well as who is in foul trouble on both teams.
  • Great players… log the game in the mind. At any point in time, they can tell you exactly what happened, on both ends of the floor, the last 3 possessions.
  • Great players… are assertive with the ball, welcome contact when driving to the cup, and get to the free throw line.
  • Great players… immediately think ‘Next Play.’  They don’t dwell on mistakes (missed shot or TO)… they make up for it on the other end.
  • Great players… make plays, not excuses. They don’t care if the refs suck, if the floor is slippery, or if they have a cold. They get it done.
  • Great players… are the first ones in the gym… and the last ones to leave EVERY day.
  • Great players… don’t worry about getting exposure.  They focus more on never getting exposed!
  • Great players… elevate their teammates to become great players too!
  • Great players… know that their legacy will be judged on their ability to win championships.
  • Great players… would rather play ball than anything else.  They truly love to play.
  • Great players… are well rounded and have a complete game.  They can ‘hurt’ you in a variety of ways.
  • Great players… are top notch communicators.  They talk with a presence on both ends of the floor.
  • Great players… want the ball in their hands when the game is on the line because they know they have put in the work to DESERVE success.
  • Great players… train with a purpose. Their workouts are focused, intense, and progressive.  Nothing they do on the court is casual.
  • Great players… give back to their program and are humble and grateful for what basketball has done for them.
  • Great players… are responsible for tone and effort of the entire team… every workout, practice, and game.
  • Great players… are always thinking two plays ahead.
  • Great players… hold themselves, their teammates, and their coaches accountable. They believe in collective responsibility.
  • Great players… play in straight lines and sharp angles. They make hard basket cuts and set solid screens.
  • Great players… love playing and competing against other great players.
  • Great players… know that no detail is too small and that the smallest of details can make them even better.
  • Great players…have high values. They value their teammates, winning, and self improvement.
  • Great players… are never content and never complacent.

How many of these traits do you have?



Curry or Westbrook? Shooter or Scorer?

Shooter or ScorerCharles Barkley has stirred up some controversy lately by going on the record and saying he doesn’t believe a team that relies primarily on jump shots can consistently shoot well enough to win an NBA championship.

While we will all know soon enough if he is right or not, this does seem to be a good time to wonder which is “better” a shooter or a scorer?

Shooters shoot plain and simple. Think Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, and JJ Reddick – all great shooters who can stretch defenses and light up the scoreboard with minimal possessions and touches.

Now think of Russell Westbrook and James Harden who are not necessarily great shooters but who are definitely great scorers. They score their points 7 different ways:

  1. Transition layups
  2. Attacking the rim in the half court
  3. Midrange/pull up jump shots
  4. 3 point shots
  5. Post ups
  6. Offensive rebounds and put backs
  7. Free throws

Which type of player is “better”?

A lot depends on your personal preference as well as the overall makeup of the team involved.

Personally, I like scorers because if their jump shot isn’t going in that day then they can still score in other ways but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who would turn down the chance the coach or even watch a player like Steph Curry!

Takeaways from Calipari’s “Players First”

Players First John CalipariThe University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is one of the most polarizing figures in basketball today as fans across the country either love him or hate him.

The most important and interesting thing to me, however, is that Coach Cal’s players all seem to love him and that tells me he must be doing something right.

Not too long ago Calipari wrote a book called “Players First: Success from the Inside Out.”

Here are 35 quotes from that book that were originally posted at BrianDoddOnLeadership.com.

What do you think of the very first quote? It’s definitely a different twist on the traditional “play for the name on the front of the jersey” quote.

Notice Coach Cal isn’t telling his players to play for the names on the back (their own) but that he is going to coach the team as a whole and individually.

  1. I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys – not just the front.  My players.”

  3. “In almost all cases, their (the players) dream is to play in the NBA as soon as possible.  The more who achieve that goal, the more who want to come here.  That’s the way it works.  Success breeds more success.”

  5. “None of my players are as ready as they think they are for how we play at Kentucky – let alone ready for the pros – because they have rarely if ever been really pushed.”

  7. “As I became more secure, I liked that I could make my life about everyone but me.”

  9. “Institutions serve people, not the other way around.  So as a servant-leader, I measure my success by the success of those whom I’m serving.”

  11. “The art of coaching at this level is about convincing great athletes to change.  First we have to get them to accept what they’re not good at…Surrender to our instruction.  Surrender to physical conditioning.”

  13. “You want to know what delusional is?  I’ve had to say to kids, ‘You’re listening to your barber instead of listening to us.’”

  15. “Practice is where we work on our players’ weaknesses; games are where we show their strengths.”

  17. “A player who is looking for excuses doesn’t want you to put the responsibility on him.  It robs him of his best self-justification.”

  19. “When you bring in great players to play with other great players, there’s a multiplier effect, and they up better than they would have been individually.  They drive one another in practice.”

  21. “When players combine elite athleticism and great determination, you don’t worry too much about position.”

  23. “If you need someone to be Superman at the end to win games, you’re going to lost games.”

  25.  “Thinking about how you would try to beat your own team goes with the job of being a coach.”

  27. “If I’m forced to choose between talent and experience, I’m taking talent every time.  You can gain experience and you can add skills, but what’s sometimes called God-given talent is just that.”

  29. “The best players I’ve coached have a demeanor about them that never moves.  They have a calmness…Physiology-wise, rage and anger are related to fear.”

  31. “Part of coaching is acting.  It’s true of any kind of leadership, whether you’re a CEO, an army general, or a father.  Part of the job is that you don’t reveal your own apprehensions.”

  33. “You’re going to make mistakes, just play through them.”

  35. “I had truly gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families.”

  37. “During the season it’s about team.  From the moment our last game ends until the draft, it switches over to being about individual kids.”

  39. “You don’t know if you will win or lose until you do.  I don’t give up on kids.  I don’t give up on teams.  I don’t give up on seasons.”

  41. “Even when we won, I wasn’t fully satisfied, which is how you’re supposed to coach.  You’re happy, but you ask for more.  You try to get up to the next level.”

  43. “Competition gets you out of bed in the morning.  It makes you alive and it makes you better.  It reveals the best and the worst in us.  You learn whether you can stand up and respond to being challenged, or whether you back down.  When you start getting beaten, you either change or you fail.”

  45. “Nothing in my Players First philosophy says that I should protect kids from competition.  It’s just the opposite.  I serve them by giving them competition.”

  47. “Recruiting is sales.  It’s persuasion.  But a salesman who’s a fake isn’t a very good salesman – or at least he’s not good at selling to intelligent people.”

  49. “My players have to have the intellect to absorb coaching and the emotional intelligence to be good teammates.”

  51. “The quality I’m looking for in a kid is respect.”

  53. “Classroom smarts and academic achievement relate to what we often call basketball IQ. I always want a kid who’s a good student.”

  55. “The one thing no one on my staff can do is add stuff to my plate…If you’re piling more things on, I may have to let you go.”

  57. “I need people who look at adversity as a challenge and failure as a learning opportunity.”

  59. “If you’re a coach who truly respect the profession, you have to allow yourself to be coached.”

  61. “I’m a collector of coaches, teachers, and mentors.  The ones from my younger days I keep in contact with and never let go.  And as I get older, I keep finding new ones.”

  63. “You must love the thought of pushing through your comfort level.”

  65. “Do you want to read about history or make history?”

  67. “Honesty and its related quality, trust, are at the very core of my coaching philosophy.”

  69. “Just because you’re a year older doesn’t automatically make you a year better.”

3 Tips for Drawing up Game Winning Plays

Time is expiring and your team gets the ball out of a timeout. You’re down by one and you need a bucket to win the game.

What type of play do you run?

You run what you saw Rick Pitino run to beat Duke a few years back right?

The problem with many basketball coaches is they think that’s always the right answer. They think that running something they saw a big name coach run will give them the best open look in every situation.

The reality is, the same play doesn’t work for every team in every situation. There are a lot of things that go into what type of play will work best in the situation you are in.

In this video, Coach Stricklin breaks down how to go about determining what type of play to draw up when you are in a tight game down the stretch and you have to have an open look.