The Beauty of the Lay-Up

Jennie LuptakCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2008

There are a few things in life I truly love—a newly-flooded rink, a well-written book, a freshly-baked pie, and an ice-cold Coke all make the list. But right at the top, just below beating my brother at anything, is the perfectly-executed, break-away lay-up.

To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than watching Levance Fields steal the ball, dribble the length of the court, and softly lay the ball off the backboard.

Two points. Golf claps.

Sure, Sam Young’s windmill dunk gets the PowerBall Power Play of the game—and a raucous cheer of appreciation from the home fans—but Fields’ layup is what replays in my mind on the way home.

Weird, right? See if you can follow this…

Mario Lemieux, one of the most prolific players in NHL history, was said to be unflappable. “His face is so calm. He shows no signs of stress or anything,” said Philadelphia Flyers goalie Dominic Roussel. “It’s as if he’s saying, ‘No problem. Relax. I’m just going to beat you now. It’s not going to hurt a bit.’”

In basketball, that’s called a break-away lay-up.

There’s no need for fancy tricks or alley-oops. Just put the ball in the basket. A behind-the-back, two-handed dunk is an in-your-face way of putting your opponent down, but why bother?

Tap it off the glass, let the net do the rest of the work. Jog back and get in defensive position. It’s like quietly saying, “Yeah, I just scored. Go ahead and bring it back—I want to do it again, and again, and again. All night, sucker.”

The subtle, glowering confidence of it is spine-tingling.

Sports nowadays is lots of flash. From the glorified publicity stunts we call All-Star games to the off-court and off-field antics of grown men, sometimes there’s more Entertainment than Sports on ESPN. A lay-up is simple, a skill players perfect long before college, contracts and Cadillacs are in the picture.

And something so simple has never been more beautiful.