Amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the NBA’s future still so uncertain, we look again to the past, polishing up our Dunk History series — with a twist. If you are in need of a momentary distraction from the state of an increasingly isolated world, remember with us some of the most electrifying baskets and improbable buckets in the game’s history, from buzzer-beaters to circus shots. This is Sunk History.
Today, we revisit Trevor Booker’s 0.2-second volleyball shot.
[Dunk History, collected: Our series on the most scintillating slams of yesteryear]
There is luck, and then there is Trevor Booker’s shot clock-beating tap against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Booker checked into a January 2015 game his Utah Jazz were leading 48-44 with a minute remaining in the second quarter and 0.2 seconds left on the shot clock. Gordon Hayward opted not to lob his inbounds pass into a crowd at the rim that also included Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison, instead bouncing a pass to Booker on the baseline that the forward could do nothing with but tap over his head.
Incredibly, it went in, marking one of the most ludicrous shots in NBA history.
It went down in the box score as an 11-foot jumper, which is really the reason we need to remember these shots. And if you think Jazz coach Quin Snyder subbed Booker in for that specific shot, you are wrong.
“We try to cover a lot of game situations,” Snyder told the Deseret News’ Jody Genessy after a game his Jazz ultimately lost to the Thunder, 99-94. “That was not one. I have to say they manufactured that.”
Hayward just figured it better to take a turnover on a shot-clock violation than on the lob.
“I’ve never seen a shot like that in my life in basketball,” added Hayward. “I just bounced it to him. I didn’t know what he was going to do with it, honestly. ... I threw it that way so they couldn’t get a steal or something and get going the other way, and he tipped it up over his head. You should ask him about that.”
SLAM magazine did ask him, and here’s how Booker broke it down:
SLAM: We have to start off by talking about that shot. Had you ever attempted it before?
Booker: I’ve attempted it before just playing around — not many times. But I’ve never done it in a game situation or even practice, for that matter. I was kind of stunned when it went in.
SLAM: So how many times would you say you have made that shot just messing around?
Booker: Not sure. Definitely not many. I can probably count on one hand.
SLAM: What was the actual play that was drawn up?
Booker: Well, when I checked in, I didn’t know the play. I tried to get the ball but the referee handed the ball to Gordon so quick, so I just went for the lob first but it wasn’t there. Then he gave me a bounce pass and that was about the only thing that I could do with it.
Booker also told reporters he used to practice the shot with his cousin, fellow NBA veteran Jordan Hill.
The in-game reactions are the best. Booker threw up his palms into a Jordan-esque shrug and laughed the whole way down the court. Westbrook and Kevin Durant stopped in their tracks and stared at each other, as if to say what the announcer put into words, “Are you kidding me?” At least they agreed on something.
“We knew it was their night when Trevor Booker threw in a shot over his head. … That’ll never happen again,” Durant told reporters afterward, via the Daily Thunder.
Do not be so sure about that. NBA players and “The Starters” tried replicating The Trevor Booker in the days after his miracle shot, and it turns out is not such a terrible strategy. While it is a low-percentage shot, those that were able to recreate it make you wonder if Booker’s is not a better option than the miracle lob.
Either way, it is more luck than not.
So it was that Booker attempted a similar shot two years later with the Brooklyn Nets. Tied 100-100 with the Washington Wizards, Nets wing Bojan Bogdanovic inbounded to Booker at the top of the key with 0.2 seconds left. Booker volleyball scooped it toward the basket, and it came nowhere near to finding the net.
I do appreciate how Booker appeared to admonish Bogdanovic for not properly setting him up, as if some more loft on the pass would have done the trick. Perhaps Booker should have tried doing it without looking.
By NBA rules, it is impossible to collect and shoot in fewer than 0.3 seconds, yet the Thunder have somehow been on the right side of the few shots that have been made in fewer than 0.2 seconds. Enjoy:
More Sunk History:
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