Kareem Abdul-famous Jabbar’s sky hook is notably missing from the NBA’s imitation world
In the NBA, copycatting, or, more politely, stealing, has historically been accepted by players and coaches.
The jump shot supplanted the set shot many years ago when players restricted by gravity learned that shots could be made by leaping simultaneously. The “shootaround” was adopted by every team when Bill Sharman told the 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers to show up at the gym the morning of each game to practice a few light drills. The Lakers subsequently went on to win a record 33 straight games.
Kids flocked to the schoolyard to imitate Tim Hardaway’s ankle-breaking crossover when he duped defenders by dribbling left and then rapidly changing right, or vice versa, in the 1980s. The 3-pointer also spread with the floor when Stephen Curry extended his range to midcourt, making common long-distance attempts look as easy as layups.
The takeaway is that any style, talent, or strategy that aids in a team’s or player’s success is quickly taken upon by others and transformed into a revolution. But there is a very odd and obvious exception.
Now, you’re free to say it; that shot is over.
— Dominique Wikins from On the Sky Hook
The sky hook is the NBA’s deadliest move ever. And the man who invented that shot rose to fame, fortune, and mythology. And across all the nights, seasons, and decades, that shot was so effective it enabled him to surpass everyone in points scored. Because this league freely appropriates ideas, this shot became a top contender for copycatting based on the quantity of data that supported it.
The sky hook, however, can only be located in a resting place that just so happens to be up in the sky, as in hoops paradise, and it is improbable that it will ever again be seen rolling from the fingertips of top scorers.
Dominique Wilkins, one of the numerous people hurt by the sky hook, said, “Well, you can go ahead and say it. “The bullet is gone.”
Of course, that shot was created by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who, at the age of 75, finds it amusing and puzzling that it no longer exists. You might also discover some annoyance if the individual, who was renowned for being secretive, opened up a window into his soul. Regardless of how much someone tries to conceal it, pride has a way of coming to the surface. If no one bothers to copy his art, how can he ever feel real flattery?
He remarked, “I used that to become the leading scorer in NBA history. There must be a component to it that functions.
Yeah, it was successful enough to earn Abdul-Jabbar six MVP awards, six titles, and a spot on the short list of all-time greats. It was then, though. Since he left the game in 1989, it has altered several times. Yet like many things from bygone eras, that shot isn’t hip, current, stylish, won’t sell sneakers, and won’t gain a following on social media—all qualities that a new age values and cherishes.
Sky hook’s success helps Abdul-Jabbar soar
In several ways, LeBron James has played in the league for twenty years and more. Unless he skyhooks the record-breaking try as a tribute, he will pass Kareem for first place on the all-time scoring list this season without imitating the iconic shot.
In any case, it is true to argue that LeBron does not meet the description of a hook shooter. He is not a seven-footer who is positioned close to the paint. Despite being the prototypes, it’s more common to find them hidden outside the 3-point stripe these days.
Abdul-Jabbar was asked how he would feel if he played today and instructed to mix in some threes instead of a few sky hooks (Kareem made one for his career in the 1986–87 season).
He made an effort to be cordial.
“I would try it if my coach thought it would benefit the team. Nevertheless, because I was so efficient in the post, telling Steph Curry to make layups exclusively instead of 3-pointers would be absurd.
Although Joel Embiid is the best low-post center in the game, he only uses the hook occasionally and usually as a last resort. Embiid never witnessed a hook because he spent his childhood studying Hakeem Olajuwon’s VHS movies in Cameroon.
EVERYONE IS SO ADDICTED TO THE 3-POINT SHOT, WHICH IS THE REASON WHY YOUNG KIDS DON’T LEARN THE SKY HOOK. They do not want to work with their backs to the basket, nor do they want two points.
— KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR
Even though Karl-Anthony Towns considers himself the best shooter ever, his collection of shots seems to be missing a specific shot. When questioned, the Minnesota Timberwolves center responded: “Nobody ever taught me the sky hook.”
He is typical of the big-scoring man of today, who prefers to play with his back to the basket. The 1970s rump-to-rim center is a dinosaur. Ralph Sampson is to blame for that. When the skinny 7-foot-4 big went rogue in the early 1980s and started dribbling outside the paint and pulling up for mid-range shots, he was swiftly imitated. Look at the players that came after them: Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, etc.; they were all franchise players, leaders, and Hall of Famers.
Except for a few lesser players and Dwight Howard, who once employed a baby hook, tall men avoided the shot like they would a sixth foul.
“Everyone is so obsessed with the 3-point shot, which is why young children don’t learn the sky hook, according to Abdul-Jabbar. They don’t want to work with their backs to the basket; they don’t want two points, etc. They want to shoot three-pointers from a great height. They don’t seem to comprehend that your chances of making a successful shot increase as you approach the basket. That was the first lesson I picked up, so I practiced my hook shot and figured out how to position myself close to the basket so I could make a hook shot.”
Kareem did the Mikan Drill, a continuous action of left- and right-handed layups when he was in elementary school. Kareem was a foot taller than his classmates. A hook shot resulted from there, which wasn’t exceptional because many post-players in the 1960s used the hook. As he increased in height, it evolved into the sky hook because Kareem was able to toss the ball among the clouds, well above the rim line.
The dunk was forbidden in college basketball two years after he arrived at UCLA. The new rule reduced his scoring options by one, which improved the sky hook. The shot served as his passport to food once he made it to the NBA. That was practically impossible to stop.
Only a small number of players, especially Wilt Chamberlain, possessed the range to attempt to block it at its release point. Abdul-Jabbar added variety by shooting with his left and right hands, deceiving opponents with a bit of hip and shoulder fake, and using his non-dominant arm to get space.
“I’d put my body in the way of that person and the ball, and that person wasn’t going to prevent the shot,” he claimed. The shot is gone before they can catch up to it, but they must gauge the distance and time.
Since there were no predators at the time, Abdul-Jabbar used the sky hook carelessly to obtain buckets with a high percentage. In four of his first six seasons, he averaged at least 30 points per game during the heyday of big men (meaning he had a stiff challenge almost every night).
“That was absolutely an unbelievable shot,” said Hall of Famer Rick Barry, whose underhand free throw also avoided duplicate. And despite the lack of backboard assistance, he was great from the baseline. His entire body length, including his arm, was covered by that photograph. It was so wonderful; it was crazy.
Although Bob Lanier, Willis Reed, and other players had retired by the middle of the 1980s, Abdul-Jabbar was the last to rely on the hook as his go-to move. Sampson and Ewing’s face-the-basket revolution was in full swing at the time.
Yet the sky hook has its amazing moments. In the 6th Game of the 1974 NBA Finals, Abdul-Jabbar defeated Boston at the buzzer in double overtime. In Magic Johnson’s debut NBA game, he missed another buzzer shot. Magic famously jumped into the arms of an alarmed Abdul-Jabbar, who gently reminded the rookie that there were still 81 games to go. Chamberlain was knocked off the top spot on the all-time scoring list in 1984 by another hook (over 7-foot-4 Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton).
It’s safe to argue that most of his 38,387 career points came from the sky hook, an incredible degree of dependence comparable to Nolan Ryan’s fastball’s significant contribution to baseball’s all-time strikeout record.
The attempt satisfied Abdul-Jabbar. For other people? Not really.
Barry stated, “But for this, think of all the things the NBA copied because it had some success.”
“It is simple to learn how to shoot.”
The man who currently owns the record for most points scored knows he will only hold it for a short time, but he’s not exactly counting the minutes. Abdul-Jabbar feels content. He spends some of his time reading the news, using his knowledge to write social and political commentary for different media, and taking care of his health. And speaking of that, he just overcame heart bypass surgery, leukemia, and prostate cancer.
Abdul-Jabbar responded to a question regarding mortality and the frailty of life by saying, “When we first have to cope with the inadequacies of our body, we see it as a betrayal. My body, which has given me so much joy and achievement throughout my life, has turned rogue. But, because you are compelled to pay attention to your inner self, your physical shortcomings might lead to a new achievement.
The sky hook was one type of knowledge that wasn’t handed on. After retiring, he was open to coaching opportunities, but none ever materialized because executives perceived him as aloof and believed he would need help to connect with the players.
The irony is that every coach I have played under would tell you that I was coachable, which means I tried my best to put their methods into practice after listening to them. I’ve always been the best team player there is. But, certain press members at the time were offended by my work on civil rights and made an effort to paint me as the archetypal Angry Black Man.
“At that time, owners didn’t want to take a chance on being associated with social or political concerns. They only wanted to boost their revenue; they had no interest in changing the world. I’m content to write, hang out with pals, and practice couch coaching in front of the TV.
Midway through the 2000s, the Lakers did employ him as a special assistant to train young center Andrew Bynum and, perhaps, teach him the hook. In their four years of friendship, Kareem found Bynum courteous and respectful but ultimately unmotivated. He claimed that rather than basketball tactics, Bynum was more concerned about dissecting automobile engines. Kareem continued to carry the sky hook. Since then, this is the first time anyone has requested a loan.
It’s not difficult to learn how to shoot, he remarked. “It provides you with all the basics. It teaches you how to move with your feet, hands, and backboard. Players who can play with their back to the basket are valuable and shouldn’t be thrown out. That player is capable of winning matches.
According to a redesigned game that now relies on 3-pointers and solo plays, that player is blocking the lane. The sky hook puts another foot in the coffin every time 7-foot-4 French youth Victor Wembanyama, who is tipped to be the next great big man, dribbles between his knees and drains a fadeaway 3-pointer to the acclaim of the entire league.
The last points of Kareem Abdul-career, Jabbar’s, which established the record, occurred on a dunk in a prophesied moment.
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