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.
Some 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.
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.
Charles 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:
Attacking the rim in the half court
Midrange/pull up jump shots
3 point shots
Offensive rebounds and put backs
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!
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.
I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys – not just the front. My players.”
“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.”
“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.”
“As I became more secure, I liked that I could make my life about everyone but me.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.’”
“Practice is where we work on our players’ weaknesses; games are where we show their strengths.”
“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.”
“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.”
“When players combine elite athleticism and great determination, you don’t worry too much about position.”
“If you need someone to be Superman at the end to win games, you’re going to lost games.”
“Thinking about how you would try to beat your own team goes with the job of being a coach.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“You’re going to make mistakes, just play through them.”
“I had truly gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“My players have to have the intellect to absorb coaching and the emotional intelligence to be good teammates.”
“The quality I’m looking for in a kid is respect.”
“Classroom smarts and academic achievement relate to what we often call basketball IQ. I always want a kid who’s a good student.”
“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.”
“I need people who look at adversity as a challenge and failure as a learning opportunity.”
“If you’re a coach who truly respect the profession, you have to allow yourself to be coached.”
“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.”
“You must love the thought of pushing through your comfort level.”
“Do you want to read about history or make history?”
“Honesty and its related quality, trust, are at the very core of my coaching philosophy.”
“Just because you’re a year older doesn’t automatically make you a year better.”
The cutter has the best chance of getting open if he waits for the pick to be set before cutting
tot he ball. Cut shoulder to shoulder off a screen to eliminate any chance your defender can slash through the screen. There are four basic options depending on how your defender plays the screen.
Go over the top and continue to the basket when your defensive player trails you around the screen
Curl over the top for the quick shot if the screener’s defender allows your defender to slide behind the screen one man removed.
Pop Out or Step Back for the shot if your defender attempts to go completely behind the screener and their defender two men removed.
If your defender cheats and jumps high in front of the screen before it can be properly set you can either flare away from the screen in the opposite direction your defender has jumped, or you can go back door to the basket if your defender gets caught high side by the screener.
The above ideas were taken from one of Alan Lambert’s “Playground Pointers.”
By now most basketball fans have heard that legendary UNC coach Dean Smith passed away
last night at the age of 83.
Throughout the day today former North Carolina players have been interviewed on television to share some of their experiences with Coach Smith.
Every single one of them mentioned their off court relationship with their coach and how loyal they were to each other.
Several years ago former UNC player David Chadwick interviewed Coach Smith and asked him why it seemed that he valued loyalty over success.
I loved to win and hated to lose. Yet for years I struggled with something internally. We would play poorly and win and I’d feel great. We’d play well and lose and I’d feel terrible. That didn’t make sense to me.
If two of your children were playing tennis against each other, would you really care who won? Is winning all that important in the scheme of things? No. That’s why I have ultimately placed compassion above competition. I want to win but caring for people is much more important to me. I finally concluded that success is not defined by winning or losing but in doing the best you can, where you are, with what you have.
Coach Smith was a teacher, an innovator, a winner, and a champion. But he will long be remembered as much for his loyalty and compassion and friendship as anything else. That would be a great goal for the rest of us too!