It has become a forgotten relic of the game, like canvas
sneakers and shorts that really are short. The bank shot, once
among the most popular methods of putting the ball in the
basket, has gone the way of the underhand free throw. "It's kind
of a lost art," Pistons coach Alvin Gentry says. "In the old
days everybody used to shoot it off the glass. I can't think of
any young guys who do."
For decades, great coaches such as UCLA's John Wooden and the
Celtics' Red Auerbach drilled their players on the bank shot.
Old-timers from Sam Jones and Wilt Chamberlain to George Gervin
and Bill Walton employed it masterfully, using a high arch and
the ball's backspin off the backboard to get a favorable bounce.
"I always felt like it was a good shot while I was on the move
or at medium range," says Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy, who
played guard for the Bucks, Rockets, Sixers and Spurs in the
'80s. "It always made me focus more and softened up my shot."
Most of today's NBA players, it seems, would rather chew glass
than go glass. For them, the 18-by-24-inch white rectangle on
the backboard is just a handy device for measuring their
vertical leaps. "I don't like the bank shot," Pistons forward
Grant Hill says. "I never really practiced it, so I'm not really
comfortable with it."
"The only angle I consider is straight in," adds Heat guard Tim
Why do so few players go to the bank? "It's old school," Lakers
guard Derek Harper says. "It's not glamorous, and today, if it's
not glamorous, it won't work." Others blame inadequate coaching
at the lower levels and poor practice habits by today's players.
"Guys don't make any shots anymore, let alone bank shots," Pacers
executive vice president and coach Larry Bird says. "Guys today
just want to dunk and shoot three-pointers."
Not all players eschew the bank shot. Rockets forward Scottie
Pippen has made a good living off it, Spurs forward Tim Duncan
uses the shot frequently close to the basket, and Sixers guard
Allen Iverson and Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek use it effectively on
runners in the lane. Then there's Lakers swingman Rick Fox, who
has been dubbed Geometry by teammate Shaquille O'Neal for his
fondness for kissing his jumpers off the glass. "I bank it every
chance I get," Fox says. "Off the dribble, sometimes going down
the middle. If you know where to place the ball, you're
basically guaranteed it'll go in."
With the NBA's shooting percentage at a dismal 43.4% through
Sunday and on pace to be the lowest since the '65-66 season, you
might think more players would at least think about using the
shot. "The bank shot is probably better because you don't have to
be exactly on," says Hill. "There's more room for error, so it's
probably smarter to use the glass. But none of us, I guess, are
very smart. Maybe that's something I'll work on this summer."
Will many of his colleagues do the same? Don't bank on it.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY HAYT Bird was always playing the angles, even while shooting.