Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fantasies: Could you score on an NBA player?













Cary and I have this conversation all the time, so he suggested that I post about it and solicit opinions. Basically, the question is whether or not you could score if you played one-on-one against an NBA basketball player who was playing his absolute hardest. And since it can be anyone from the league, from the best player to the worst, the question is really: Could you score on the worst player in the league? (Relatedly, who is the worst player in the league?)

Obviously, if you played D1 ball or something, you might say yes and you might be right. But personally, I don't think that I'd score one single point against an NBA player. I think he'd steal the ball or block my shot on every possession. These guys are world class athletes. And remember that he'd be playing as hard as he could. Maybe we tell him that if his opponent scores even once, we'll make him wear Stockton-shorts for the rest of the season.

Cary sees my point of view, but he thinks that one might be able to get off some insane hook shot that would go in 1 out of 20 times. I say that if Kwame Brown or Rick Brunson or Bostjan Nachbar wanted to, he could reject every one of those hook shots into the press box.

Ok, feel free to weigh in on this topic. Some related questions for discussion:

1. Could you score on a WNBA player? Could you beat her one-on-one? Would it make a difference if she was cute?

2. Same question for baseball. Cary thinks he could hit .020 to .030 in the major leagues. I'm not sure. The issue is how many hits you could get by randomly sticking your bat out there. Maybe bunting a lot would help.


19 comments:

Ben said...

I'm absolutely positive that I could never score against an NBA player one-on-one. I can't score against most playground players who aren't short women shooting underhanded.

But Cary's comment reminds me of something that was in the New Yorker a few years ago. This was right after the 1994 players' strike was settled, and Roger Angell was theorizing that part of the reason that fans think baseball players are greedy bastards is that they look more or less like us (this is less true now) and they're doing something that looks more or less like something we all can do -- throw a ball, swing a bat. Whereas football players and basketball players are clearly of a different species, being seven feet tall or 350 pounds.

Anyway, Angell told this story about hanging out at the St. Louis Cardinals' training camp in Florida, and some dude was there who had been a pretty good amateur player. This dude said to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson that he thought he could get a hit off major league pitching every once in a while. Gibson said, "I'm 65 years old, I haven't played in 20 years, and I will strike you out on three pitches." Which he did.

Schayes said...

I agree with Ben. No way against an NBA player one-on-one. But yes, against an WNBA player, mostly because I'm 6'4". I could back her down and throw up a hook if all else failed.

But a more interesting question to me is whether 5 of us pick-up types could score on 5 NBA players in 5-on-5, in a half court set (we'd never get the ball up court if they pressed). I'm inclined still to say no, but there are more possiblites for crazy triple screens setting up wild 3 pointers that just might find the net.

Jeff said...

Excellent comments gentlemen. Ben: I love the Bob Gibson story. Schayes: Could you score on this WNBA player? (Check her vital stats.)
http://www.wnba.com/playerfile/margo_dydek/

Erik said...

Lin-
I once scored in a game that featured former NBA first-round draft pick Sam Jacobson, but he was not guarding me at the time. I realize this certainly does not count. [An aside: I also called a fairly ticky-tack foul on him later in the game. He made that "pshaw" sound right after I said "foul," roughly translating to "Yeah, right." I was more than a little embarassed.] All in all, he was hard to play with. Guys — even the ones on the court who played in college — deferred to him way too much. I bet his teams lost more than they won b/c of this.

PS- I'd go by Margo in a second. She plays like to Justins stacked on top of each other.

Juice said...

I hate to gang up on Cary here, but I have to agree that there's zero chance that he, I, Jeff, etc. could score on an NBA player going 100%. The fact is, at 5'8" (as both Cary and I are), even a "smaller" NBA baller like Iverson or Nash would have at least 5" on us. And the tiny guys like Earl Watson, Nate Robinson and Earl Boykins would be way too fast with their hands and getting off the ground to allow a clean shot to get off.

And if worst came to worst, I'm sure any baller 6'4" and taller could just hang about 3 feet off me and swat my shot into the upper deck.

As for batting .020, I doubt that too. You're talking about going 1-for-50 consistently over a regular season, which would include, say, 500 ABs. I still think that's a bit of a stretch. One hit in a season, maybe. But as Erik pointed out to me, even a relatively straight, 98 MPH fastball has some movement on it and the defense would shift away, knowing that there's virtually no way an amateur would get around on a heater that speed. Plus, I'm not fast enough to beat out any infield hit. A catcher with balky knees like Piazza could still get up fast enough and throw with enough velocity to 1B to get me on a bunt, I'm sure.

I love that Bob Gibson story too.

CJB said...

hold on, slow down a minute here...

1. Scoring on an NBA player: Justin, I think you could score on a really doofy NBA big man. Theres some people who are just in the NBA because they're role players, they're huge and can block shots. (Randy Breuer in the Wolves 1st year comes to mind, Manute Bol, granted these are extreme but they still played in the league.).

My theory is you could just run as far from them as possible on the court as fast as you could (Jus, you're relatively quick, espeically compared to Randy) and even with a 24 second clock at some point you would find yourself open enough to chuck up a running 3 pointer and get lucky.

I thinking people are mistaking what I'm saying. I'm not under the delusion that I have any athletic ability whatsoever. No one here, especially myself-is going to stop even the worst NBA player who is talking on his agent to his cell phone while playing when it comes to talent. But you're not talking about talent-its just the ability to score once and get lucky on a freak shot.

2. Baseball

i dunno if its so easy on that one either. True enough about the bob gibson story, but as several of us who have gone out to Coney Island have realized that hitting is about timing, and that people with no athletic talent, giant beer guts, male pattern baldness, hernias, can still drive a 100 mile an hour fastball if you get the timing down.

over 50 at bats-thats at minimum 150 pitches from the same pitcher you'd see repeatedly enough...putting one into fair territory isn't completely inconceivable just out of luck and randomness. If you were to go to a cage a few times to acclamate yourself what to expect velocity wise you could get lucky once out of 50 times...If Randy Jonhson can hit .100 during the course of a season I'm convinced Justin or Jeff could do the same thing... I'm not talking about athletic skill at all here...

CJB said...

ps

pardon the grammar/spelling errors up there, I just noticed a couple...

Jeff said...

I like to think about this on a relative scale, like an SAT question. Eric Chenowith is to Jeff Lin as Jeff Lin is to:

a. an average high school JV player
b. an average prepubescent church league player
c. a blind, asthmatic infant

There's no way that (a) is true; the pros are much better than me than that. While (b) might be true, I think that it's probably closer to (c). Playing one-on-one as hard as I could, I could probably shut out (b) 75-90% of the time, but I could obviously shut out (c) every game without effort. So, from the perspective of a pro, are we adolescent upstarts or helpless babies?

Juice said...

Back to Cary for a second...

You might be right on the NBA thing, though I doubt it. Even with a lack of physical prowess, it just seems like there are (tens of?) millions of hoops players in the world between the prime ages of 18 and 38, and only 350 or so end up in the NBA. That's a staggering percentage.

Meaning that you're talking about such a high, high level of player being on an NBA team that the 11th guy on the Hornets or, for that matter, the first guy cut from the Hornets training camp, is of such rarified air that for a guy like me (who makes Jeff look like Iverson on the blacktop) to score on him would be a minor miracle.

Also, there are parameters to be set for the argument. For instance, I could consistently check the ball at the top of the arc, then run backwards and chuck the ball one-handed (like a football) from halfcourt and have it go in. But that doesn't seem, to me, to be a fair version of "scoring on" an NBA player. I could also beat Tiger Woods on a par 4 if my drive hit a cart path, bounced an extra 150 yards, hit a rock on the path, bounced straight right onto the green and in the cup. But what would that really mean?

On baseball...remember Cary, ten 99 MPH fastballs from a batting cage is one thing. A 99 MPH heater followed by a 88 MPH slider followed by a 92 MPH splitter that drops off the table is another altogether.

CJB said...

True that, but remember-the jist of the debate Jeff and I have is not over the relative talent of regular (or sub-regular in my case) people's abilities versus pro athletes' abilities. The debate has only been about one thing: could it happen at all? If I bounce the ball off of Randy Breuer circa 1989's sneakers, tell a pithy joke that distracts him, and then run as far from him as I can while heaving up a prayer shot, as long as it goes in, that's all that matters, its still legit.

Thats the only prayer you'd have. Of course someone like Boykins or someone like that would be impossible.

Back to baseball: Justin, your point about humans who are trying to deceive and intimidate you versus machines being predictable is right. But think about 150 pitches (using that # because you'd fan on the other 149), even with a shaded infield and outfield it's not inconceivable that you time one of them out correctly and get a jump on it. When you played tennis, I'm sure a lot of the serves that you got were up around 85-100 MPH, right? All it takes is guessing right once every 150 times or so and getting your bat through the zone quickly enough...Also, if you took Terry Mulholland or Jeff Fassero and dressed them in street clothes so you couldn't' recognize them, maybe they wouldn't intimidate you as much...

thanks for the discussion everyone...

Jeff said...

"Also, there are parameters to be set for the argument. For instance, I could consistently check the ball at the top of the arc, then run backwards and chuck the ball one-handed (like a football) from halfcourt and have it go in."

That would count! The issue is whether NBA Schmuck would be able to block all those as well. When I talk to Cary about this, I always contend that if NBA Schmuck was playing his HARDEST, he'd chase those down and reject 'em. More likely, he'd check the ball in, step right up to you, and block out the sun with his size. If you tried to run, he'd be with you the whole time. But I see Cary's point here. If you even got one of those off and it went in (maybe with an unbelievably lucky pump fake), you'd have scored on NBA Schmuck.

Ben said...

Re: Cary's point about Randy Johnson. Often when I see a pitcher get a hit I feel like it's the equivalent to a rank amateur getting on base. But then I remind myself that in high school (and sometimes beyond) those guys usually played center field on the days they weren't hitting and hit like .500. They're major league ballplayers! All of them are the best player that ever came out of wherever they came from.

Speaking of pitchers hitting (sorry about all the non-basketball talk): In his first four starts this season, Roger Clemens got a total of three runs of support from the Astros. He drove in two of them himself. (He ended up with a .207 average.)

Juice said...

Final point, I promise...

To what Ben wrote: I think the bottom line here is that these guys are such freaky athletes that we have very little way to compete. Think of the hours and hours that each of us has spent trying to get the right shot, or form, or ballhandling, or stance or whatever right. Not to say they don't work hard, but they have such incredible natural talent that it's almost hard to comprehend.

Erik sent me this link earlier today. Check it out. Watch how quickly Marion closes in McCallum in the video. Unreal.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/si_video/2005/10/25/coach.jack.SportsIllustrated.html

MooMoo said...

I certainly could not score on an NBA player (other than, say, Gheorge Muresan at his spastic slowest). At least not these days - I'm too old.

But... in my day, well, I couldn't have then either. I have scrimmaged against reasonably good Division I women's players and had little problem posting them up. Don't know about WNBA, but their quickness would probably kill me, unless there's a Gheorgina Muresan out there.

I did once beat James Worthy at HORSE. Sort of. I grew up in Chapel Hill and had a summer job in the early 80's that included, amongst other things, cleaning Carmichael Auditorium - the pre-Dean Dome home of Carolina basketball. At lunch, the players would come out and play HORSE and then scrimmage. Once in a while we'd play HORSE with them. The rule was to go in order of height.

We had a 3-player game - me (at 6'3") and two UNC players, the taller of whom was Worthy. I would miss my shot, the next guy would hit some incredible shot, and then Worthy would miss the incredible shot. Repeat 5 times, and Worthy was out, followed quickly by me (multi-player HORSE is highly inequitable). So, in a sense, I beat James Worthy at HORSE. Or so I tell people. Of course, the other player was Michael Jordan. That was back before he was Michael Jordan, of course.

And now you know... the rest of the story

Jeff said...

Great story MooMoo!

Tim A. said...

Sorry, I've come late to this thread, but I guess my question is this- are we trying to determine if there is ANY chance that I could EVER score on an NBA player, or whether I think I would in a single game?

If I tossed up near-vertical BS shots on every possession, surely one would eventually fall in the hole if I played enough, and I guarantee that I am the suckiest player who reads this blog. But would I bet any money that I would score in any given game? Absolutely not. There is no remotely reliable way that I could score, and I read that as a "no" answer to the question.

That said, I do think I could technically score without making any baskets at all. Gentlemen, meet my good friend "goaltending".

Jeff said...

Tim,
You are not the suckiest player who reads this blog. I think you've underestimated this community's level of suckitude. We love to suck.

Anonymous said...

being that this thread was posted ages ago, I'm sure nobody will read this but I have a friend who went to school with steve nash in victoria. I once asked him why he never went to the playgrounds with nash to laugh it up and tear teams apart. He said that the last time he played with nash was just after he left college and he had to pack it in because he couldn't catch his passes! if you think about it this makes sense, yr average nba point passes at ridiculous speeds, I guess my point is that these guys are ridiculously strong, you only have to look at players hoisting 3/4 court shots like free throws to realise this... so I would say that unless you are of comparable size you would have bugger all chance...

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