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The Next Dimension of Lillard Time

Thomas Beller of the New Yorker contends that the shot made time stop for basketball.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The shot by Damian Lillard in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder is one of those moments in sports that resonates with everyone who watches the game, and Thomas Beller of the New Yorker contends that it made time stop for basketball. Beller notes in his poetic piece that players practice shooting so often it becomes second nature before proceeding to break down the action at the end of Game 5. In Beller’s piece, time indeed slows down as he takes apart the play.

The blocking of the play resembled a mostly empty chessboard at the endgame stage: Lillard is alone near half court while the four other Blazers and their defenders are spread out on the perimeter, far away. Lillard looks toward the teammate nearest to him on his left, Al-Farouq Aminu (the speaker of the most chillingly profound remark I have ever heard directly from an N.B.A. player: “Your body is your business”), and summons him. The conventional play here would be to set a screen so that a lesser defender has to switch over to Lillard.

But then Lillard changes his mind and waves Aminu off, not with an extravagant arm movement but with a smaller gesture, using his right hand. The first signal to Aminu is a beckoning: come here. But then, with the compact precision of an assembly-line robot, he rotates his wrist and, making the same motion but now in reverse, waves him away. As with so much that Lillard does, the whole thing happens so quickly that Aminu barely has a chance to react.

Beller concludes with a singular thought: despite the endless stream of shots put up in games and practice, there are shots--ones like Lillard’s--that are so powerful a statement they disrupt the natural order and flow of the game. To Rip City, this is but another dimension of Lillard Time.

You can read Beller’s piece here.