Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Recognizable Are These Shots?

In the Mavericks' huge overtime win over the Thunder on Tuesday night (a great omen for Dallas' playoff hopes), Dirk Nowitzki hit several key shots in overtime. My favorite was Dirk's patented one-footed fadeaway with 2:40 left in the extra period. (Skip to the 2:56 mark of this clip.)

The shot got me thinking about the players with the most recognizable shots in the NBA. I was going to say the "most unique"* shots, but my high school English teacher would have a conniption if I did that.

*In short, the phrase "most unique" is improper because unique things are, by definition, one-of-a-kind. Therefore, you can't add a superlative to "unique" because something can't be the most one-of-a-kind. There's only one of that particular kind. (Language police siren blaring.)

Dirk's fadeaway has definitely cracked the pantheon of all-time great shots. And we could easily rattle off others, like Gervin's finger roll and Kareem's sky hook.

But what are the most recognizable shots in the league today? I've taken a stab at breaking that down, position-by-position. When watching video of each of these shots, NBA fans would be able to easily identify the player, even if that player was represented by just a silhouette of himself. (Click on each link to watch video of the shot.)

(Photo via
There are a bunch of things that make Curry's pull-up J so sweet, but we'll focus on two. First, there's the threat that he could attempt the shot pretty much the moment he crosses half-court. It's amazing that a nominal point guard is the best shooter in the world. According to, Curry scores 10.5 points per game off of pull-ups, more than two points better than second-place Kevin Durant.

The second reason Curry's pull-up is so wonderful is his amazingly quick release. He gets his shot up in a nanosecond, whether he's working off the dribble or on spot-up attempts. Even Borat would approve of Curry's pull-up J.
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul's Teardrop and Tony Parker's Floater

2. Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade's Euro Step Runner

I could have slotted Manu Ginobili here, but he's not European either. The Euro Step is one of my favorite moves to watch, and Wade's finishing ability takes it to another level.
Honorable Mention: Jamal Crawford's rain-making jumper

3. Small Forward: Shawn Marion's Push Shot

Words can't do justice to the ugliness of Marion's jumper. Credit his athleticism and unwillingness to conform for his very good career.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James's Dunks (All of them -- You know how to use YouTube, right?)

4. Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki's Fadeaway

ESPN did a whole fadeaway-centric Sport Science segment in which that herb John Brenkus analyzed things like "trajectory" and "release angle." I just know that Dirk's fadeaway is very, very enjoyable to watch.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett's Turnaround Jumper

Many people call Duncan a forward, but he's played in the pivot for most of his career. Because of the dearth of skilled centers in today's NBA, we're putting him and his sweet bank shot here.

When Timmy ("Teemy," to Tony Parker) faces up for a midrange jumper, odds are good that he plans on using the glass. He barely even jumps, but he plays backboard angles better than any center during my lifetime. Like the other shots on this list, Duncan's banker is a pretty thing to watch.
Honorable Mention: Al Jefferson's Right-handed Hook Shot (and all of its various counters)

One last note: All of the guys on this list -- with the possible exception of Curry -- would be considered well-seasoned veterans. We could even label most of them as old. Are there any young guys working on their own patented shots right now?

In watching the NCAA Tournament over the last few days, I've noticed the relative homogeneity of college players' shots. Almost every jumper looks similar, especially on the major-conference teams. Let's hope that the proliferation of youth coaching hasn't limited the creativity of players to develop unique shots. Because whether we're talking about the beauty of Dirk's fadeaway or the ugliness of Marion's jumper, the existence of immediately-recognizable shots is one reason the NBA is so great.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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