Issue 93: Just Don’t Forget About Me

During my senior year of high school, we played in a student-faculty basketball game. Members of our men’s and women’s teams faced off against a variety of teachers, counselors, and security guards.

This game was not my finest performance. I was doing my usual tough defense on the opposition, but I just couldn’t make a basket. There was a fairly sizable crowd, and I started hearing groans as another shot banged off the rim.

But I did not get deterred. I kept playing hard, and with the clock ticking, I found the ball in my hands. We were trailing by three, which meant a three-pointer was in store. One of my teammates who had been playing much better than I had wanted the ball.

No. This was my moment to shine.

I stepped back behind the three-point line, shot, and swished it home. I had tied the game. The crowd was going wild. Cheerleaders ran onto the court to celebrate. All my teammates huddled up and wrote a quick song to commemorate my accomplishment.

Unfortunately, there was still some time left on the clock. That gave the faculty a chance to drive down the court. One of my basketball coaches drove into the paint and then passed to a man I have NEVER seen before or after this game. That man (a security guard, perhaps) made a three at the buzzer to give the faculty the win.

Was he a ringer? We may never know. But what we do know is that my shot was quickly forgotten, because a better shot followed suit.

That’s what this issue is about. Celebrating those forgotten moments.

Note: These are all playoff games, which means the stakes are even higher than usual. Let’s start with a shot from last night…

Kevin Durant, man with large feet

Okay, we likely haven’t forgotten about this one yet, but dang. Kevin Durant, in his first full season returning since tearing his Achilles, BALLED OUT like crazy.

He played every single minute of Games 5 and 7 and at least 40 minutes in all but one game, carrying the Brooklyn Nets on his back with ridiculous shot after shot.

When the Nets found themselves down two to the Milwaukee Bucks at the end of regulation, they turned to Durant. I knew they’d do it. You knew they’d do it. The entire building knew they’d do it. It didn’t matter. Durant made the catch, did a sizzling spin move, and lifted up to shoot.

He drained it, and for a brief moment, it looked like the Nets would be moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals.

But Durant’s “big ass feet” were on the line, so the basket was only worth two points. Instead of the win, the shot led to a tie.

In overtime, the two very exhausted teams combined to miss a lot of shots, and the Bucks narrowly escaped with a 115-111 victory. Talk about toeing the line.

Marcus Paige with the clutch double-clutch

In the 2016 NCAA title game, the Villanova Wildcats seemed to have a hold on the championship trophy. But then, the UNC Tar Heels started clawing (or tar heeling) their way back into things.

All of a sudden, UNC was only down by three points with the ball. They nearly turned it over, which would have secured the win for Villanova.

Instead, UNC’s Marcus Paige leaped to shoot and realized he was about to be blocked. He double-clutched in mid-air, a la a pump fake while drifting back to earth. That adds AT LEAST 23% more difficulty to any shot, but no matter. Paige sunk it.

Of course, not everyone remembers this shot because of the play that followed. Villanova dribbled down the court, and Kris Jenkins nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give his team the championship. Indoor fireworks and streamers went off, and the Wildcats celebrated appropriately.

But what a shot by Paige. Just look at a screengrab of it. Madness!

Tim Duncan flings ball at hoop, it goes in

This game was covered in a recent issue, but it’s still one of the most ridiculous. Even 17 years later, I’m not entirely sure how noted tall man and backboard enthusiast Tim Duncan made this shot in Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Western Conference semifinals.

He’s hoisting the ball over a looming Shaquille O’Neal and an approaching Karl Malone, two men who are nearly 14 feet tall combined. He’s tumbling toward the court much like I would hurtle toward the hardwood if you asked me to perform a cartwheel. Duncan is not even looking at the basket as the ball goes in because he’s about to faceplant into the ground.

None of that makes a difference. The ball goes through the hoop anyway.

But, as we learned, 0.4 seconds is plenty of time to catch, turn, and shoot. Derek Fisher proved that on national TV while simultaneously gutting the hearts of all Spurs fans.

Jimmy Butler ties game, doesn’t account for a four-bounce response

Jimmy Butler’s tenure in Philadelphia was a brief one. Now, he’s living it up in South Beach and making coffee on the side.

For a moment, it looked like Butler might pull off some magic in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers had stormed back, and after Kawhi Leonard missed a free throw, the Sixers were IN MOTION.

Butler got the ball and was like, “I am not stopping until this ball is in the hoop.” It worked out nicely, because the ball did go through said hoop, and the Sixers tied things up at 90 apiece.

There’s actually a huge degree of difficulty on this shot. Butler absorbs contact and finesses the ball off the backboard. If he were off by an inch either way, he misses.

Of course, you may remember what happened next. The Raptors got the ball, Kawhi Leonard took a few dribbles, then hoisted up a shot that literally beat the buzzer. As in, the buzzer stopped blaring, because the ball took so long bouncing on the rim four times before going through the hoop.

And the Raptors went on to win their only championship thus far in franchise history. At least that’s kind of cool to say you lost to the champs?

(No, no it’s not.)

Damian Lillard introduces Chandler Parsons to a game-winner

Even casual basketball fans likely know not to leave Damian Lillard open for a game-winning shot. The man has extreme confidence, he can hit from anywhere, and he even has his own measurement of Earth spins (Dame Time) named after him.

In fact, if I were to put money on one single player making one single shot to win me a series, I would probably pick Lillard.

So, it’s pretty crazy that Chandler Parsons would leave Lillard so wide open on a series-winning three-pointer. Yet that’s exactly what happened in Game 6 of the Western Conference’s opening round. Parsons chooses some very odd defensive positioning, Lillard goes around a couple of screens, and no one helps. He gets a clean look, and cashes it.

This shot was probably doubly frustrating for Parsons because he had just made a nifty play on the other end. He rebounded a missed shot that had hit the rim and a bunch of people’s hands, and then he popped it into the basket.

It was a very heads-up play, only to be undone by Dame Time. But such is life.

Also, this exact same thing happened six years earlier, only this time Yao Ming made the go-ahead shot and Brandon Roy made the game-winner. But, like…same spot, same teams, the Blazers gave up a potential game-winning basket with under a second left…eerie. Basketball is so cool.