Hack-a-Shaq

What is the Hack-a-Shaq strategy?  The strategy was actually first developed in the late 1990s against Dennis Rodman, who was a 38% free-throw shooter.  The theory was that if you fouled Rodman, he would miss 62% of his free throws, which would be better than letting his team try to make a basket for 2 or 3 points.

Then why is it called Hack-a-Shaq?  This catchy phrase caught on when the strategy was used mercilessly against Shaquille O’Neal, who was a notoriously bad free-throw shooter.

So what’s the big deal?  Hack-a-Shaq, or Hack-a-(insert-player's-name-here), makes for pretty boring television.  The clock stops constantly and you have to watch some guy who’s terrible at shooting free throws keep trying and trying and trying.  There has been some backlash to try and change the rules, but most people will respond that players can be taken out of the game or can improve their free throw percentage. You know what they say… practice, practice, practice.

Ch-ch-changes.  Recently, the NBA passed a rule to try and reduce the use of the strategy.  Now, the fouled team will be awarded one free throw and retain possession of the ball for away-from-the-play fouls in the last 2 minutes of each quarter. Refs will also be more liberal with handing out flagrant fouls for hard deliberate fouls of big men, who are bad from the free throw line.

Draymond Green

Who is Draymond Green?  Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has turned into the latest NBA villain because of “kick-gate”--that time he "accidentally" kicked Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in his family jewels, during the 2016 Western Conference Finals. Here's what else you should know about him.

What’s his game?  Draymond is one of the most well-rounded players on the court.  Even though he’s listed as a power forward, he frequently plays center for the Warriors in their small-ball (aka “death”) lineup. This gives the Warriors a serious advantage because Draymond is one of the best defenders in the game and offensively he’s faster and more agile than the typical center. 

Need a hand?  Draymond also makes his teammates better. With him on the court, the Warriors outscored opponents by 1,070 points this season, which is the best plus/minus of any player in the last 20 seasons. He averaged 7.4 assists per game during the regular season (7th in the NBA), which was better than superstar teammate and point guard Steph Curry.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Draymond is notorious for being the best trash-talker in the NBA, but he might not even be the best trash-talker in his family. Way back when Draymond was playing in youth leagues, his mom was known as “The Heckler”and was kicked out of several games. Ever since his Michigan State days, she’s been live-tweeting his games and Draymond even tried to delete her account because he thought she had no filter.

He’s careful with his money. Unlike a lot of NBA stars that go bankrupt later in life, Draymond has been careful with his cash.  He lived in an affordable apartment in the San Francisco suburb of Emeryville until very recently.  He credits his tough childhood, including getting his utilities turned off and house foreclosed upon.

Steph Curry

Who is Steph Curry?  Steph Curry is a slight 6’3”, 190 lbs. and an insane 3-point shooter. Over the past 3 years he’s set and beaten his own NBA records for most 3-pointers in a season (272, 286, and 402). Basketball fans love him because unlike LeBron, who looks like he was formed by God to play basketball, Steph looks like a regular Joe.  Instead, his game is all about quickness and skill.  Although, Steph did have the benefit of growing up in a basketball household with his dad Dell Curry who was also a skilled shooter in the NBA.

His own obstacles.  Because of his waif-like frame, Steph was often overlooked on the court.  He wanted to play for the Virginia Tech Hokies like his dad, but they ran out of scholarships and only offered him a walk-on spot.  Instead, he went to Davidson College—a tiny 1700 student liberal arts college not known for its basketball.  Steph became an instant March Madness superstar, leading little old Davidson all the way to the Elite Eight.

Media darling.  As the 1st ever unanimous pick for MVP and a member of the record-setting 73-win Warriors, Curry is the talk of the town.  He’s one of the most well-liked athletes, because of his squeaky clean image, humble demeanor off the court, andridiculously adorable family (seriously—check out these Riley Curry videos).

LeBron James

Who is LeBron James?  LeBron is a physical beast, standing at a solid 6’8”, 250 lbs. He’s extremely versatile on the court and is considered one of the best basketball players of all time. He was scouted as early as sophomore year of high school and dubbed “The Chosen One.”  In 2003, he was drafted #1 straight out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and has been dominating in the league ever since. 

Hero or villain?  LeBron was the most hated man in Cleveland after he left the Cavs for the Heat in 2010 to chase championship rings, partly because he made a TV special out of it called The Decision.  When he decided to come home in 2014, he did it the right way and was welcomed back with open arms. Then he won the city of Cleveland its first Championship in 52 years, so all was forgotten.  There are plenty of reasons to love LeBron: he had humble beginnings with a teenage single-mom and even spent 2 years in foster care, he’s got serious acting chops (um, Trainwreck anyone?), he married hishigh school sweetheart, and he is a proud dad to 2 sons that are already killing it in their youth basketball leagues.

Maybe we should cut him some slack?  Some folks will say that for all his ring chasing he is actually a disappointment.  LeBron only has a 3-4 record in the NBA Finals, while Michael Jordan for example went 6-0.  But LeBron hasn’t had the supporting cast of players on his teams that stars like MJ or Kobe Bryant did.  In fact, in 3 of the 4 times he lost, his team entered with <31% chance of winning the title.

 

Pat Summitt

Who was Pat Summitt?  In 2016, Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt passed away after a long battle with early onset Alzheimers.  She was a pioneer in women’s college basketball, leading the Tennessee Volunteers to 8 national titles and 1,098 victories—the most in Division I college basketball history (men or women).  Here are a few more things to know about the legendary Pat Summitt. 

The pioneer.  Summitt was one of the earliest faces of women’s sports and she helped prove that they could succeed.  In the early days coaching the Tennessee’s women’s team, Summitt made just $8,900 per year and fought with physical education classes for practice space in a multiuse gymnasium. Of course, she was also multitasking—coaching the team the while earning her master’s degree and training for the Olympic team.

The leader.  Summitt was widely regarded as one of the toughest coaches in college basketball history, men's or women's. She was best known for giving her players an icy stare in response to poor play, and it worked.  In 38 seasons as a coach she never had a losing season. Tennessee once asked Summitt to consider coaching the men's team, but she responded “Why is that considered a step up?

The Volunteer.  Pat Summitt’s name is nearly synonymous with Tennessee.  One of the best anecdotes that shows her love for her state was when she went into labor while on a recruiting trip. She  insisted on flying home to have her baby in Knoxville.  Her son Tyler Summitt also went on to play basketball for Tennessee and tried to follow in her footsteps with a (short-lived and disgraced) women’s basketball coaching career.

Kevin Durant

Who is Kevin Durant?  KD is a scoring machine.  He won league MVP in 2014 and has won the league scoring title 4 times. Durant’s known for his crazy 7’4” wingspan that helps him shoot over defenders. The fact that he’s also secretly super tall is also a big help.  Durant is listed as 6’9”, but recently he confessed that he’s actually 6’11”.  Why’s he been lying to us?  Growing up KD was tall for a small forward so he lied about his height to avoid getting typecast into playing power forward. Typically, small forwards are shorter, quicker, and more versatile players.

Why is he the newest NBA villain?  Durant entered free agency in the 2016 offseason, and he was the hottest ticket in town—think: the ‘Hamilton’ of the basketball world. Everyone was trying to get a piece of that sweet KD action, but he narrowed the field down to 6 teams that he met with this past week. Most basketball analysts thought Durant would stick it out one more season with the Oklahoma City Thunder because he could get a bigger contract next year when the salary cap goes up and, more importantly, because he could get one last try at bringing home the trophy for the Thunder—the team he’s been with for his entire 9-year career.  Then on the 4th of July, while we were grilling burgers and watching fireworks, he tried to slip one past us by quietly announcing that he’s leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors.  Nice try, KD. 

Should we just hand the Warriors the trophy now? Last season, the Warriors dominated the league, setting an NBA regular-season record with 73 wins. Then in a crazy and momentous NBA Finals, they were upset by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 7 games. Now with KD on their roster, the Warriors are looking even more unstoppable.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Before KD’s move, the Thunder were one of the few teams that were serious contenders for the title.  This past season, they came this close to beating the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Now, some folks are calling Durant a chicken for leaving a great team for an even better team and Thunder fans are giving KD the LeBron treatment.

Tim Duncan

In the middle of the 2016 offseason, Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward of all time, announced his retirement in classic Timmy fashion, through a San Antonio Spurs team press release with no fan fare. After 19 tremendous seasons with the Spurs, here are some fun facts about the legendary 40-year-old b-baller.

Tim swims.  Timmy grew up in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He originally wanted to be a swimmer like both of his older sisters (one of whom competed for the U.S. in the 1988 Olympics). But when a hurricane destroyed the only Olympic-sized pool in St. Croix, Timmy gave up on swimming and his brother-in-law encouraged him to pick up basketball. He was a freshman in high school when he started playing.

The college years.  Timmy is one of the few NBA superstars that completed college. As a top prospect, he could have left school early for the NBA draft, but he promised his mom that he would complete college before she passed away from breast cancer when he was 14. After Timmy graduated with a major in Psychology from Wake Forest, he was drafted #1 by the Spurs. 

The greatest of all time.  Timmy was known as “The Big Fundamental” because he played simple and consistent ball, including a killer bank shot and stellar defense. He was a consummate professional and team player. He helped lead the NBA’s 4th smallest market team to 5 NBA titles, winning 2 NBA MVP awards and playing in 15 All-Star games on the way. Together with teammates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, they won the highest percentage of games for any trio in NBA history. Throughout his career, he was coached by basketball genius and legendary curmudgeon Gregg Popovich. The duo won 1,001 games—the most of any player-coach pair.

The enigma. Off the court, Timmy avoided the limelight, so he didn’t get many advertising contracts (except for these fantastic local grocery spots). He was a big nerd, loving Dungeons & Dragons and Renaissance fairs. The Onion frequently roasted his stoic demeanor with articles like: “Tim Duncan Reports 5th Straight Successful New Year’s Resolution” and “Tim Duncan Hams It Up For Crowd By Arching Left Eyebrow Slightly.

One thing’s for sure, Spurs fans will miss him very much. #ThankYouTim