Shooting At The Wrong Basket: An NBA Rulebook Investigation

In soccer, it's a common occurrence. In football, it resulted in an iconic moment for Jim Marshall. But in basketball, scoring a goal for your opponent is a rare and mostly unexamined feat. There is the occasional tip-in by a player fighting for a rebound, but those are understandable in the heat of battle. It's the more calculated instances that I'd like to dissect.

This may seem like an esoteric thing to focus on, but it was none other than the National Basketball Association who examined the possibility enough to enact the following rule change before the 1977-78 season:

• Any field goal that, in the opinion of the officials is intentionally scored in the wrong basket shall be disallowed.

A need to codify this scenario seems bizarre on the surface. Why would any player be motivated to shoot (and score, so lets take Ricky Davis out of the mix) at the wrong basket intentionally? Did it happen at some point in the previous season to raise some point shaving suspicions? If Spike Lee and John Turturro ever get around to making that Jack Molinas biopic, maybe we can find out if he pulled these type of shenanigans, but regardless, the rule was changed 23 years after his last NBA game played and three years after he got taken out by the mob.

Since I have no concrete evidence of why the NBA felt the need to take a hard stance on shooting at the wrong basket, I'll instead discuss the three instances I'm aware of where this rule could've been applied:

The first is a well known incident for Knicks fans that perhaps permanently soured Mike D'Antoni on Nate Robinson. Early in the 2009-10 season, the Knicks had a 2-9 record and appeared headed towards their ninth straight losing season. Tensions quickly reached the surface when with 0.5 seconds left in the first quarter of a game in New Jersey, the inbound pass went to Nate, who in typical Nate fashion, decided to shoot (and score) at the wrong basket.

To be fair, he waited until the buzzer sounded but D'Antoni felt it was too close for comfort and barked at him as he walked to the bench. Was D'Antoni more annoyed at Nate for not attempting a 75 footer at the buzzer (valid), or for possibly gifting 3 points to the Nets? If it was the latter, D'Antoni was obviously ignorant of the rule, but attention to details has never been his strong suit. Because the shot was clearly after the buzzer, the refs never had to make the (easy) judgment call that the shot was intentional, so unfortunately it was a missed opportunity for a rarely (if ever) applied ruling to be given.

The next instance involves a topical player, Shawn Marion, who almost dunked in the wrong basket during his rookie season. As we can see, Shawn figured out what was going on at the last second and pulled back, so no judgment could be made here either. But if he did in fact dunk it, it would've set up a scenario where he might have had to convince the refs he did it on purpose for them to disallow it! You can almost imagine Marion, youthfully wide-eyed, pleading to the referee, "I went to UNLV, we do that type of shit! Didn't you see that hot tub pic with Richie 'The Fixer' Perry and Anderson Hunt?"

The third instance is a fairly obscure one involving Chris Mills and Samaki Waker that is only documented in writing and in a video archive somewhere, per Hoopedia:

In 1999 in a Golden State Warriors' game against the Dallas Mavericks, Mills was playing for Golden State. After a jump ball, Mills attempted to make a basket, but on the wrong side of the court. He attempted to make a shot at the Dallas basket. Amazingly, his shot was blocked by Samaki Walker of the Mavericks.
This moment raises several questions. What was either player thinking? Would the shot have counted? Is goaltending in play? What ever happened to Samaki Walker? One day when the entire NBA video catalog is downloadable through our implanted brain-chips, we can finally get to the bottom of what happened here.

And we will also be able to point to the moment that brought this issue to the surface and codified it in the NBA's rule book. Until then, I will watch with bated breath hoping Shawn Marion doesn't make the same mistake when he takes on the Miami Heat in the Finals. But if he does, at least he can convince the refs it was done intentionally.

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David Hill said...

word aaappp

Kelly said...

Even without having seen that Knicks clip, Nate Robinson definitely had to be the number one most likely active player to have done this.

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