Basketball has a few ways to score points. You could take two and a half steps for an easy layup or you could just leap up and dunk the ball in. Alternatively, if you get fouled you could stand stationary at the free throw line and get a point for each shot made.
The jump shot however, is a completely different concept. To see an adept shooter take a jump shot that hits nothing but net is one of sport's purest motions.
It equates to a tennis player serving ace after ace in rhythm with minimal effort or a cricketer playing a textbook straight drive past the bowler.
It represents an ephemeral moment when a physical action is transformed into visual poetry and we remind ourselves once again why it is that we watch sport.
But just as it's fair to say that Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal and other dominant centers didn't possess a jump shot, it's also equally fair to acknowledge that they didn't really need one. If they got double or triple teamed they simply passed the ball out to a jump shooter.
Over the past two decades, we've seen a variety of talented basketball players—some good at exploding and powering their way through the defense for an easy layup or a thunderous dunk and others who were adept at creating their own shot by shaking off their defender.
We've seen the Carters, the McGradys, the Iversons and the Bryants.
We've witnessed the effectiveness of a Steve Nash pull-up jumper and we're now witnessing the new wave of Carmelo, Lebron and Dwyane Wade.
Anyone could tell you how to take the perfect jump shot.
For starters, the ball has to be above the head centered between left eye and right shoulder, the feet have to be parallel about 12 to 18 inches apart and most importantly the follow through has to impart enough reverse spin for the ball to traverse the perfect arc and swish through the net.
Only one man does it close to perfection.
Ray Allen will definitely be a Hall of Fame member if the Celtics steal this Championship from the Lakers. The real reason he should be enshrined in NBA immortality though, is because he defines the near-perfect jump shot.
Whether it's an open look or a catch-and-shoot running off a screen, Allen's shooting mechanics are as fundamentally sound as they can get. The keys to his pure shooting lie in pulling off a "phone-booth shot", i.e:- jumping straight up and landing straight down as if in a phone booth.
Furthermore, when taking a jump shot, looking at the basket is the last thing on his mind. According to him, "Most times I don't look at the rim or anything else. In game time, when you aim, you miss. Most guys who can't shoot, they aim. Trust your shot."
However, for all Allen's purity of shot and fluidity of motion, making baskets is inevitably all about rhythm.
No one knows that better than Allen himself.
In Game Two of the NBA Finals, he set a finals record making seven three pointers in the first half and finishing with eight overall. His accuracy and style evoked memories of the time Michael Jordan shrugged his shoulders as if he himself couldn't believe how well he was shooting. (You can see the link here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkUBN5Ydjao )
In Game Three? Allen shot 0-13 missing all eight of his three pointers! His technique didn't change and neither did his fundamental shooting style. What changed was his rhythm.
An inch here, an inch there and the ball bounces off the rim instead of hitting net. When it happens a few times in a row it starts affecting the subconscious confidence of a jump shooter.
Allen might explode again in Game 4 or he might go cold and have a horrible shooting night. I would bet on the former happening first.
Nevertheless, while he's still busy shooting it's fair enough to say that his jump shot should be appreciated for what it truly is—simple and fluid basketball poetry in motion.
Ray Allen Three Point shootout - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5p9wV2RuKA&feature=related
Ray Allen Slow Motion - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPWtdEDUS80&feature=related