Zen and the Perfect Jump Shot


I remember playing some afternoon pick-up basketball a couple years back…
It was 3 on 3 and some one on one over at the Silverado Park gym. I was playing against a pretty aggressive black guy (not unusual -Warning PC alert: this is not a ‘safe space’-; especially these days in the USA, huh?). He was getting pretty upset. I guess he was used to getting his way under the boards. He’d bang the hell out of you to get that rebound. But, he wasn’t having much luck against me. The guy would run into the side or back of me like an NFL fullback. We had some serious collisions. Everyone in the gym just stopped and stared one time. He’d get all mad, even though it was him

running into my back. But when I didn’t move and got the rebound, it just drove him wild. He wanted to fight but I wasn’t angry at all.
As long as the dude wasn’t cheating I didn’t mind the challenge of a rough, hard fought game. Of course he didn’t realize that being 3 inches taller and 20 lbs. heavier wasn’t going to be enough because I’d learned how to box out playing against a guy 120 lbs. heavier and 13 inches taller. He too would just run over you to get the rebound… in fact he’s one of the best rebounders in NBA history.
He did run over me in the beginning. But, then one day I ‘Got It’. I learned something that words can’t really fully explain.
I learned balance. Not by talking or reading or seeing someone else with it, but by doing. In a trial by fire you might say, competing against a 7 foot, 275 pound NBA wall of muscle, I learned and I knew I learned it. It could now inform all of my moves and shots on the basketball court (and elsewhere of course). I thought I was on balance before; but now I had something a little more than before. A ‘quantum leap’ in understanding that raised my game a level.
I could never have become a Zen Master in shooting a basketball without that knowledge… let’s call it Wisdom instead of just knowledge, because it’s a higher perspective of knowledge.

Have you ever seen the old videos of a little and very old eastern Martial Arts Master teaching his pupils that he has the power to ‘not be moved’?
He says, “Move me from this spot. Try to push me.”
First one, and another, then all the pupils at once try to push him over. Yet his feet remain solid and firmly unmoved. He simply squats low and becomes like a 1000 pound rock to them. It was usually pretty obvious that the students were pretending well. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always fake.
Steven Segal doesn’t fake it much outside of the movies. Watch old you tube videos of him taking on some students… He can make people fly off their feet and crumple helplessly to the ground quite easily.
But, it was always a joke seeing the ‘over the top’ Chinese movies where they just went too far; flying warriors and crazy stuff that you just couldn’t believe, instead of real Bruce Lee type quickness and precision… that maybe you never saw before or since, yet could still believe.
So, I didn’t really believe most of that crap. Like walking on water or giant titans ruling mankind. In my mind it was filed under, fiction and fantasy.
My point? There’s a truth behind most of these stories that is hidden by the myth. Tell an obvious lie on top of a truth, and the truth is tainted by the lie. When it should only be the teller of the lie that is tainted. On the other hand, the truth IS stranger than fiction.
Anyway, when you see a real master doing the rock thing, it’s different than the fake ones in most movies.
Have you ever had kids that didn’t want to be picked up? At times they decide to be like sand, slithering out of your hands with an odd power to become dead weight like a bag of water. Drooping out one side or the other out of your grasp. The master has this power…
Like a greased pig… (not that I’ve ever tried to grasp a greased pig) the master redirects each force aimed at him. His upper body’s movements remind me of a willow tree bending to whatever degree is required (like the child or Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix) but, with a rotational component that can’t be grasped. His feet unmoved as if rooted deep in the ground.
And, so it is with balance in athletics. There is on the one hand the truth… on the other is a counterfeit. You can think you know what balance is, yet not Really Know, until you actually ‘do it’ or find it/experience it.
I’m trying to think of a way to tell the average person… It’s like the difference between thinking you know how to drive after high school or online driving classes; and knowing how to drive after driving on the street.
I knew what balance was from my limited perspective. But until I was able to screen out NBA center Swen Nater from a rebound… I didn’t really know what balance was… get it? Ok, that was a dumb question, huh?
Check out LeBron’s jump shot and free throw. He almost Never goes straight up. He isn’t a good shooter. He’s almost in balance, but never quite there. Unlike the shooters over in Cali. Who know that a perfect foundation of balance and going straight up is the way to a perfect jump shot and free throw.

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