Video: Kareem Will Destroy You With Sky Hooks

Darius Soriano —  November 17, 2012

On Friday night, before the Lakers beat the Suns, Kareem finally got his statue. And while the past couple of years produced many jokes and more than a few hard feelings in the lead up to this honor being bestowed, by the time the ceremony took place everything was put in its proper perspective. Kareem spoke about what an honor it was while former teammates talked about how great a player Kareem was and how deserving he was of being immortalized in this way.

Of course, the statue is of Kareem shooting his famed sky hook. The most devastating weapon the game has ever seen, Kareem demolished opponents night after night by swinging left and shooting right over the top of his man. For years this single shot anchored the Lakers’ half court offense and whenever they needed a bucket Magic could hold up the number 5 and signal The Captain to get into the post. And more times than not, he’d deliver.

So, while we honor the man that did so much for the Lakers we should also sit back and enjoy watching him doing what he did best. Here is Kareem, destroying his man with the move he mastered. Congratulations again Captain, you certainly earned it.

Darius Soriano

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to Video: Kareem Will Destroy You With Sky Hooks

  1. Great video! The length of the man and the incredible touch that he had with that hook makes it the greatest single offensive weapon that one player has had in NBA history. Today, Michael Jordan is the media driven choice for GOAT. But Kareem deserves serious consideration in that discussion. To put it another way, if Kareem and Michael were in the same draft class, who would you take if you had the first pick?


  2. @Kenny T, there really is no wrong answer there, so the choice would have to be dictated by your personnel. The mistake Portland made in choosing Sam Bowie over Michael was the thinking that Bowie could replicate some semblance of Kareem’s (and Walton’s) greatness. Well, Bowie did replicate Walton’s fragility, something that everyone except the Blazers suspected he would do, as he missed two of his five college seasons due to the fragile bones in his legs. I remember Ramsay saying at the time that they didn’t need another wing, as they already had Drexler. That strategy only works if the two choices are equals (as in Olajuwon-Jordan or Kareem-Jordan).

    One little-known nugget about the 1984 draft (Houston 1st pick, Portland 2nd, Chicago 3rd) was that Portland supposedly offered Houston their 2nd pick plus Drexler in return for Sampson. Houston then would have selected Olajuwon and Jordan with the first two picks to team them with Drexler. Houston declined because they wanted to pair Hakeem with Ralph. What a team that could have been!


  3. Sky hook. Such a signature shot.


  4. Worthy said it last night, and he’s 100 percent correct — the greatest player ever to play the game.

    Before they chime in to argue, let’s ask the Jordan apologists to cite which rules the sport had to change to keep him from dominating everyone, like Kareem faced when they banned dunking in the NCAA?

    The only rules the sport ever changed for Jordan were, “If Jordan misses a shot at the end of a close game, call a foul” and “If Michael Jordan should shove off his defender prior to a shot that would otherwise clinch a title, swallow your whistle so NBC can kiss Jordan’s cornhole with appropriate vigor.”


  5. Watching Showtime as a kid, I have to admit that Cap wasn’t my favorite. I, by nature, like variety, and excitement. I wanted to see Magic run and gun. I wanted to see the Coop a loop. *Every*Single*Time*. I was a kid. Kareem, was the epitome of predictable, and predictable was boring. He got the ball, and you knew exactly what was going to happen. There was no question about it. It was going to be the same thing over again. Every night. Didn’t matter who we were playing. Cap was either going to swing left and shoot right, or swing right and shoot left. It was so consistent. Like a Swiss watch. It was so consistent. Consistently devastating. It always went in. So predictable. So unstoppable. So predictably devastating. The most unstoppable go-to move of all time. Thank you, Cap!


  6. A truly gorgeous shot. There are two eternal basketball mysteries for me:

    1. Why hasn’t any NBA big man made this shot a consistent part of his arsenal, when NOBODY can block it?

    2. As difficult to defend as that shot is, why did defenders so frequently go for KAJ’s little fake to the left?


  7. That video in 3 words: So F-ing good.

    If real life basketball were a video game, KAJ would be banned due to hacking. His sky hook is just so beautiful and mesmerizing to watch.. The video is definitely worth multiple watches.


  8. @The Dude Abides…

    Lew Alcindor had a far greater college career than Michael Jordan. And Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Mike both have 6 Chips. Kareem’s longevity was amazing. Some folks draft for need. I would take the best available player regardless of my current personnel.


  9. I was a player by the late 70’s and Kareem was “the man”, obviously.

    The problem with the sky hook (answering Funky Chicken) is that is VERY hard to do. You don’t see the ball, as it’s behind your head, making it very difficult to do.

    Unless your name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


  10. The NCAA didn’t change the dunking rule because of Kareem – according to John Wooden – but because of the Elvin Hayes led Houston Cougars. While it is popularly referred to today as the “Lew Alcindor rule,” Wooden always disputed why the rule was implemented.

    However, John did convince Kareem to work on a new shot as a result of the ‘No Dunking’ rule – the ‘Sky Hook’.

    I would say it served him pretty well.

    I followed the UCLA Bruins in those years and was pretty familiar with the situation. I remember being in Vietnam during the NCAA tourney and had a staff sergeant bet me Houston would beat UCLA in the semi-finals (Alcindor had an eye injury when they played in the Houston Astrodome earlier in the year and UCLA lost). The game ended 104-64 in favor of UCLA.


  11. Kareem’s game has been distilled over time to the sky hook, but he was much more than that, just a devastating and complete basketball player. His peak was as high as any player’s has ever been, and his longevity was second to none. I’ve harped on this for years, but it’s ridiculous that his name never seems to come up any more in the discussion of the “greatest of all time”.

    That said…can you imagine trying to guard the sky hook? One of the best things about watching Kareem drill people with that shot, year after year, was the frustration it would produce in his opponents. They knew what was coming every time and could not do a thing to stop it.


  12. There’s a great article about Kareem and the skyhook on ESPN:

    It has a brief explanation for Funky Chicken’s 2nd question:

    “As if that didn’t crowd enough thoughts into a defender’s brain, he also had to worry about the counter moves Abdul-Jabbar developed. If a defender overplayed him to the right to take away the hook, he would just spin back around to his left to shoot a jump shot or, in later years, a lefty version of the skyhook.”


  13. One pick between Jordan and Kareem? No contest. Give me the guy who was darn near unstoppable. Jordan would have a tougher time in today’s NBA than Kareem. Give me the guy with the unstoppable shot and 20 year career. He dominated in every single phase of his career- whether high school, college, or the NBA. Give me the Captain!


  14. Ugh. So, apparently Bynum hurt his other knee while bowling. I feel so bad for the guy, but at the same time so happy that he’s someone else’s problem to deal with. Give me Dwight’s 70% back everyday…


  15. Automatic, to the point of -devastating-. I remember it, all those years of Kareem. I vaguely remember his winning some game with something like a 20-foot skyhook, just crazy stuff, that shot.

    And he has such a good sense of the court, of the traffic and doubleteaming guards underfoot, the flow of the defense to him, he just waits it out, let’s it flow through with timing and balance, and then cocks and fires that automatic thing.

    Some of his annual stat lines, geez:
    Points – Rebs – Assists – blocks
    34- 16 – 5
    24 – 13 – 5.5 – 4

    56% career FG%
    Hell, a center that shot 72% FTs career. (hello, Shaq? Wilt? Dwight?)

    At age 40, his playoff averages: 19/7 with 2 blocks.
    I’m a Wilt-guy, but Kareem, damn, his body of work?


  16. It’s amazing to think of not just of the Captain (who I agree is a GOAT candidate) and his sky hook, but the fact he was playing with Magic and solid supporting players like Coop, Rambis, Nixon, Wilkes… Oh yeah, they drafted Big Game James too.

    Those Showtime Teams were stacked, as were their Celtics arch-rivals. Sort of makes today’s teams look puny in comparison.


  17. @KennyT – the way good front offices draft now is to put the draftees in tiered groups separated by ability. Then they choose the player in that particular tier who will fill a particular need. In 1984, Olajuwon was thought to be the consensus #1 pick, but a lot of people thought Jordan was just as good. Fortunately for Houston, Hakeem turned out to be great.


  18. A few Kareem stats: He was named the league MVP 6 times which is more than anyone in history. He was named to the All NBA Team 15 times which is first in history. He was named to the All Defensive Team 11 times (only Duncan, Bryant, Garnett have more). He has been to the finals 10 times which is more than anyone since they stopped using peach baskets and commissioning Betsy Ross to stitch the Title banners together. And the most impressive stat of all: He has been in the top 5 in MVP voting 15 times, which is by far the most in history (Bryant and Bill Russell second with 10 each).


  19. I’m a bit too young for Kareem, (born 1987). But did he really just go on one direction when he fired the hook shot or was it a weapon that could utilize either hand?

    In the video, it was all a curl left, shoot right motion, wouldn’t defenders be better served bodying him up to take away the left curl? Of course I can probably think that Kareem may have had a plethora of counter moves but they weren’t just highlighted, can anyone share their thoughts?



  20. who would leak that info about bynum?


  21. Mico,

    As it was said in other posts, the Cap’s skyhook was started when dunking was prohibited in NCAA so he has to improvise to protect his soft touches like Pau, he perfected the skyhook most often with his right but I saw used his left hand on some plays. There was a player in the Philippines who may have imitated Kareem although I’m not sure who came first with the skyhook because I was not here in the 60’s, his name is Kurt Bachmann, a Spanish-Filipino Olympian who wa only 6’4″ but could initiate the hook shot in three point area and in all angles. That’s tall for Filipinos at that time. That was his signature shot and executed with precision as if he was dancing the ballet. I don’t know why not too many Centers used this as a sure weapon for being tall.

    I think there is another trait on Kareem that is worth mentioning on his formula of longevity up to Age 41 as a consequence seized the highest point record in NBA. He took care of his body even though he was a marijuana user which is common among players in the 60’s. He took care in the sense that he did exert too much effort in his shots like what we often see among Centers of today, Kareem would just lay it in, follow it up or hook it with soft and easy he makes the score without any fanfare nor abuse from his body. He continued this repertoire in every game and set a double digit consecutive scoring for so long that Kareem would always give the Lakers 10+ points on any given night. As such, he avoided those back injuries, or any debilitating problems that Centers experienced when they passed 35 years old. As a Center, he was not soft as Pau Gasol tho’ he has a higher perception of bruised fundamentals and have a higher FT shooting too than Shaq or Howard. He was good in boxing out or protecting the ball with his long reach and used his height and agility in making pivots. I think that young Kareem by the name Lew Alcindor was more explosive than the matured Kareem. He was feared in the NCAA with an exceptional Coach John Wooden, they dominated the NCAA Championship for so many years. At that time, the collegiate league was more popular than NBA or the other professional league.


  22. Longtime FBG folks have probably seen me post this before, but really, the most impressive line on Kareem’s career resumé (which is saying something) is: Finals MVP, 1971 and 1985.

    14 years apart. Let’s see someone else do that.


  23. Magic Phil,
    I respectfully disagree on how hard it is to learn the Sky-Hook.
    As a young teenager Kareem was my favorite player. For my friends and other baskeball playing kids it was Pistol Pete. Though out of peer pressure-and cause it was soooo cool-we all did the behind the back thing,esp on lay-ups,I taught myself the Sky-Hook.(Altho mine was more of a Ground-Hook as I topped out at 5-11.)
    I found it a simple shot to master. The trick-for me anyway-is to use your wrist to shoot it,not your arm. Pivot on your left foot,use your left arm both for balance and as a shield,extend the right arm as high as it would go and flick the wrist and enjoy the muttered cursing as another one goes in.(BTW,if you need to send message,nothing like jabbing the left elbow into opponents chest while shooting the hook-not that I ever did that 😉 .)
    My range was FT line thru half-way down baseline. (Yes,I could kill at HORSE just using the hook at different spots.)
    There was an extra bonus to the hook-whenever I’d drive the lane I could always pull-up into the hook. In today’s NBA w/defenders looking to draw charges,the ability to stop on a dime and elevate vertically into a Sky-Hook would be huge. As would anyone wanting a low-post game. W/the Sky-Hook you’re pivoting inside your own space,not moving into a defender as most do w/today’s jump hooks.
    I stopped playing in my late 20s,then started up again in my early 40s. I quickly discovered I still had the Ground-Hook,altho by now it’s more of a Basement-Hook as my vertical can now be measured in millimeters!

    The point of my ramblings is that if a 14/15 yer old boy could learn to shoot it just from watching the occasional TV game,it shouldn’t be too hard for a skilled,coordinated athlete to learn today-esp w/Kareem around to teach it to you.


  24. Mico,
    He could shoot it w/his left hand,but rarely did so.
    For the most part he didn’t need to.
    If he posted on left block and pivoted right(instead of left into Sky-Hook) he would usually simply try a lay-up/little push shot w/his leading right hand.
    If on the right block,Kareem would either go for finger roll if defender was not in position or go into a little fade-away. The reason being if he pivoted into a left-hand Sky-Hook he’d be very vulnerable to defenders dropping down from FT area to block his shot from behind.(In the 70s and early 80s offenses were not spaced like they are today. FT line jumpers were considered long-range at the time.)


  25. The thing about the sky hook is that it looks ‘soft’ and that it is too signature for young centers to imitate it.

    It would basically set them up for comparisons to Kareem while robbing them of ESPN highlights that help drive up their salaries and brand value. So, it’s a mix of underhanded freethrows (sissy image despite its accuracy/effectiveness) and copying Jordan’s tongue thing.