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“Welcome To The Circus”

On a night of crazy highlights, Kobe (as is his way) provided the best one.

(Some of you old timers may remember that Larry Bird hit a similar shot during a game, but when you watch the video you see the ref starting to wave it off immediately. Was Kobe’s shot legal? Rondo hit one for the Celtics last year and this was the rule interpretation the NBA office gave at the time: Picture the backboard as a tunnel that extends from the back of the backboard to infinity. If the ball passes through that tunnel, it is illegal. The goal is to allow midrange shots from the baseline that may travel over the corner of the backboard to count, but ones from behind not to. Not sure they should have counted Kobe’s.)

Reader Interactions


  1. Pretty revealing the ref started to wave off the shot based on rules in the 80s.

    Lats time I checked it was 2009.

    Just saying …


  2. What lakergirl said.

    If you actually watch the video of Kobe shooting, you’ll notice that the ref doesn’t wave it off at all. If anything he looks pretty impressed. (And also a bit too young to have been an active ref in the NBA two decades ago.)


  3. I’m curious about the rule change because I don’t believe it ever happened. They definitely waved off Bird’s shot and here’s a clip of MJ doing the same shot (that included a foul) but there’s no indication in the video whether or not it was waved off or counted.

    I’m not sure about the timing of these two shots, but they both clearly took place in the 80s. What I want to know is whether there really was a rule change to allow that shot or if they just decided at some point to count them. My reading of the rules suggests that it should be considered out of bounds.

    Rule 8. Section II(b):
    Any ball that rebounds or passes directly behind the backboard, in either direction, from any point is considered out-of-bounds.

    Don’t think I’m trying to diminish how great a shot it was (in Kobe’s or anyone else’s case) but I’ve heard multiple people say that they changed the rules to allow the shot but I haven’t seen anyone point to a particular rule change to support that claim.


    • I just looked up the rule on the over the backboard, from when Rondo hit one. The rule as it stands now is interpreted this way (and it was tweaked from previous iterations): Picture the backboard as a tunnel that extends from the back of the backboard to infinity. If the ball passes through that tunnel, it is illegal. The goal is to allow midrange shots from the baseline that may travel over the corner of the backboard to count, but ones from behind not to. Not sure they should have counted Kobe’s.


  4. The rule was never changed, it is still an illegal shot, he had one last year too. They don’t waive them off anymore cuz its good TV, but it is still against the rules


  5. That game was full of great shots and dunks for sure, the fact that Kobe made it is just unreal. Leave it to FB&G to hash out the rules/facts and get to to the meat of whatever we are talking about. I have a ‘feel good’ feeling about the New York game, maybe the starters can get some rest, if we keep playing like last night.


  6. To hear the announcers last night tell it, it was a rule change for THIS season. That make a difference to anyone’s rule search?


  7. Kurt – Based on the “tunnel” interpretation, I think the officials were right to count the basket. It looks like (on the third replay in the clip) that the ball was above the top of the backboard before it crossed the invisible line extending from the side of the backboard. So if we imagine a rectangular tunnel extending from the back of the backboard to infinity, it appears to me that Kobe’s shot would have attained the necessary height to clear the tunnel before coming down on the other side of the basket.


  8. Kurt,

    Thanks for looking up the official rule; the “backboard tunnel to infinity” is a helpful elucidation of an otherwise ambiguous rule. Somewhat like the neon posts of an endzone in football, the backboard acts as the marker of an invisible box, the plane of which cannot be crossed (although of course, in football, the whole point is precisely the opposite–to cross into that invisible box).

    My question, therefore: if the infinite backboard tunnel is indeed the correct “figurative” interpretation of the rule, how is this not an allowable shot? It’s not at all clear that the shot doesn’t count. From the replay it seems that the ball begins, arches over, and goes in in a manner that would avoid hitting the infinite backboard tunnel. It seems then, that the shot was completely legal (while nevertheless totally amazing).

    The infinite backboard tunnel does however, prevent a player from shooting from the post of the backboard, behind the backboard and over its top (in which case, the ball would hit the tunnel like a ceiling and bounce back down) or a shot an an angle that doesn’t have sufficient arch to clear the tunnel’s corners (and would thus bounce off the side).

    A little imagination goes a long way…


  9. I don’t know whether that shot should have counted, but Kobe’s been on a tear lately with shots that would be the best of most players’ careers; he seemingly makes one every other game.

    Off topic, but is anyone else finding Joel more annoying this season than in year’s past?

    I liked him more than Sunderland so I’ve been reluctant to be overly critical (reasoning it could be much, much worse). But for some reason this year he seems to have fixated on certain speaking points and phrases — like a politician running for office — and that has really taken something away from the telecasts.

    The “Shannon Brown needs to be in the dunk contest” angle on Sunday was his latest annoying push. Even Stu wouldn’t play along, saying we don’t know how creative Shannon can be; we just know he can jump to the moon.

    Joel’s non-stop references to Kobe as “The best in the game” are tiresome (even if he is the best), and he’s fallen in love with the term, “Short-corner three” this year, too.

    Skip the pet phrases, pal. You’re not Chick, so just stick to calling the game.

    Am I alone here?


  10. I looked up the rule a while back; the infinite tunnel is the right interpretation. A look at the case book clarifies this: I think there is an approved ruling along the lines of, a pass that goes through the tunnel is out of bounds, but one that goes over the tunnel, or under it, is not. Presumably the same would go for a shot.

    By those standards, I think Kobe’s shot was good (passing entirely over the tunnel), but it was darned close.


  11. @16/Chris J – I don’t usually mind Joel and Stu (any annoyance is usually cured by listening to any of the national teams), but “‘short’ corner three” has been bugging me this season. I’ve started searching the court for the “long” corner. (Though, to bring it back to topic, maybe that’s what Kobe was looking for here.)


  12. I know this is off topic, but what happened to Lamar last night? His stat line looked terrible. I though that once he went to the 2nd unit his stats would start to improve. I am not sure this marriage thing agrees with him. I am just saying…


  13. @16. I see your point but look at this this way, if Stu had maybe 4x as many pet-phrases I don’t think it would be bad at all. If anything it lends Lakers games a uniqueness that is what people had ascribed to Chick’s style. Yes, he’s not Chick but my younger siblings need a liturgy for their post-Chick Lakers experience and decrying the people who try to provide that just because they aren’t “Chick” is counter productive.

    @”the Shot” – Count it and the foul!


  14. Last night was the most entertaining Lakers game I have ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. From Kobe’s circus shots to WOW’s dunks to the Black Eyed Peas it was a joy to behold from start to finish.

    This was the first game I’ve seen all season where I saw the guys running the offense, making cuts and the extra pass. There was really only about a 4 minute stretch when the offense wasn’t a finely tuned machine.

    And the defense was great as well. Artest was relentless–you don’t get to appreciate that when you see them on TV. But in person you realize just how hard he works on every play. Beyond Ron Ron the other guys were pressuring the ball, rotating and recovering, and doing a great job on the defensive glass.

    There are moments, and they are few and far between, when as a Laker fan you are forced to stop fixating on the negatives and just need to appreciate how lucky we are to have a team of this caliber. This was one of those nights. Not just this team, but this franchise–what other team could have a night honoring their late great play by play announcer by giving away jerseys with his name on the back and having his wife bring out the game ball to THUNDEROUS applause from the crowd? It made me a bit teary-eyed before a single shot had been taken.

    There were at least 6 plays last night that in isolation would have been worth the price of admission.

    6. Kobe abusing Thabo with the hesitation stutter and finishing with his left hand.
    5. Farmar’s two-handed dunk off the drive
    4. WOW’s driving power dunk off the dribble
    3. Kobe’s left-handed bank shot to end of the 1st quarter.
    2. Kobe’s shot from behind the backboard (my reaction–WHAT DID I JUST SEE?)
    1. WOW’s alley-oop dunk off the Farmar feed. (Seeing it in person WOW just seemed to come out of the ceiling of Staples to get that ball. I thought Jordan was looking for LO the whole way. Amazing–jolted me out of my seat like an electric shock.)

    So to make a long story short: It’s a great time to be a Laker fan! I love this team!


  15. The crazy thing is that Kobe has looked this up like all of you have. He said he was aware of the rule change. I’m positive that he’s practiced the shot.


  16. Why does that shot even need to be illegal to start with? People are impressed by it because its so hard. I don’t see teams starting to game plan for it if it’s allowed. And if they do, they’ll either miss a lot and be punished, or they’ll make it and we’ll have a lot of fun with a bunch of crazy shots. Where’s the downside? I guess you can call me a Backboard libertarian on this.

    On a wildly unrelated note, did you know that Scottie Pippen was the 6th highest paid Bull in 1998? Even Luc Longley was paid more than him.

    Pippen never earned more than 3.4 million in a year until he finally left the Bulls (MJ made 33 million in his final season). It finally took Paul Allen overpaying him in his last couple seasons with Portland for Pip to make back some of the salary he deserved in Chicago. I’m strangely grateful to Allen for that as a basketball fan.

    (scroll to the bottom of the links for salary info)


  17. Sometimes, I get chills thinking about what it must be like to be Kobe’s colleague, seeing him work and pulling this kind of stuff off.

    I’m not sure I can fault the 05-06 teams when they just stood around and watched Kobe work; I think that’d be the natural response to being exposed to somebody that is not only more talented, but works harder too, AND is incredibly lucky as well.

    Anyway, I think I should’ve ordered that Chris Ballard book, it seems to talk about how Kobe is built and how Pau is seemingly built in a similar way (although honestly, Pau seems infinitely more humorous and easy-going…).


  18. Not to at all denigrate the achievement of “Larry Legend,” who was great despite his uniform, or play up Kobe, but I think Kobe’s shot was tougher. Bird was more squared up and not in the process of being hip-checked out of bounds.

    Obviously it’s a circus shot and I doubt even Kobe could hit it that many times, but it just speaks to Kobe’s unbelievable level of control and concentration. It’s like he is able to slow down time to make sure he gets a good chance at a shot, with the right touch and follow-through, no matter where in space he is moving. Watching a bunch of his highlights one after another really emphasizes that.


  19. @MSK – actually I think Kobe could probably hit that shot about 30% of the time if he took it regularly….. which means he has about as much chance of making that shot as Rondo does of making a free throw. 🙂


  20. Just a couple things that I wanted to comment on:

    For those of you who don’t live in LA, youtube user CaCHooKaReborn posts good Laker hilites of every game. Last nights game was particularly good as Kobe had a bunch of good shots. He posts the first half, and the second half, and in my opinion is pretty thorough.

    Also, to clarify on something I commented earlier, I hope at least some of you see what I meant when I said I hadn’t seen the Lakers win a game convincingly. Now that I’ve seen them win a few, (and man what gems the last two games), I wouldn’t panick even if they went on a 5 game losing streak.

    Enjoy the youtube hilites! There is no player funner to watch right now.


  21. 19. motoman, Lamar’s value to the team can’t always be quantified by his stat line. He is an excellent team defender, an amazing ballhandler for his size, a great defensive rebounder, and he helps initiate the offense (probably getting a fair amount of hockey assists). That last point shouldn’t be overlooked, as it’s great to have a 6-10 1/2 guy who can easily see over smaller players while passing into the post to start the offense. Don’t forget that last season he led the team in (+-).


  22. @alex v (1:26 p.m.): I’m guessing it’s not “short corner three” as in a three from the short corner, but a corner three, which is therefore short. In other words, I think you just need a reparse. (Alternatively, if you think the emphasis demands the original parsing, the opposite baseline hosts the long corners.)

    Honestly, if that were the most aggravating part of Lakers broadcasting, I think we’d be doing pretty darned well. More concerning to me is that the TV broadcasts seem considerably more homerific than they used to be. Not saying that’s necessarily Paul and Stu’s fault, since they may very well be asked to do so. But it’s sort of annoying. (And yes, I know that even so they are still less homerific than many teams around the league.)


  23. Another interpretation of the ‘circus shot’: Even if the ball passed through the infinite backboard, Kobe was fouled, technically, and should have shot free throws regardless. I wonder what would happen if they called a foul from a shot that passed through the infinite backboard and made it in. And 1 or two shots?


  24. I was at last night’s game too (really only to get that Chick Hearn microphone jersey), but I concur with DB, that was one of the best regular season blowout wins I’ve seen in some time.

    The ovation for Marge (lasting that much longer because Bavetta wouldn’t take the ball from her, just letting her stand there and soak in the appreciation from the crowd), Kobe’s game stopping highlights (I was waiting for someone to toss the ball into the crowd And1 style and proclaim the game over after his 1st quarter spurt ending with that lefty buzzer-beater), ShanWOW’s one-upping of Kobe (in terms of getting the crowd off their feet), and then the crossover appeal (the Black Eyed Peas singing during a timeout with A-Rod and B-Real in tow, shouting out “Kobe, MVP” while Fergie flashed the LA sign with her hands), all of it was SO Los Angeles, SO Showtime, and that’s not even mentioning that the Lakers actually played a game and won it, tacos included of course.

    As for actual game analysis, I agree that Artest’s tenacity is a sight to see in person, and while Phil says he liked the team’s defensive effort, it also seemed like OKC was missing a lot of their early uncontested shots (lotsa 3-pointers), which put them in a hole. The defense did do a commendable job on Durant and Westbrook, leaving little option for the Thunder to initiate any offense. But the overall experience I got last night is what I love about the Lakers – a manifestatoin of supremacy in talent, ability, and legacy to the point where even when Jay-Z is shown on the jumbotron, it only draws about the 6th or 7th loudest ovation of the night, again in a blowout laugher.


  25. Regarding the talk about the lakers broadcasters, I really like Stu and Joel is okay. Much better than Sutherland. But Joel is a bit annoying sometimes but he’s much better than most teams broadcasters. The clippers broadcasters are horrible. I refuse to watch a clipper game because of those two (and not just because of their recent comments). But other teams broadcasters are extremely biased in how then commentate the game. The Joel is a little biased on how he perceives the game, but not Stu. Thats the best part about Stu he will always convey the game in most neutral way as he possibly can. Listening to the cavs broadcasters is like listening to a regular fan.

    The tnt and epsn broadcasters are all pretty bad with the exception of Hubie and Doug. Although Hubie Brown can sometimes over analyze things. It’s kind of funny sometimes. He’ll will try to analyze a player tying his shoe. But Mike Breen and Reggie are by far the worst. Mike Breen will make an incorrect statement and then defend it after the other broadcasters correct him. And i’ve dislike reggie since he said lamar odom is 7’1″ lol.

    My point is that we, lakers fans, are extremely lucky to have Stu commentating the laker games. Joel is okay.

    Oh and Van Gundy is pure comedy.


  26. Looked at the video at JD2K’s site. Pretty clear that the shot never went through the infinite tunnel: The view from the opposite baseline is seen from the left, and from that vantage point, the ball is never seen to pass behind the backboard. If you were to shift the vantage point to the opposite backboard (which is how you’d line up the infinite tunnel), the ball would “even more” not go through the infinite tunnel.

    OK, now the H.O.R.S.E. is dead.