Posts tagged basketball
Posts tagged basketball
Have been watching so much basketball that my stomach is starting to hurt, but I will persevere. All worth it to see D.J. Stephens’ incredible block last night. That shit is POETRY. My god.
What to say about Sum It Up? This is a biased recommendation; Pat Summitt is a role model to me and in many ways responsible for the fact that I am a functioning adult, even though I have never met her. I wish I believed in God the way she does, if only so I could pray for her continued strength in the face of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
I read Pat Summitt’s other books dozens of times as a basketball-obsessed teenager growing up in the heart of the Pat-Geno rivalry years. I soaked in her brash perfectionism, awestruck by her work ethic. I didn’t know a woman could be like her: harsh, relentless, home to make dinner every night, maternal, throwing clipboards so hard they split, always wearing eyeliner. People talked shit on her constantly in the basketball world in which I played (“too bitchy, too rough, too mean, too intense, terrible clothes”) and that just made me like her more. I knew even as a dreamy teenager that I was never going to play professional ball, but her writing inspired me to try to find something, anything, that woke me up in the morning and made me want to hurl myself into the day. This book gave me the same feeling, plus nostalgia.
Many of the anecdotes in this book are in those previous books, some of which I have been revisiting mentally on a regular basis for years, which I didn’t realize until I read them again. (One which is not repeated here, but which is a favorite: during her early coaching days, she would hit the hardwood with her fist for emphasis so hard and so repeatedly during games that it would FLATTEN her gold wedding ring. At the end of each season she would need to take it into the jewelry shop for repair.) But where in previous books they were in service of points that could easily be molded into presentations for corporations and life coaching, in this book, they are now in the context of a life that Summitt is being forced to sum up much sooner than she wants to. Each chapter begins with a snippet from interviews done after her diagnosis and they are just heartbreaking. Summitt isn’t trying to sell the reader anything anymore. She is just trying to say it all one more time while she still can.
While this is a no-brainer read for basketball people and feminists, it’s also worth noting that Summitt knows more about the game of basketball, and by extension, human psychology, than almost anybody else living. This book is smarter about personnel management than most of the business section. If you manage people at work, you could do a lot worse than lessons from a woman who spent decades convincing young women to work to the limits of their abilities in every part of their lives. It could really be a inadvertent landmark text in management.
Look, I know not everybody likes sports, but if we’re going to talk about leaning in and female success and the corporate ladder and work-life balance, we should bring Pat Summitt into the conversation. She came from nothing, entered a world that nobody gave a shit about, and built one of the biggest somethings in American sport out of it. (When she started coaching, high school women still played basketball with six girls on the court for each team. Three played offense and three played defense. They were not allowed to cross half court. It was thought, depending on who you asked, that women were too weak, or too clumsy, to exert themselves further. And this was not 1890 or anything. This was the 70s. And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what women’s basketball was like at the beginning of her career.)
Pat Summitt is not only the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history and covered in dozens of other personal accolades; she also mentored hundreds of women (every single woman who played for Pat graduated with a degree, and half of women’s basketball coaches at this point have the Vols in their pedigree somewhere) and openly worked on balancing her desire to have a family with her burning professional ambitions. She is gracious about every person who has helped her along the way despite all the nonsense that’s been thrown at her. She’s not perfect, but she has never pretended to be. She’s not had time to. She’s been too busy working her ass off and loving every second of it. I’m glad that she was able to show us all how.
I was like, what could the Internet be talking about, dunking over a picture he painted of himself dunking over the very same picture? But it’s real. IT IS REAL.
2012: The coach of the multiple-championship winning UConn women’s basketball team suggests the game be modified to make it easier for players to make baskets in an attempt to draw fans to the sport.
1892: Basketball, newly invented, proves an effective tool for the moral and physical education of women at Smith College.
I am convalescing today and therefore easily irritated so I’m sure you’ll understand why my first reaction to this is ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME FOR THE LOVE OF PETE
My second reaction is to be really curious about Pat Summitt’s first reaction, which I hope is sort of like mine.
Am I The Worst Basketball Player In New York City? by David Hill. My day, week, summer: all made.
Quick correction, though, in re: “I expected the Word league to be the kind of league with lots of timeouts for people’s glasses falling off. This was going to be a whole different thing.”
We actually do take timeouts for that. I’m not a monster!
My contribution to The How-To Issue is How To Complete A Layup.
As the commissioner of a basketball league for book people, I meet a lot of enthusiastic nerds who have no idea how to play basketball. There are a few basic skills I tell them to start with. The basic layup is the primary offensive skill. As a side note, it’s even easier to learn basic defensive skills, but that’s more of an in-person how-to.*
I am going to assume complete basketball ignorance here, without judging, which is why this post begins with a video of a layup. What Allen Iverson does after stealing the ball is a layup.
We’re going to learn to complete a basic layup on the right side of the basket because it uses more of the right hand than the left, and most people are right-handed, so it’s a little easier. But know this can be completely replicated on the left side, by just changing the words “right” and “left” in this guide, and should be, by both right- and left-handed people.
The layup uses two fundamental basketball skills: dribbling and shooting, so as a quick reminder, you are not allowed to move your feet in basketball without dribbling, or bouncing the ball against the ground. Generally the rule is that you cannot go more than one step without doing this, but the rule is slightly bent for layups, and for all professional basketball players who make more than $3 million a year.
Okay. So this is what you do.
1. Start at the right-hand top of the key (this is the top of the large rectangle facing the basket, and it is called a key because it is shaped like the little cards you get to open your room in a hotel**) with a ball in hand.
2. Step towards the basket with your left foot while dribbling once with your right hand.
3. Collect the ball as it comes back up from the dribble, controlling with both hands, as your right foot hits the ground.
4. As your left foot hits the ground, bring the ball up and across your body. Instead of letting your left foot land on the ground and stay there, you should land on the ball of the left foot and sort of launch yourself right back off it. Shoot the ball, using your right hand to launch the ball and your left hand to protect and guide it.
4a. Aim for the square painted on the backboard. If there’s no square, aim for the spot on the backboard where it would be. (Imagine the rim flipped straight back on a hinge and then traced around. That’s basically where it would be.)***
4b. Did you know that a standard basketball rim can accommodate two basketballs passing through it at exactly the same time? It can. I mention this because a lot of new basketball players think it looks very small and combative because of the angle. But there’s plenty of room in there, so be confident.
5. Once the ball goes through the hoop, try not to look to proud of yourself, hustle back to play defense, and keep an eye out for teammates reaching a hand in your direction, because that means they want to give you a high-five for your accomplishment.
Please note: this should all be done in about two seconds.
Possible mitigating factors:
1. You might want to, or have to, start your layup further away from the basket. Make sure you keep dribbling in that case, and do your best to make sure you are on your left foot when you get to the top of the key. (You cannot stop dribbling and then start again, as an FYI.)
2. It is rare to attempt a layup with no defensive pressure in a game situtation (although you should practice that way at first, to get the hang of it). There are a few things you can do about this; my favorite is to pump-fake, which is when you cut the fluid motion of the layup and instead land squarely on both feet at the end, PRETEND to shoot, then pull the ball back and wait a tick while your defender jumps to block your shot, and then once they land ineffectually and are off-balance for a moment, shoot. This is very satisfying when it works.
3. A defensive player might strike your body in some way, probably an arm, while trying to keep you from making the layup. If they do, you have been fouled, and play will stop. Depending on the circumstance, your team will either get to re-set the offense or you will get to shoot some foul shots. This is generally a good thing and many people will try for a layup up with this exact intent, which is called “drawing a foul.” Sometimes if you feel you have messed up your layup in some way when you’re in the middle of it, it’s good to try to draw a foul, to salvage something from the situation.
3a. If the defensive player only hits the ball, though, that is legal and called a “block.” It’s a little embarrassing, but it happens to everybody from time to time, so shake it off when it happens to you.
I am happy to teach you this in person any weekend morning this summer at the courts at American Playground in Greenpoint. Good luck!
*In a nutshell, though, in case you have a game tomorrow: keep low, keep your thighs as parallel to the ground as possible, move on the balls of your feet, look at stomachs instead of faces, and keep your hands in the air.
**Kidding! It is actually called the key because it used to look like a skeleton key, as it does in this stellar video of a up-and-coming teenage Wilt Chamberlin. But it’s been widened twice (in the 50s and then the 60s in response to the domination of a few very good big men, since you are not allowed to be in the paint for more than three seconds at a time, and then they had to move around more, which supposedly made the game more fair. The 60s widening being due in part to Mr Chamberlin.)
***Though you may have noticed while watching basketball on TV that the backboard seems more like a decorative touch than a part of the court—as a people, we like the swoosh, I guess—the basic layup should rely heavily on the backboard, which is why it’s such a good place to learn on offense. Or as a former coach of mine liked to say: “Do you think God invented backboards just so you could ignore them, Anderson? Huh?”
I have accepted that most women’s shoes are not available in my size (the forboding twelve, which lurks around the edges of clothing catalogs like a forgotten ghost) even though my inability to find shoes outside of Payless and a few select boutique shoe shops usually leads me to feel like some sort of Sasquatchian freak that will eventually just need to tie tree bark to my feet with fishing line in order to take part in human company. I am tall and I have big feet; okay. Breathe in, breathe out. Tall people need big feet. Without them, we might topple over, imbalanced. That might get messy.
But today, I went shopping for basketball sneakers, and they did not have them in my size. This, I cannot accept without complaining. Shoes for basketball. You know, the sport for tall people? The sport I have played most of my life despite not having any intrinsic athletic ability because, as dozens of coaches have joked to my face, you can’t teach height? I am actually pretty short for a tall girl, in basketball terms, and to be totally honest, my feet are bigger than I am tall. Given my feet, I should really be about 6’1” and I am not sure what happened there, as I’d like to be that tall. Anyway, my feet are weird almost everywhere else, but under the soothing fluorescent gym lighting of the basketball world, they are average. So I would like to be able to put actual shoes on my feet, please.
I already hate going into shoe stores, telling the nice girl my size, watching her eyes widen and look at my feet like they might explode, feeling like I might Hulk out in the wimpiest possible way (DON’T MAKE ME EMBARRASSED. YOU WOULDN’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M EMBARRASSED). The athletic store should be my refuge. They should train the nice girls what to do with hulking monsters like me. I want to give them all my money because their clothing and shoes make me feel normal for a hot minute. Let me give you all my money, athletic stores. Make me some shoes.
This piece is just fantastic. I’m a sucker for an oral history and I’m a sucker for basketball so no matter what, I was going to love it, but this is a really stellar examination of how quickly an athletic event can turn violent, and why.
In the championship game of the 2011 WORD Basketball League (a league I run from the bookstore, for book nerds), there was very nearly a violent incident that about six months later, I feel like I am still recovering from, just because it happened so quickly and so unstoppably. Now, obviously, the difference between book nerd basketball players and the Indiana Pacers is so large you could use it to wallpaper the Grand Canyon, but the feelings of disbelief and inevitability (not to mention the rush to judgment), as expressed in this piece, are identical. It was cathartic for that reason; as I read it I felt my breath catch in my throat and instantly felt myself back on American Playground, standing between two dudes bigger than me, both challenging the other to swing first, turning my face to the sideline, whistle dropping from my mouth, saying, could this really be happening? Is this really happening right now?
Which is, it seems, how most of the people involved in the Pistons-Pacers fight felt (and still feel) as well. There’s something comforting about knowing that, if I ever meet Jermaine O’Neal, we’ll have something in common.