It has become a forgotten relic of the game, like canvas sneakers and shorts that really are short. The bank shot, once among the most popular methods of putting the ball in the basket, has gone the way of the underhand free throw. "It's kind of a lost art," Pistons coach Alvin Gentry says. "In the old days everybody used to shoot it off the glass. I can't think of any young guys who do."
For decades, great coaches such as UCLA's John Wooden and the Celtics' Red Auerbach drilled their players on the bank shot. Old-timers from Sam Jones and Wilt Chamberlain to George Gervin and Bill Walton employed it masterfully, using a high arch and the ball's backspin off the backboard to get a favorable bounce. "I always felt like it was a good shot while I was on the move or at medium range," says Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy, who played guard for the Bucks, Rockets, Sixers and Spurs in the '80s. "It always made me focus more and softened up my shot."
Most of today's NBA players, it seems, would rather chew glass than go glass. For them, the 18-by-24-inch white rectangle on the backboard is just a handy device for measuring their vertical leaps. "I don't like the bank shot," Pistons forward Grant Hill says. "I never really practiced it, so I'm not really comfortable with it."
"The only angle I consider is straight in," adds Heat guard Tim Hardaway.
Why do so few players go to the bank? "It's old school," Lakers guard Derek Harper says. 'It's not glamorous, and today, if it's not glamorous, it won't work." Others blame inadequate coaching at the lower levels and poor practice habits by today's players.
"Guys don't make any shots anymore, let alone bank shots," Pacers executive vice president and coach Larry Bird says. "Guys today just want to dunk and shoot three-pointers."
Not all players eschew the bank shot. Rockets forward Scottie Pippen has made a good living off it, Spurs forward Tim Duncan uses the shot frequently close to the basket, and Sixers guard Allen Iverson and Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek use it effectively on runners in the lane. Then there's Lakers swingman Rick Fox, who has been dubbed Geometry by teammate Shaquille O'Neal for his fondness for kissing his jumpers off the glass. "I bank it every chance I get," Fox says. "Off the dribble, sometimes going down the middle. If you know where to place the ball, you're basically guaranteed it'll go in."
With thee NBA's shooting percentage at a dismal 43.4% through Sunday and on pace to be the lowest since the '65-66 season, you might think more players would at least think about using the shot. "The bank shot is probably better because you don't have to be exactly on," says Hill. "There's more room for error, so it's probably smarter to use the glass. But none of us, I guess, are very smart. Maybe that's something I'll work on this summer."
Will many of his colleagues do the same? Don't bank on it.