The killer airball


Posted by Fran Blinebury

LOS ANGELES – Final seconds, game on the line, maybe season hanging in the balance.

What’s the worst thing a defense can see?

Sometimes, it’s an airball.

No time for the secondary defense to react.  No time for all of the big men around the basket to locate the ball.

No time to find and match up and put a body on a cagey offensive rebounder.

Perhaps the most famous airball in history was launched by Dereck Whittenburg in the 1983 NCAA championship game at Albuquerque, N.M.

The heavily-favored University of Houston team had pushed Whittenburg far from the hoop and he put up his long shot in desperation.

The airball came up short.  Perfectly short and fell right into the hands of Lorenzo Charles who dropped the ball into the basket to win the title for North Carolina State and sent the late Jim Valvano scrambling wildly across the court looking for a dance partner.

It left a young Hakeem Olajuwon sprawled out on the floor, pounding his fists in frustration.

Enter the opportunistic hero Ron Artest.  On Thursday night it was Kobe Bryant’s airball that found Artest slipping inside of Jason Richardson under the hoop and it sunk the star-crossed Suns.

“We wanted to do a good job defending Kobe on the final play and we did a good job of defending Kobe on the final play,” said Jared Dudley.

Too good.

It was the best defense and the worst outcome.

The airball.

Late in the game, it’s a dangerous creature.



  1. Rex says:

    Did anyone else notice Channing Frye bear hugging Gasol in front of the basket as that shot went up?… scared kid. If he blocks out the way he’s supposed to he would have been in great position to get his hands on that airball from Kobe instead of Artest. Thanks Frye!

  2. jay b says:

    ok u call this luck c’mon lets see any of u guys do this u guys couldnt so before we laugh and call this a fluke think about it this is wat he is paid to do

  3. Carlos says:

    All this talk about luck, lucky, and luckiest! WHATEVER HAPPENED, HAPPENED, AND THAT’S WHAT MATTERED!!! And what’s going to happen in game 6 is what matters. Each team will see what adjustments they need to make in order to win. If Phoenix keeps running the ball, they can win. The Lakers have to play some TOUGH defense just like they did in game 5. That’s the way they beat the Suns. And I’m a Lakers fan…

  4. Jake says:

    I’m so sick of everybody complaining about the Refs! Faker fans, Suns fans, Celts fans, Magic fans everybody is complaining about the refs when they really have nothing substantial to complain about. For the record Kobe did not get fouled on the shot. No body touched him, I watched the replay about five times. There’s a lot of luck involved in the game of basketball (and in all sports) but the Lakers definitely get more than there fair share of it.

  5. Kaila says:

    maybe it was lucky…unfortunately, the phrases “if the ball had gone a different way”, “if the game had gone into overtime”, “the suns could have won in overtime” have NO standing in the playoffs. The ball DIDN’T go a few inches any other way. The game DIDNT go into overtime. The suns DIDN’T win. The suns don’t suck; obviously not since they’re still in the playoffs. But there is no use crying over spilt milk–the series is 3-2, and the Lakers will be looking to close out. End of story; whining about what could have been will get you no where.

  6. lajdsfasdf says:

    KH, IF somebody put up a body on Artest, how is Suns going to have 3-2 advantage going back to Phoenix? It’s a tie game even if Artest didn’t make it. Going into OT how can you guarantee that Suns will win it? If anything, Lakers will have an edge because they’re at home.

    30-foot bank shot straight away from J-Rich is luck, Artest fought hard for that rebound and deserves the credit.

    You know why Phoenix won 2 games? because of the HUGE FT discrepancy. On the games where Phoenix does NOT have huge FT discrepancy, Lakers won. The only two games where Phoenix scored like 20 extra pts off FT than Lakers and they won.

  7. wiggum says:

    An assist is an assist.

  8. KH says:

    One missed boxout and it cost them the game if someone would have got a body on aretest suns would have a 3-2 advantage going back to phoenix

  9. Godric says:

    I just spent 10 minutes typing up that response trying to explain the point of view most of us – Suns fans – share, KB. It’s a shame that you didn’t read it, but oh well.

    I don’t get how everyone is blaming the referees. Are you seriously serious? Yeah, they make mistakes, but they aren’t game threatening decisions like that technical on Perkins in the East finals. You’re making it seem like they had all the LA team in foul trouble in the starting minute of the game. Then they started letting the Suns just walk around with the ball, take a stroll out of bounds, then score the basket. Jesus Christ, give me a break. You lose, you blame the referees, you win, you blame the referees.

    SgtSoot. That’s the only reason? Hilarious. So Stoudemire and Nash aren’t doing anything. The bench isn’t doing anything. Only the Lakers know how to play Most superior league? Does their record say that? Kobe and Kobe ALONE is carrying the entire team on his shoulders. No Kobe, no Lakers. Give me a break son.

  10. KB24 says:

    doesn’t matter if the lakers were lucky or not, they won the game, period, nothing you can change about that suns fans. dont hate, richardson was lucky too.

    Ron didn’t stop playing and hustled his ass and that proves alot about him.

  11. SgtSoot says:

    Everybody is talking about how lucky that game-winning shot by Artest was, but the reality is that Phoenix was licky to be in that position in the first place. They spent practically the entire game in a zone defense… the Lakers should’ve had around 25 offensive rebounds instead of 19. The Lakers also missed alot of easy offensive opportunities in the 4th quarter of that game. Lets face it, the only reason that Phoenix is able to hang around with a superior team like the Lakers is because they are taking advantage of the way the game is being officiated. NBA players can no longer defend on the perimeter, and every team in the league struggles with preventing penetration. The Phoenix Suns simply line up 5 players around the three point line, and run high pick and rolls. Hopefully, the Lakers can get rid of the lowly Suns in game 6, and put an end to their mockery of NBA officiating.

    • Jake says:

      You’re a complete idiot if you think the only reason the “lowly” Suns can play with the Lakers is because of the refs.

  12. Brydon says:

    Such a terrible end to that game. I don’t know if anyone on the floor deserved a game winner LESS than Artest. The guy’s the biggest idiot in the league, and he was like 1 for 9 before that shot. But hey, that’s just more motivation for the Suns to win games 6 and 7.

  13. Chuck says:

    It’s getting tough to watch NBA basketball with all the poor calls. So many calls by refs out of position making situational calls. Really makes me wonder what’s going on. Players flopping all over the place, taking up to three steps. In general, just way too many calls. The refs want to run the game and then it’s no fun to watch. With so much money on the line, it really makes one wonder.

  14. Kevin says:

    How does it matter whether it is luck or not?

  15. Godric says:

    The Lakers’ defense was very sloppy on the last play executed by the suns. They got 2 offensive rebounds (while they weren’t getting any all game long, and had 0 .. count it .. 0 second chance points all game)and tried three times from behind the arc. Now you seriously have to be crazy if you think that the suns wouldn’t have a very decent chance of scoring one of those three pointers. They’re the best three point shooting team in the league, and you don’t give that team three attempts from outside..that’s just ridiculous. That’s why that wasn’t pure luck, but rather very poor defensive play by the Lakers.

    Artest shot a RIDICULOUS three pointer when they had a fresh clock with a three point lead. The Suns got the rebound and capitalized. That also wasn’t luck, but poor offensive play by the Lakers. You can see how poor offensive play followed by poorer defensive play can cost you three points, eh? I’d expect so, at least.

    Everyone knew that the ball was gonna go into Kobe’s hands. We all knew that there was a decent chance that Kobe will score on his possession, with plenty of time on the clock (Fisher did it in 0.4 seconds, I’m pretty sure Kobe is the man for the task with 3.5 seconds on the clock). We all knew that if Kobe didn’t score, the chance of him hitting an air ball would be ridiculously slim. Woe and behold, he shot an air-ball after some great defense by the Phoenix, and Artest runs down to catch the ball and toss it in the basket before the time runs out.

    I don’t REALLY blame Richardson here. No one expected an air-ball from Bryant. No one. Richardson should have stayed with his man, and should have estimated that the ball wasn’t gonna hit the rim, but he didn’t. You can’t lynch the guy because of that mistake. While he is guilty, the death sentence isn’t the proper consequence. It was a good play by Artest, but it was lucky how Kobe hit an airball, which allowed for Artest’s play. When I mention luck, I’m not talking about Artest’s easy lay-in, but about how lucky he was to have had the opportunity to capitalize on an air-ball by one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

    Anyway, the game is over. Game 6 should be a good one.

  16. kenshin0789 says:

    .I can’t believe this when lakers lose the fans don’t come here and blame the referee.But when suns lose fans come here they go here and blame every referee.Every suns fans is just plain stupid.If you fans wanna blame the referee,then blame the referee for two clear traveling violation by steve nash they didn’t call.It look like phil jackson comment didn’t have any effect in the referee.The lakers won by luck.I’m not a lakers fan,but really they won by luck??????After trailing by 18,trailing by 3 in the last 24 second and three time attempt by the suns of a robert horry flashback style.Jajaja that the funny thing about this is losing by ron artest gamewinner.I would retire after losing by ron artest.The man who has missed thousand of lay ups,but the one he should miss just believe there was ghost in the rim.That why ron made the shot.Suns fans should stop crying.the suns are shooting 10.8 more free throw than the lakers from game 1-5.The lakers haven’t won in free throw attemp and the lakers has gotten more foul than the suns.I would say the referee are bad yeah we should call david stern and tell that the referee are betting and making the series interesting this series it should been over.

  17. kim says:

    simply fact the lakers won the game suns talking about they gave the game to the lakers u must be crazy this was going to ot u didnot know if u were going to win the game stop fooling yourselves.

  18. Siknasty says:

    Once again, THAT WAS NO LUCK. He ran to the ball and snatched it away from Richardson, it didn’t just fall on his hands, he ran to it and boxed out Richardson.

    It was all hustle, no luck. Give the man his defensive credit and offensive merit.

  19. Siknasty says:

    That was no luck, Artest out-hustled sleeping Richardson. That was a defensive move turned into an offensive play. If that would have happened in the first quarter, that would have been simply a great hustle play by Artest. Give the man true credit for his defensive effort and offensive hustle.

  20. JOHNB says:

    I see a different tone in the Lakers. Everybody is getting more clutch when the game is on the line. I feel confident in Gasol, Kobe, Lamar, and Artest to get it done. Lakers doublin it up this year mark my words.

  21. will says:

    everyone hates on the lakers saying they got lucky the refs are helping them , kobe stepped out of bounce , if the ball was a bit closer to the rim it would have been different keyword “if” exactly it didnt hit the rim kobe didnt step out of bounce suns werent blocking on the shot ron came up got the rebound and scored simple that basketball

  22. ashok says:

    Funny how some people don’t see the bias in refereeing. One team’s foul is another team’s defense. One team’s 3 second violation is another teams defense.

    NBA is the game with the worst refereeing. Haven’t seent it in any other game football (soccer), NFL, Tennis, Cricket, Volleyball, Baseball (though it is only 2nd worse)

    There is a reason why a lot of NBA viewers complain about referees in online forums. There is no smoke without fire.

    • dnyokoklala says:

      LAL 128 – PHX 107
      LAL 22 – PHX 32
      LAL 23 – PHX 21

      LAL 124 – PHX 112
      LAL 32 – PHX 26
      LAL 23 – PHX 26

      LAL 103 – PHX 101
      LAL 23 – PHX 29
      LAL 24 – PHX 21

      LAL 109 – PHX 118
      LAL 20 – PHX 42
      LAL 28 – PHX 21

      LAL 106 – PHX 115
      LAL 13 – PHX 32
      LAL 23 – PHX 12

      how does it look like? a professional team can only foul 12times the entire ballgame?
      the way it looks, if they’ve done the officiating fair enough like every Lakers homey, I think with respect to grant hill, amare and stevey it should have been a sweep.
      guys want do you think?

  23. Da Kid says:

    Luke is where opportunity and preparation meet… To call it a lucky shot is weak… not as close as he was… maybe lucky to be in the right place at the right time.. In his interview he said it looked like Kobe was fouled… and his veteran instincts told him to hustle toward the ball because it might be short… he just straight out-hustled j richardson… pure and simple… Ron makes a lot of those end-of-game… end-of-period… end- of-the shot clock put backs… not always successfully… but, it wasn’t like THIS put-back was a first for him… go back to the tape.. he is always hustling for a put back at the end of the clock… so… lucky? weak argument… now j rich’s prayer shot.. that wasn’t going in unless the english and glass helped it… and NO he didn’t call glass.. it was a HaiL MaRy BriCk…

  24. Nate says:

    I love how Phoenix Suns fans say Artest’s shot was lucky yet Jason Richardson throws in a 24 footer straight away HIGH off glass and that is not luck? Artest’s shot was from about 6 feet away at an angle where the bank was open baby! He nailed it because J Rich got his butt out hustled for the rebound. Oh and by the way, I was at the game. The refs were focused on helping Suns throughout… 7:30min remaining they had 4th team foul, yet somehow didn’t commit another? Gasol was fouled time and time again, and Kobe was fouled on his jump shot 3 or 4 times.

    • Relevancy says:

      So you blame the reason the game was so close on the refs…if you are so sure the refs are biased and told who to give the calls to, why even watch the game? Wouldn’t that ruin it? It’s pathetic, you get the win, and then you still whine about the refs. Just like your hero Kobe, who whines the entire game.

      • Marcello says:

        Stop crying. I guess the refs forgot thtat three steps is traveling.

      • FAIR says:

        I can see that during the first quarters, the Lakers are getting more favor from the refs. I was like, well its pay back time since that did happened in Phoenix. No foul was called even though the Lakers did on the suns. That changed when Kobe Overeacted on the ref which gave him a technical -which Kobe later realized it was against him.

        Since then, Kobe and the Lakers dont get calls which made the game so close. More importantly, the Suns gain confidence that the refs were on them, so the made Threes after another and the Gasol-Dudley was very much expected. Some say its part of the bussines in NBA since most teams get 4-0 in the Semis, Lakers-Suns 3-2 and Celtics-Magic 3-2 is way too coincidental!

      • JOHNB says:

        Ha everybody complains about bad calls lol. Bad calls are bad calls even when you have a lead in the game and the refs definitely kept them in the game. Credit where credit is due Pheonix played a physical game and even when the refs are helping you out you still have to capitalize and they did but when the Lakers were rolling in the first half and they called fish for blocking when he was clearly in position and outside the circle for the charge, that BS foul called on Artest with .7 seconds left in the first half to give the suns an extra two free points, and a bunch of other clear missed fouls by the suns…that was rediculous. That foul when Gasol went for the dunk when it was crunch time just took the cake for me. I literally lmao when nash tried to insinuate that the suns deserved to win that game and got robbed or some ish. Boy you sound stupid. Nash had a phenomenal game though he’s a true competitor. Artest can be a gift and a curse with his enthusiasm to redeem himself last night he was a bit of both if he hadn’t shot that three instead of using the clock when its crunch time and you have a 3 point lead his last minute heroics probably wouldn’t have been necessary.

      • Mike says:

        Luck had nothing to do with Rons shot, whole game the suns pushed out the lakers in the paint to rebound and when it was a defining moment they went to sleep. Too bad for the suns, however I will give this that the 3 point shooting of the suns is too good to defend, but by making 3’s you do not win.

        Pat Riley of the heat said it best, the team that rebounds is the team tahe winns. GO LAKERS ALL THE WAY.

  25. Chaserlighto says:

    I literally couldn’t believe it …the moment i saw kobe”s shot was a air ball i honestly didn’t know what i was thinking
    but Artest is one of those players that even when doing exceptionally well he wants to work harder n be better thats what championship teams are made of skill, undying determination , natural talent , consistent focus and a even greater sense of urgency that what i think this lakers team is really made of and i really think phil jackson and staff will be saying that during game six nash could promise a win but we’ll see i mean think about it so far the lakers haven’t played there “best” “best” yet and they are still so good and still able to pull out wins in dire situations when kobe, fisher, gasol ,odom, artest, bynum and bench play well theres pretty much no way beating them. GO L.A all the way!!…..KOBE!!

  26. Derek says:

    did everyone miss the fact that kobe stepped out of bounds on his air ball attempt or how the clock started late (probably not significantly late, but a slow start)? The Laker’s definitely had the game to lose, but officiating seriously needs to get tightened up especially in the playoffs where the best competition should be occurring with the best officiating. GREAT GAME with a wild ending though, that’s for sure.

    • Derek says:

      Actually, after seeing a few different angles kobe wasn’t out of bounds, my b. Still would like to see better officiating in post season play, I understand human error is involved, but it’s their job to make proper calls.

  27. Definition of luck for Relevancy says:

    Running down a loose ball and making a 2 foot lay in is effort not luck. Hitting a 30 foot jumper off the glass with 3.5 seconds left is luck. I watched the replay. Richardson didn’t call glass. Honest.

    • Relevancy says:

      An airball from Kobe Briant straight into the hands of Ron Artest is luck. Giving 3 3 point attempts to the Suns gives them a 3, its not luck.

      • GoLakers! says:

        Relevancy, first off please spell BRYANT’s name correct next time. Second, if you go back and watch the replay you will see that the airball didn’t just fall right into Artest’s hands. He anticipated the shot being short, so he ran right by Richardson, grabbed the ball and threw it up as quick as possible to beat the clock. That is just a great read and a great play by Ron.

      • Relevancy says:

        Sorry, Bryant. You can still say it is luck, because when ever does KB shoot airballs? It’s lucky that they played such good d on him for the lakers. Of course, the advantage was with the Lakers because hometeam is always better in crunch time and LA is really good in crunch time. But if Kobe’s shot had hit the rim instead and bounced in the air as time expired, it would be OT…and if it had gone just a little further, LA would have won by 3, so the difference of OT (which of course the lakers would still have had a good chance to win) and losing the game was just a few inches.

      • Russell says:

        You guys are funny…….Kobe got hacked on the “guide hand” during the shot why do you think it was short and a little left watch the replay the refs are lucky ron put it in and the lakers didn’t lose in overtime

  28. jarex says:

    even though ron artest perimeter shooting was struggling from 1st half to the end of the game he still valuable that moment he made a winning shot…hes a hero theres no impossible to him…thats miracle…go lakers…go for the finals…mabuhay….

    • Matt says:

      Ron Artest just got lucky if that shot would’ve missed everybody would be saying a different story about him. Lets see him do that in phoenix if he’s that good.

      • Ambuj Arind says:

        thats the thing.. he is paid to be lucky if u wanna call this la lucky shot…kobe could have made the shot and no one would have cared its ok..these are all big players..and this was BIG TIME EFFORT PLAY and not luck..and ron is an amazing player who had a bad game!! go LA

      • Marcello says:

        Just as lucky was Nash for not having traveling called on him all night. Just as lucky was Jason’s three pointer. It is better to be lucky.

  29. Relevancy says:

    This just shows how close these two teams are…LA got lucky, but if that airball had been a couple inches different in any direction it would have been OT, and who knows what would have happened. Suns deserve more respect from LA fans than they are getting, because they could’ve won easily, and I’ve seen plenty of people say that there is ‘no way Phoenix can win’, or ‘Phoenix sucks’…Phoenix keeps getting closer on the Lakers court, and if they survive the 6th game, there is a decent chance they can take the 7th.