Word on the Street

Circus Shot (sur’-kuhs shaht) noun. A low-percentage shot that is flipped, heaved, scooped, or otherwise flung toward the hoop while the shooter is off-balance, airborne, falling down, and/or facing away from the basket. This shot is so named because it looks like the kind of tricky gimmick you’d see at a circus rather than an NBA game. Assuming they actually play basketball at the circus, that is.

Usage example:Dwyane Wade is the current king of circus shots, following in the footsteps of former circus shooting legends like Michael Jordan, Dominque Wilkins, and whoever else you want to name.

Word trivia: I’m pretty sure that basketball players have been attempting circus shots since about five minutes after Dr. James Naismith first nailed a peach basket to the back of a dinosaur and told his gym students to start throwing rocks at it. However, the circus shot is more prevalent today than ever. This is because, although most circus shots are wildly off the mark, actually hitting one is a guaranteed way to be immortalized on SportsCenter highlights and by a flurry of video clips on YouTube. For instance:



The most famous circus shot ever: Michael Jordan did more to popularize the circus shot than any other player in NBA history. Most people remember the mid-90s version of Michael Jordan, when he drove to the cup selectively and relied mostly on his fallaway jumper. But the mid-80s to early-90s Jordan was in a constant state of leaping, hooking, scooping, dipping, and reversing. In fact, Jordan is the author of the most famous circus shot of all time. It happened in Game 2 of the 1991 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers and, ironically, it was also the most needless circus shot of all time. Jordan took the ball up with his right hand as if to dunk or lay it in, then inexplicably switched it to his left hand for a more media-friendly attempt. There was absolutely no need whatsoever to do this, however, since he wasn’t fouled on the shot and, indeed, there wasn’t a defender in sight. This highlight is shown repeatedly throughout the NBA season and endlessly during the playoffs, even though most experts and coaches would agree that taking an easy shot and making it more difficult so you can look cool while doing it is a bad idea, especially in the Finals.

C’mon, Mike. Was that really necessary?


The circus shot king: In many cases, a circus shot is attempted after an offensive player feels contact from his defender on a drive to the basket. This is done, obviously, in the hope of drawing a foul. More often than not, the circus shot is accompanied by a deep grunt or a cry of mock pain (otherwise known as a verbal flop) as a means of selling the foul. Nobody does this better than Dwyane Wade, who is the reigning king of circus shots. Seriously, go to YouTube and do a search for “circus shot.” About 97 percent of the results are clips of Wade hitting one ridiculous flinger after another. You have to hand it to Wade, though; in an era where other 2-guards like Ray Allen and Gilbert Arenas are jacking up seven or eight threes a game, last year he shot a “career-high” 0.4 per game. He’d rather take it to the hoop, which is probably why he shot a league-leading 10.5 freethrow attempts a game last season. If they kept stats on circus shot attempts, he probably would have lead the league in that category too.




Labels: Dwyane Wade / Dominique Wilkins / Michael Jordan / Ray Allen / Gilbert Arenas / Los Angeles Lakers1991 NBA Finals / NBA Finals / NBA Playoffs / NBA / Word on the Street


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