1.22.2009

Muse and Mechanics



Skeets and myself are both very busy men with a constant need to consume virgin blood and walk on ice. But when we aren't so busy, or need to take time out from said business to determine the future of basketball, the topic often turns to the alley-oop. It's often decried as the ultimate in showy, bombastic play—and not surprisingly, has been a hallmark of all the most FD teams ever. However, it's also money when executed by a pinpoint guard and masterful leaper. In fact, it can be so hard to stop, such an easy way to get points, that it sometimes feels like the new low post. That's one of those moments where I really understand why Hubie Brown constantly observes that the game is now above the rim, has an added dimension, and all that. Certainly, the likes of Paul and Chandler view it as a set play. And I can get bored by players who can only get points off of alley-oops, which certainly strengthens their case as something worthwhile.

If you accept the alley-oop as more like the pick-and-roll than the windmill, all sorts of perceptual doors begin to loosen. Remember McGrady's off-the-backboard self-oop? Why not use the backboard as a second floor, thus adding another (fourth?) dimension to the game. It sounds fancy and frivolous, but again, we're talking set plays, or at least shit that's been worked on in practice. Take a look at this Hedo/Howard connect, about 1:48 in.



Now, this might have been a botched shot. But the timing is so perfect, and the point of impact so high, it's hard to not see a glint of intentionality in there. And it was out of a timeout. If you buy that, then follow, and tell me it's not every bit as smart as a bounce pass into the lane. Plus, this is Hedo Freakin' Turkgolu, a player known to style a little, but hardly a hot dogger. Despite the sheer kookiness of the play, on the whole it feels a lot less trangressive than pretty much every possession of the 2006-07 Warriors.

What's the next step? Maybe this clip—granted, from high school, but introducing a totally volleyball element to the mix that echoes Wilt's never-ending devotion to that second sport.



When floating bodies become a passing surface, then all of a sudden I get dizzy and you're in the realm of basketball gadget plays. Exceptions, not a considerable planar extension of time and space. Still, this could work, people, and the more the NBA begins to see the 'oop as foundational, the more possible this kind of thing becomes. In effect, it becomes the new alley-oops.

Maybe we're putting the heads ahead of the other heads. But remember, the dunk itself was once thought of as useless tomfoolery. Now, most people would agree that relatively sane dunking is the easiest way to ensure the ball goes through the hoop. The paradox of progress is that imagination is always linked to style, and yet it also provides the seed for innovation that changes the face of function. Think about the way the Suns or Warriors use to alter the dimensions of the court (scrapped book idea: using advanced physics to prove this), all through a mode of play dripping with style. Is a team like the Magic or Hornets this close to another great, sustained breakthrough?

(Further, unrelated reading: Shoals Unlimited on losers and All-Star selection. Also, note all the questions posed herein. In one of the older chats I looked at to craft this post, Skeets and I decide that asking questions is the key to audience participation. What do you think?)

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25 Comments:

At 1/22/2009 2:53 PM, Blogger StreakShooter McFloorburn said...

You do realize, I'm sure, that the advancement/evolution of the alley-oop is due almost entirely to video games, starting with NBA Jam, but mostly, in recent years, the NBA Street series. I've seen that exact play from the high school clip in Street. I think this idea probably applies to dunks in general. I don't know how to feel about the real aerial creativity originating from programmers and not players, but at least ballhandling moves tend to come from the actual street first, before they're exaggerated in games? It seems there are physics models just close enough to accurate that any player can just ask EA or whoever else to find out what's possible before they go out and risk injury attempting it for real. The relationship between video games and sports seems perfectly natural, much more so than with any other real-life endeavor, but it's just a small part of the ever-more-rapidly increasing cycle of culture/science/technology/sport/etc. advancing each other until we reach utopia or oblivion, whichever comes first! Seriously though, I wonder why players don't break up alley-oops more on the receiving end, especially in a Paul/Chandler situation, where the only points a guy gets are off dunks and it won't be that hard to predict. Are they afraid of goaltending calls in situations where the ball has a chance to go in without the dunk finish?

 
At 1/22/2009 3:49 PM, Blogger goathair said...

When I saw that video in my Google Reader, I knew this post was coming and I couldn't agree more. Why can't a team like the Lakers, with two athletic, skilled very big guys use the alley-alley-oop? Wouldn't that be the ultimate extension of the triangle -- connecting three players on a different plane?

Also, give credit where credit is due: Andre 3000, Will Ferrell, and Patti Labelle invented the alley-oop.

 
At 1/22/2009 3:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

A lot of Gasol's high touch-passing approximates this.

 
At 1/22/2009 4:39 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Great, great, great post. I'm interested in all the ideas you advance here, but also in the fact that, in a post right after the one where you claim to (maybe?) not be so inspired this year by some of the plays, you've put together one of your most solid recent efforts.

(As an aside, I definitely agree that asking questions in entries generates more comments.)

There's no doubt that basketball has become a more advanced sport, that's a nuance of the advancement of time more than anything else. Things just tend to get more complicated. (Maybe not always true?) I think the advances that we've seen in spacing the floor, the improved workout techniques, the studying of the game (aided by the digital revolution and the proliferation of video everywhere at all times) have all served to make the game simultaneously (and paradoxically?) more complicated and more accessible than ever before.

It's a great time to be a fan.

 
At 1/22/2009 4:44 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Anytime an alley-oop is discussed, I feel the need to link to this.
I consider Howard's #1 to be the finest in-game alley-oop I have ever witnessed live. I watched the #2 live as well, and I understand the context of leaping over Timmy for a game-winner with .8 left. However, you could give Howard and Jameer 100 tries in practice, and I still don't think Howard could get a better dunk with the MAXIMUM extension than that one. The dunk is simply BRUTALLY implausible. Paul Pierce's expressionless face says everything.

 
At 1/22/2009 6:01 PM, Blogger Harish said...

Here's a youtube link that couldn't be more germane to this discussion....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT9WW0L8Qso&NR=1

 
At 1/22/2009 6:34 PM, Blogger ericL said...

Clip 1. When you watch Hedo come around the corner on that hand off you realize their is no other "passing angle." The bounce is non-existent. The help came off of #12 and that was really the only way to get him the ball. That is sort of a thrilling thought that you touched on. An added 4th dimension and a nearly indefensible passing lane.

Clip 2. I am a volleyball coach. When you watch that clip it is hard not to consider the concepts of time and space and what basketball could borrow from volleyball.

 
At 1/22/2009 6:47 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

This alley-oop stuff is seriously awesome, but I must threadjack: MONTA IS PLAYING TOMORROW!!!!!

 
At 1/22/2009 10:55 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

The alley-oop is totally fundamental. Dean Smith made good use of it, especially as an inbounds play. For a spectacular example, see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQT71Yk2EkA

 
At 1/23/2009 12:32 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I recall watching Howard make that buzzer beater oop and wondering how something like that could happen. It got me so incredibly excited, far more than an elbow jumper or even a drive to the hoop for a dunk. So much potential here.

 
At 1/23/2009 12:53 AM, Blogger Matt said...

reading and watching this makes me wish that andre miller was a rookie this year. he's the absolute best at it, bar none. if any team could exploit it in the east its gotta be the sans brand sixers. would be so awesome

 
At 1/23/2009 1:53 AM, Blogger Michael said...

this conversation is incomplete without bearing witness to this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpa-AajVmcI
Rooks to Odom to Darius punctuating a win over sacramento.
i remember my friends and i sitting in silence for a good 30 seconds after this happened; it was that absolutely incomprehensible to see live on t.v.

2000-2001 Clips STILL the most FD team ever (seriously, check the roster).

 
At 1/23/2009 9:25 AM, Blogger W2 said...

When I think oops, Sherman Douglas to Stevie Thompson or Derek Coleman or Seikley comes to mind. Those guys could fly.

 
At 1/23/2009 10:37 AM, OpenID CDS said...

Wait where did the Orlando-Boston chat go? I'm reading in class about how Gasol is so soft his length is soft, my prof comes around so I have to close it, and now it's gone!

 
At 1/23/2009 10:52 AM, Blogger Joe Applegate said...

Sorry I'm at work so I can't watch the youtube clips- I don't know if any of them are about in my mind the greatest alleyoop tandem pro-basketball has ever seen:

The Glove + Kemp. No question.

If we want to talk about changing the spacial dynamics- I seem to remember Gary throwing alleys from beyond half court.

 
At 1/23/2009 11:26 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Chat is back up. I wanted to bold a bunch of things.

I loved those Clippers team, but it's funny looking over the roster how much dead-weight/annoying players are there. It's a testament to the dopeness of that nucleus that I grew to love Jeff McInnis, if only for a season.

 
At 1/23/2009 12:44 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

A lot of Eric Piatkowski fans here, huh?

 
At 1/23/2009 1:02 PM, Blogger tater tacho said...

perhaps only vaguely relevant, but this has got me remembering toby bailey in the '95 ncaa finals passing to himself off the backboard. i remember seeing it as a kid and not quite being able to wrap my head around someone doing that on purpose. also, cheers to the GP to Kemp combo. ridiculous oops.

 
At 1/23/2009 1:40 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I've always wondered when we would see a play like that with time running out in the NFL.

A play that you purposely throw a pass to a Randy Moss type of receiver that clearly seems like it's going out of bounds, only the receiver barely catches it, then tips it back (before he touches ground) in to a teammate running down the sideline. Sure, it sounds tough, but some of these guys are freaky athletic.

 
At 1/24/2009 3:06 PM, Blogger W2 said...

In the world of ultimate frisbee it is called a greatest. And it is site to behold.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jD0-K-wm7w

 
At 1/26/2009 3:34 AM, Blogger Samuel said...

@StreakShooter - "the advancement/evolution of the alley-oop is due almost entirely to video games, starting with NBA Jam"

I assure you it's impossible to do an alley-oop in NBA Jam.


Beyond that, I've been thinking lately about Kevin Love and his freakish outlet passability and full court shot range, and how he could potentially just inbound the ball and hit a speedy teammate across the court for an alley-oop - how difficult do you think that would really be for him? Is this something we could see?

 
At 1/26/2009 2:33 PM, Blogger Logan said...

Birdman already lives in your 4th dimension. It's why he bites on pump fakes so much.

He's just ahead of his time. And here we all thought he was just some crazy enthusiastic redneck.

 
At 1/27/2009 7:41 PM, Blogger Hassan said...

so your def adding something to a standard basketball playbook, but look at this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3ufW4aZA0Q.

The cross is certainly a staple in any soccer match, and I think they're essentially pretty similar. Nash says he draws alot of his fluiditiy and court vision from soccer, and its probably the sport closes to basketball in terms of it's a highly physical team game with the objective of getting the ball into the net. I think this kind of solidifies your position of the alley-oop being a staple play, with the added benefit of it being a momentum changer in a bball game if done right. Also, notive the alley-alley-oops in the soccer video. This also raises another interesting question, are there other things that can jump straight from one sport's playbook to another's?

 
At 1/28/2009 10:42 PM, Blogger doof said...

westbrook off the backboard oop to durant tonight in overtime vs memphis

 
At 11/05/2009 6:55 PM, Blogger David Wright said...

I'm still waiting on players to catch on to the fake shot. It looks like a real jumper, but it falls short, usually as a way of dumping it into the post player who has cut off his defender. I've been using this for a while and it works like a charm.

 

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