Basketball On The Big Screen: White Men Can’t Jump

September 3, 2015 by  
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The provocatively-titled Hollywood blockbuster White Men Can’t Jump was released in 1992, and played on the numerous racial stereotypes surrounding the game of basketball. Many people blindly state that basketball is a “black man’s game”, despite the presence throughout NBA history of a number of Hall of Fame white players such as Larry Bird. An equally common stereotype is that the white players who do make a team are invariably the steady hands of the team rather than flair players – something Larry Bird also disproved.

In White Men Can’t Jump, Woody Harrelson plays Billy, a down on his luck former college ball player who has no job and makes his money playing ball against street players. In the most part these opponents are black, and assume that Billy will be an easy match because he is white. Billy does nothing to encourage this assumption, allowing the opponents to make their mistake without him needing to lie. Of course, Billy turns out to be a fantastic player and wins his fair share of cash.

The film is given its impetus by the acquaintance Billy makes with a man named Sidney, played by Wesley Snipes. Sidney is one of the many street ballers who loses t

o Billy, but unlike the others he decides to turn the situation to his advantage, with the two pairing up to win money from a string of opponents. As with all such films, the friendship goes sour, only to be rescued in the end by the bond that the two have struck up. The title comes from the assumption that white players are unable to dunk the ball, an assumption disproved in the end by Billy, who makes a dunk in the film’s crucial scene to win the pair $5000.

It’s a Tall Order

September 3, 2015 by  
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Ask a hundred people what word comes to mind when they think about basketball, and there is a fairly good chance that as many as half of them will say “Tall”. Perhaps more than any other sport, basketball has the association with body shape that can put off a lot of young players. Some think because they’ll never grow to six feet tall that they can’t ever have a shot at being a pro basketball player. While it is true that basketball is dominated by taller men, it just isn’t the case that you need be a six or seven-foot giant. It may help in terms of being able to dunk the ball, but not everyone on court is going to do that anyway.

Perhaps the most notable case of a basketball player who was shorter than the rest of his team was the former Charlotte Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues. Although the target of some gentle teasing for his height – a tiny 5’ 3, small even by the standards of non-sportsmen – Bogues was a player who had genuine success in the game, enjoying a career which spanned more than a decade, with his fast-passing, hustling game earning him the very genuine respect of a number of people who would not have believed him capable of what he achieved.

Height is an advantage in pro basketball – there is no pretending otherwise. It gives you a better perspective on the basket, more of a chance to slam dunk the ball, and allows you to put up a formidable defensive barrier. However, growing to be seven feet tall will not guarantee you a successful basketball career, and being in the mid fives will not on its own prevent you.

The Draft System – Stars Of Tomorrow Or Expensive Gambles?

September 3, 2015 by  
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Although absolutely central to the way that professional sports are played in the USA, the draft system is largely unique to America – over the Atlantic in Europe players sign with a club as an apprentice during their schooldays and afterwards can only move when the club which covets them pays compensation to their current club. This makes the draft system all the more a part of American sport, and something which takes on as much importance as almost anything else to do with the sport.

Due to the extensive scouting system in place – many colleges will offer scholarships to particularly gifted high school athletes – it is usually easy to spot the players who will come out of college into the NBA with a chance of success, but this does not mean that every player picked early in a draft will turn out to be an NBA superstar. The step up between college and professional hoops is quite considerable and brings with it not only a more complicated, competitive game but a lot of additional pressure.

When a team drafts a player, they cannot just look at their game statistics and decide that they are good enough. They also need to consider how the player will fit into the team camaraderie and whether they will be a disruption to team morale, whether the player fills a need or whether they will create friction with another player in the same position. Not least, they will need to have some idea as to whether the player who put up such great numbers in college can do the same in the big leagues, and whether their attitude matches their ability.

Winning A Game In Overtime – Victory At Its Sweetest

September 3, 2015 by  
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In soccer, drawn games are fairly common given the fact that it is entirely possible to go all the way through a game without a goal being scored, and the overall number
of goals scored in a game is usually between two and three. In basketball, tied games are less common – but when they do happen, the game will go to overtime and provide the watching fans with one of the most nerve-wracking experiences imaginable. Watching your team play a fifth quarter with the realization that every missed basket could be the one that loses your team the game is something that stretches any fan.

Of course, on the flip side is the fact that with your nerves stretched to breaking point you will enjoy it all the more if your team emerges triumphant. In overtime, every mistake can be a crucial one. Miss a free shot and you could have thrown away the winning point. Try a risky three-pointer and you know it had better come off. This raising of the stakes often brings out the best in the real marquee players. You will often find that the handling and passing in overtime periods is a little more erratic due to adrenaline, but the best players have a way of making time around them slow down.

In the playoffs, overtime takes on an even more sadistic turn – at least in regular season games it is possible to have a game finish on a tie if there is no clear winner after the first overtime period. In postseason, you play on for as many periods as it takes to decide the game. Now that is pressure.

NBA Legends: Shaquille O’Neal

September 3, 2015 by  
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In 1996, voting was carried out to decide upon the 50 greatest ever NBA players. At the time, eleven of the players named were active NBA ballers. As of 2010, only one is still active: Shaquille O’Neal. Often referred to by his nickname, a shortened version of his first name (Shaq), O’Neal has recently become the oldest active player in the league – and he has been big news ever since he first entered the league back in 1992. “Big” is the perfect choice of word, in fact, as Shaq stands at 7’ 1 and has weighed as much as 325 during his career – making him one of the heaviest pro basketball players ever to play the game.

O’Neal began his career with the Orlando Magic, being selected with the first pick of that year’s NBA Draft. His size and scoring ability were desperately needed by the Magic, at that time a franchise of little note, and in his second season O’Neal was instrumental in taking the Magic to their first-ever playoff appearance. They would go all the way to the NBA Finals in his third season in 1994, where they would eventually be defeated in a 4-0 series sweep by the Houston Rockets.

It would take a move to the Los Angeles Lakers for O’Neal to finally experience the ultimate team achievement in basketball, winning the NBA Championship in 2000. The Lakers would repeat this achievement in 2001 and 2002, due in no small part to the contribution of Shaq

Great Sporting Rivalries And Their Place In Basketball

September 3, 2015 by  
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One of the most enduring elements of a sport is the classic rivalry. This is something which is present in all sports – anyone who has witnessed a derby match in soccer will know that while all games are important for a team, the games that happen each season between close rivals are somehow more important than simply how they affect the league standings. Basketball is no different in this respect, although franchising and the league structure has seen to it that the rivalries are less geographical and more historic.

One of the most classic rivalries of recent years was the rivalry that bound Boston and Los Angeles for most of the 1980s. With little in common on the surface – Boston being a fairly blue-collar city in Massachusetts and Los Angeles the glitzy home of Hollywood – the rivalry between the teams was a result of their respective possession of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, two instant stars of the game. The teams played out three Finals series during that decade and ever since there has been a frisson to their encounters.

More recently there have been rivalries between teams who have exchanged high-profile players, which causes a lot of heat when the former crowd hero returns to their old stamping ground. Teams that are unpopular – often due to a reputation for “buying success” can expect to have a number of teams claim a rivalry with them, making every game a pitched battle for supremacy. This does explain the large number of rival clubs for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Showing Your True Colors

September 3, 2015 by  
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The importance of merchandising to professional basketball teams has always been high, but the recent past has seen the saturation of an industry, with merchandise becoming so prominent that some sports have even gone so far as to provide branded coffins for fans who wish to be buried in their team’s colors. Although professional basketball has yet to go to this extent, there is little else that remains unbranded in this day and age. When your baby is born, you can buy it some clothes in the team’s colors, ensuring that if they aren’t going to leave this world in team merchandise, their early days can at least be a display of team loyalty.

The most obvious form of merchandise is the team replica jersey. The reasons for this are fairly obvious. Sitting in the arena watching the team play, any fan will naturally feel so much a part of the team that they wish they could play. The next best thing to playing for the team is to at least be able to dress like a player, and it also gives a chance to wear a replica team vest with your favorite player’s name and number on it. this forms a very firm bond between fan and team, something which makes for a greater atmosphere at games.

It is not uncommon to see musicians appear on stage or in videos wearing their team’s replica jerseys. Showing an identity
connection with your team allows you to send a message to other fans and attract goodwill – something that sport is notable for fostering.

Basketball Slang Terms You May Not Know

September 2, 2015 by  
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OK, so we all know what a slam dunk is, and we know a little about the alley-oop, too. But these are really basic basketball slang terms. Some of the more original slang terms that are used in basketball circles carry more interesting stories, and are worth looking at a bit more closely. A few examples follow.

If you perform a move that leaves your opponent standing around like an idiot – perhaps you have managed to complete a slam dunk over his head, then you are said to have “posterized” him. This term comes from the usual shots used on posters of star basketball players infull flow with an opponent trying, but failing, to stop them. The implication is that this person will be on a poster, but as the poor mark standing and watching as you do something awesome.

“Hack-A-Shaq” is a tactical move which is pretty much indistinguishable from fouling your opponent. This is because it is fouling your opponent. It is only applicable, though, when playing against someone you know can’t make free throws. Shaquille O’Neal, for all his ability with a basketball, is a terrible free-throw shooter – to the extent where teams feel confident fouling him. It stops him dunking the ball and he’s likely to miss the shots.

Finally, two terms which are entirely literal: “All Ball” and “Nothing But Net”. The first is shouted at a referee who has blown for a foul when you have blocked an opponent’s shot – the implication being that you haven’t touched your opponent, just slammed the ball away. The second applies to a jump shot you have hit which caught none of the
rim on the way in. With that lovely “swish noise”, all it hit was net.

The Best Seats In The House

May 3, 2011 by  
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Basketball is almost unique in an important way among the big four sports in the US calendar. The proximity of players to fans makes for rules and. Has a real feeling of being part of the game in a way that football just cannot – sitting above the sidelines means that you are separated from the players by some distance. In baseball you are sat at the top of a high wall and in hockey you are, for your own good, separated from the action by a wall of reinforced plastic (so that no flying frozen rubber puck can hit you in the face).

In basketball, though, a courtside seat really is a courtside seat. If a pass is slightly overthrown there is a good chance that it will land in your lap. You can’t keep it, but you will get to see yourself on the Jumbotron. But quite apart from your proximity to the ball, there is your proximity to the players. You can hear them calling for passes, you can hear their sneakers squeaking on the floor, and you can see the sweat beading on their foreheads. It really is disturbingly close to being in the game.

in 2004 between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, a scuffle broke out on court between the Pistons’ Ben Wallace and the Pacers’ Ron Artest. A plastic cup was thrown at Artest, who entered the stands along with some team mates and sparking a player-fan brawl that ended in five players being charged with assault.

The Free Throw – More Than Just A Penalty Shot

May 3, 2011 by  
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One of the most frequent set pieces of a basketball game is the free throw. Awarded for certain fouls, and then for all fouls after a set number have been committed, the free throw is a penalty which provides the offended team with a chance to score some points, but may also be used by their opponents as a way of limiting the damage and stopping the clock. It is not uncommon to see tactical fouls committed by teams who have learned to see everything in terms of how it impacts the end result.

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