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Tony Kornheiser
October 29, 1984
As Dr. J proved in the 1980 NBA finals, leaping is something lots of guys can do, but hang time is the stuff of dreams
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October 29, 1984

They've Got The Hang Of It

As Dr. J proved in the 1980 NBA finals, leaping is something lots of guys can do, but hang time is the stuff of dreams

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How I Learned About Hang Time and That I Didn't Have It, by Jim Valvano: "In my senior year at Rutgers we were in the NIT against New Mexico. They had Mel Daniels then, and all the scouts were there to see him, but I figured I'd play great—walk onto the court a schlepper and walk off a first-round draft choice of the Celtics. So early in the game I get the ball in the corner, and Daniels is all the way over on the other side, but here he comes, running at me. I give him my smart little Long Island pump fake, the one I learned at summer camp, and he takes off. Now I've got him, right? He's up in the air, and everybody's saying, 'Sharp kid, that Valvano.' So I take off for my jumper, and I'm so pumped up you probably could have slid a thick piece of toast between my feet and the floor. I mean, I'm skying. But now that I'm up in the air, I'm waiting for light, because Daniels is 6'9" and he has to clear the area for me to see the hoop. I keep waiting, and now I'm on my way down, still holding the rock, and he's still up there. I'm thinking, 'Mel, gimme a break. My whole family's here to see me play, gimme a chance.' Finally, I shoot it, and the ball actually hits him in the armpit and lodges there! He was shocked. He wanted to block it with his hand, but it never got that high. I see the ball in his armpit, and I'm done for the night. I'm so embarrassed. So I turn to the ref and say, 'That's a foul, ref. Gotta be a foul. It's a foul on the playground, ref.' That's when I knew I had a career in coaching."

The alltime hang team—those players who most eloquently posted up Isaac Newton and facialized him—includes Baylor, Hawkins, Erving, Thompson (although some say he is more of a leaper than a hanger, because he wasn't as creative in the air as the others), Jordan and, as sixth man, Cunningham. One common behavioral thread among them, according to Erving, "is that we all were given the green light, we were all given the opportunity to dare to be great."

West on Baylor: "Defenders would come to cut him off, and he would just step to one side and go around them. It was like he had radar. He never extended himself on a jump; he never had to. And once he got beside you, you were whipped. You'd get to the moment of truth, and he was all alone."

University of Kansas coach Larry Brown on Hawkins, an ABA opponent of Brown's: "He was Julius 20 years ago. In his younger days, he was just incredible. By the time he got to the NBA, he was already bored with it."

Carnesecca on Erving: "I always had the feeling that one time he would lift off and rise through the glass, out of the arena, and disappear into space."

Valvano on Thompson: "Remember now, when he was in college dunking wasn't allowed. So he'd jump on the alley-oop, and sometimes he'd have to hang around for a while before they'd get him the ball. Then he'd get it, move it around a while and gently put it in. If that's not hang time, what is?"

Carnesecca on Jordan: "He's the guy with the real motor up his behind. He goes up, then goes up some more, then he goes up even more. You could eat a sandwich in the time it takes him to come down."

Baylor on Cunningham: "All of us are black except Cunningham, and maybe you'd better check on him."

And now, for today's Advice to the Hanglorn, we turn to Philadelphia and that noted pundit, philosopher and practitioner, Dr. J. Julius, some people have written in asking if you have to jump as high as you can to hang.

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