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.
It was the best defense and the worst outcome.
Late in the game, it’s a dangerous creature.