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RISE AND FIRE by Shawn Fury


The Origins, Science, and Evolution of the Jump Shot—and How It Transformed Basketball Forever

by Shawn Fury

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-250-06216-1
Publisher: Flatiron Books

Journalist Fury (Keeping the Faith: In the Trenches with College Football's Worst Team, 2005) celebrates basketball’s jump shot: its origins, its fundamentals, and its greatest practitioners.

“Roughly thirty-four years after I first picked up a ball,” writes the author, “there’s still nothing like being on the court—inside or outside, with teammates or alone—firing away with the jumper.” These are the words of a man smitten with a game, and within that game, he found something deep and abiding. It certainly affected his career arc, for here are more than 300 pages devoted to a tour d’horizon of the game’s most revolutionary shot: the jumper. Fury also takes detours into the history of the game, secrets and superstitions of shooters—no dribbles before free throws, sure, but also the idea that each hoop has its own personality—the worlds of shooting coaches and high-tech machines like Noah (color-coded to measure that consistency of the arc) and Dartfish (which “uses cameras to track a player’s shot frame by frame”), and the bizarre circumstances that led basketball players to be called, at least in the old days, “cagers.” In a pleasing touch, Fury mixes a little memoir—high school, college, and playground games—into the stories of Joe Fulks and Kenny Sailors, the outlandish Celtics dynasty of the 1950s, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, the Indiana savants Jimmy Rayl and Rick Mount, the Iowa stars Denise Long and Jeanette Olson, and the shot that launched the movie Hoosiers. The author digresses and then returns, smoothly if not silkily, to the chronological march, noting how the evolution of the shot changes everything each time it punctures the game’s equilibrium, most recently with big men moving away from the basket to shoot (something that Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had foreshadowed). Fury ends with every basketball fan’s favorite provocations: the greatest shot, the greatest shooter, etc.

The jump shot created offense, and Fury elevates it to yet higher ground.