"It's the show that's important," says Bickerstaff. "Everybody wants to dunk and talk trash, and now the fans expect it. Pull up for the jumper instead of taking it to the hoop, and it's almost a letdown." Bigger D. Playing defense has become more glamorous. Players like Denver's Dikembe Mutombo (page 150), Seattle's Gary Payton and San Antonio's Dennis Rodman have shown that a good defender can attract the spotlight. Combine that with the fact that the league is stocked with bigger and better athletes than it was a decade ago, and it's clear that getting a good shot is a more difficult proposition than it was in earlier eras. Bradley and Hudson were 6'5" forwards. Today they would probably be shooting guards struggling to get a good look at the basket against defenders like 6'8" Stacey Augmon of the Atlanta Hawks.
Athletic Supporters. "If you find a great athlete, the thinking is that you can turn him into a great basketball player," says Sixer coach John Lucas. The NBA has fallen in love with athletes, and with good reason: The superior speed, quickness, strength and jumping ability of today's players are hard to resist. None of those qualities, however, necessarily translates into shooting ability. "We have more athletes than pure shooters these days," says Chaney. The result is players who might make great decathletes but have suspect jump shots, among them shooting guards like Miami's Harold Miner and Seattle's Kendall Gill.
College Dropouts. Then there are the players who leave school early to enter the NBA. "Some of these kids haven't needed to become good shooters," says Thomas. "They've always been able to drive past the other guys or jump over them, and they've never been forced to develop their jumper."
Two of the best examples of this phenomenon are Magic Johnson, who left Michigan State after his sophomore year and didn't become a consistent outside shooter until he had been with the Los Angeles Lakers for several years, and Dallas Maverick point guard Jason Kidd, who left Cal last spring after his sophomore season and enters the league with a shaky jump shot. By the time a player reaches the NBA, it's hard to turn him into a significantly better shooter. Most often he has to work on his shot by himself, and in many cases he merely practices bad habits. NBA teams have strength and conditioning coaches and video coordinators but not shooting coaches. Warrior forward Billy Owens struggled with his jumper as a rookie, so he spent the following summer working on it—with his father. It may be time for NBA teams to have shooting instructors, just as baseball teams have batting coaches.
In the meantime we can only hope that kids will go back to shooting jump shots on the playground and that from them will come another wave of NBA sharpshooters. That's a long-range goal, but making long-range goals is what jump shots are all about.
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