L.A. Lakers: The Brilliance Behind Pau Gasol and His Hook Shot Explained

William Van NollFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2011

L.A. Lakers: The Brilliance Behind Pau Gasol and His Hook Shot Explained

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    George Mikan popularized it in the 1950s.  Wilt Chamberlain used it at will in the 1970s. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar perfected it in the 1980s.  And now Pau Gasol is the latest Lakers big man to champion the hook shot.

    The hook shot is all about finesse.  Craft.  Skill.  Polish.  Careers of various big men have been derailed because they lacked the proverbial touch needed to, among other things, consistently shoot a hook shot.

    Two-time NBA Champion Pau Gasol certainly does not lack this skill.  In fact, he's mastered it.

    In this post, we'll explore the dynamic elements of Pau's hook shot as illustrated through videos and discuss why his hook shot is such a splendid part of his game.  

How to Read This Post

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    To best illustrate the facets of the Pau Gasol hook shot, I've incorporated YouTube clips.  A few seasons back, a dedicated Laker fan started the Pau Gasol Video Project, an online collection of Pau highlights from each game that recapped the Spaniard's best plays.  

    Each slide contains a link to one of these videos at a certain time mark (e.g. the 1:25 mark) that best showcases these elements.  Just hold your cursor over the video icon and the video will pop up (this slo-mo sample is one of my favorites).

    For the advanced Pau Gasol fans, I highly recommend viewing these videos in their entirety, as they not only display his hook shot, but also his passing, shooting and defensive skills.

    But alas, it's now time to take a detailed look at one of the finest hook shots in the NBA.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Left Hand as Effective as Right Hand

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 0:58

    Anybody who watches Pau Gasol's game will tell you that he is just as good with the left hand as he is with the right.  A natural right-hander, Pau Gasol shows how much a player's game can open up when you develop an effective off hand.

    Defenders are forced to guess unto which side Pau will unleash the hook, making defense difficult.  Put pressure on his strong side and—boom—Pau spins off and releases a beautiful, tear drop left-handed hook shot.

    Simply delightful.

    Every game reel I watched included in one form or another a Pau left-handed hook shot.  The example above displays the quickness and touch with which Pau can deliver the left-hander.  A sweet stroke indeed, Joel.

Fake Inside, Go Outside

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 2:20

    The "Show me" move.  The "Old Bait and Switch."  The "Thank You Very Much, It's Been Fun."

    Pure butter and biscuits.

    Ball fake the pass inside, spin back to the outside and drop a hook shot for two points.  While the move is dazzling, it is not meant to be flashy—that's not a part of Pau's game nor his character.  

    It simply requires a dramatic ball fake to work effectively.  And when it does work, its a joy to watch.  

The Running Floater

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 1:36

    The Pau Gasol running floater across the lane is a pure showcase of style and grace.

    NBA centers, with 7'0'' frames and 7'0'' plus wingspans, can only dream of having this amount of touch on the ball through the lane and in traffic.

    Perhaps that is why its called a tear drop—those who lack this finesse can only sit back and cry, and those who appreciate it want to shed a tear of joy.

    With two full strides, Pau can create enough separation to toss an arching dime just over the defender's reach and into the hoop.  Running away from the basket, no less.  Quite the exquisite bucket.

Use the Glass

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 0:46

    The backboard is your friend.  Based on the angle and release point of the shooter, the glass is sometimes the only way to deliver a bucket.  NBA players should use the glass on a more consistent basis.

    Its basic geometry.  Math and physics. 

    With Shaq naming himself the "Big Aristotle," Pau can be considered a mathematician in his own right with the way he operates off the glass.  Pau is very effective at the close-to-mid range bank hook shot, using it for turnarounds and quick put-backs.  

Deep Range

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 2:37

    When you're as good as Pau Gasol at the hook shot, why limit yourself to close range? I've seen Pau nail floating hook shots from the free throw line (the above example doesn't quite do his deep range justice, but is still deep nonetheless).  

    Heck, Pau should just shoot hook shots at the charity stripe.

    Deep in the shot clock, if your defender is playing great on-the-ball defense, sometimes your only way out is to unfurl a 16-foot hook shot on your opponent.

    In Pau's case, with that kind of arc, I'd take this bailout hook any day.

Off the Spin Move

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 1:04

    The classic spin move—an impressive display of quickness and agility.  Roll off your defender faster than he can react, leaving him clear in the dust.  Just like that, you're gone.

    Pau has one of the best spin moves in the game, particularly when he spins baseline into seemingly small space to get to the cup.

    But as we can see in the video example, Pau's hook shot can come off variations of the spin move—go baseline, off your defender, or even the fake spin move.  

    What makes Pau's spin move so great is how fluidly he readjusts himself and sets up for the quick strike. All one motion, all natural, all in rhythm.  

    Pau Gasol highlight reels should be a part of the curriculum in any self-respecting university poetry class. A true Spanish poet on the floor.

Extension and Wingspan

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 1:38

    Pau Gasol's unofficial wingspan registers at a whopping 7'4'' and some change.  Try guarding that on a jump stop.

    The arc that Pau can create on his hook shot is off the charts given this impressive wingspan.  While not as long, nor as legendary, as the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's, Pau's hook shot is definitely a difficult guard, even for 7'0'' NBA centers.

    What's more is Pau's ability to use his wrist at full extension to drop a hook shot.  It takes years of practice to develop this sort of touch, and Pau's definitely got it.

Follow-Up Shot

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    Video: Pau Gasol Video Project

    Time Mark: 1:22

    True to the fundamental player he is, Pau Gasol consistently follows up his own shots.  Short, long, it doesn't matter—Pau's going towards the rim once a shot is released from his hand.

    Why include offensive rebounding in an analysis of a hook shot?  

    Because Pau's ability to follow up shots is a testament to his intelligent approach to the game, much like his hook shot, and is something true Laker fans can definitely appreciate.  High school basketball players, take note.

    And as you can see from the video example, his follow-up effort can often be more appealing than his initial shot.  

Putting It All Together

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    Of the NBA players today, Pau Gasol has arguably the best, most effective hook shot.

    Dwight Howard's hook shot is improving, but he relies too much on his running right-hander.  

    Tim Duncan's hook shot has been quite effective for a number of years, but has been slipping as of late.

    Al Jefferson's hook shot is effective and shows great promise, but he just can't shoot a left-handed hook shot nor the runner like Pau can.

    And just take a look across the Lakers bench for comparison to see that Andrew Bynum does not possess nearly the touch on his hook shot that Pau does.

    Underappreciated for all the little things he does, and overcriticized for all of the brute things he doesn't do, Pau Gasol will simply continue to refine his game, continue to marvel basketball purists with his fundamentals, and—like it or not—continue to win at a championship level, all the while dropping a dazzling array of left and right hook shots on his way into the Lakers' history books.


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