Gordon Hayward and the Shot Chart From Hell

November 22nd, 2013 | by Evan Hall
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

So before any internet writer is allowed to talk about the basketball failures of an NBA player, he should probably have to start with some disclaimer. We never do, of course, because that’s an understated but nonetheless widely accepted truth of writing about sports: the people who do the writing don’t actually do the sports. Or at least not well enough for anyone to pay money to watch it. So, your writer’s disclaimer: I’ve definitely gone 1-17 before. In pick-up games against out-of-shape, former JV-ers, I’ve gone 1-17. Just shooting around in an empty church gym, with no one guarding me and all the time in the world to set up and shoot, I’ve gone 1-17. A month ago, in a series of five-on-five games with some college friends, I bricked eight straight threes. I’m a terrible basketball player.

Now your turn: You have also gone 1-17. You play on an intramural team at your college and over a three game stretch, you shot 1-17. After the third game, you went back to your apartment, cracked open a gatorade, and thought about how much you suck at basketball while you rehydrated. Well, you do. You suck at basketball. But then you went to sleep, and when you woke up the next morning, you realized you had forgotten to write a paper on a book you halfheartedly skimmed. So you wiki’d the book, maybe re-skimmed a few more pages, and pumped out your paper in a cool 45 minutes. Then you walked to class, turned it in, and felt good for a second. You’ve forgotten that you suck at basketball (which, again, you absolutely do), because at least for now, you’re a student, and you’re pretty good at that.

Well I also suck at basketball, but Gordon Hayward doesn’t. In fact, if he cared and sincerely tried, he’d beat me 11-0 in three straight games. But that doesn’t mean much for Gordon Hayward, NBA player and recent record-setting shot-misser, because on Wednesday, against a middling to mediocre NBA team, Gordon Hayward took 17 shots and missed 16 of them. He went 1-17 just like you and I have many, many times before.

Now I don’t say this to engender in anyone some kind of empathy for Hayward. Just the opposite, actually. We can’t empathize with him, at least not in any direct, specific way, precisely because when Gordon Hayward woke up yesterday morning, he didn’t have a paper to think about, or an upcoming test, or an assignment at work, or the next job application he had to fill out, because Hayward’s job is basketball. He gets paid, more or less, to make shots. And because of the nature of his job, when he misses instead of makes those shots, all kinds of people (like me) see it, and then a specific kind of person (like me, or Rob Mahoney, or David Locke) sits down and writes about it. So when Hayward goes 1-17, he wakes up the next morning and feels like crap. He can’t shake the nightmares of clanking shot after shot, wide-left, wide-right, too long, too short, because they weren’t nightmares. This is his life. He shoots. He misses. Everybody talks about it. (Go play some video games, Gordon. Or go back to bed, and sleep it off, but please, for your own sake, stay away from the internet.)

But just as overstated as the difference between pro athletes and the rest of us is how unnecessary the pity is that we may feel for them. After all, the rest of us go 1-17 free of charge because we think it’s fun and not because it’s our incomprehensibly lucrative livelihood. But that’s just it: we’re so different from Gordon Hayward that even when we think we’re playing the same game on the same ten-foot-high hoop with the same regulation basketball, we are not playing the same game. You and me, we suck at basketball, but Gordon Hayward, at least on Wednesday night, somehow sucked even more than any of us could ever suck. He was horrifyingly bad in a way we can’t even mentally digest. Because of the millions of dollars, and because of the bloggers who write about it, and because of the sports talk radio guys who endlessly blather about it, and most of all because of the paychecks he gets for doing it, a Gordon Hayward 1-17 is unfathomably more spectacular a failure than any of our basketball failures could ever combine to be. Those sixteen misses collectively shine more garishly, like the lights in New Orleans Arena or the ten million LED pixels of ESA’s jumbotron, than could the entirety of all our petty sporting exploits, happening in dimly lit gyms and on cracked asphalt across the country.

Sure those sixteen misses were painful and ugly things to witness, one after another after another, and sure they made me, non-NBA player as I am, feel a little bad when I woke up the next morning. But that he could do it at all? That he could fail that magnificently in the first place? That isn’t good, but It’s definitely not forgettable. And it reminds us that even to be really bad, you have to be pretty great.

8 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    The other side of the coin: If he’d gone 16-17, the performance would get an equal amount of attention, but in the grand scheme of things would be just as meaningless: every player has outlier games.

  2. Manny Patino says:

    I like to come here to Salt City Hoops to read about good insights. The Utah Jazz are my favorite team and I know they are having the worst year ever in the NBA.
    After the first paragraph and a half of reading this article, I had to stop because this rant is so bad and you keep on going. I understand your love for G-time but clearly his game was really really terrible.
    The fact that he went for 1-17 tells us he didn’t play too smart from the beginning by hoisting shot after shot. To come out and compare his play to mediocre intramural and pick up games with normal people? He is a professional and is paid millions to play basketball. I’m very sure he has all the love for the game. He practices on the daily and thinks about basketball almost 24/7 because it is his profession. He should play much better and he should be held accountable to it so that he can learn from this experience and improve on it. It was a historically bad game for him, the Jazz, and the league.
    I am pretty disappointed from your reaction towards these other sports writers stories who wrote negatively about Hayward. These guys from Espn and Sports Illustrated know what they write about most of the time. You didn’t have to waste your efforts and time to prove a point. It seems very unprofessional. A long article is too much and I couldn’t bear to stay silent.
    Writers should write about productive things and this isn’t one of them.

  3. Andrew says:

    This wins the award for worst article ever posted to Salt City Hoops. Obviously Gordon had a bad game. It may have been the worst shooting in Jazz history, but we wouldn’t know from this article. And somehow this article lasts as long as it does without actually saying anything. Congratulations on writing an article as bad as Hayward’s shooting performance.

  4. utebeaute says:

    At 42, I’m improving as a basketball player. I’ve gone from horrendous to really bad to, well, pretty-decent-for-a-short-bald-skinny-guy-with-no-left-hand. These days I get to shoot on a regular basis, though I’m far from the first option. Truthfully, my guy usually doubles someone else and then darts back to me if I get the ball. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the elbow jumper and the 6-8 foot baseline shot. My layups still aren’t pretty. In any case, I chucked up 20 shots one morning this summer in a 4 on 4 game and made 2. I counted them in my head as they went up and counted them again as they came down. I was pretty proud of myself for shooting that many times without being physically removed from the court by my teammates. So, I get you. I’ll probably go 1 for 17 sometime soon, but I’m not nearly good enough for anyone to really care.

    By the way, your writing here is much closer to 16 out 17 than the other way around. Thanks for sharing. – dh

  5. Joey says:

    I kept reading this article, expecting it to take a turn towards substantiability. It didn’t. Why would Salt City Hoops allow a writing to be posted seemingly without any argument or driving force behind it?

    Also, as terrible as his shooting was (and boy, was it tough to watch) I can’t find anyone talking about how he did have 11 assists vs. only one turnover.

  6. BeardedMangus says:

    —Love this article. It’s exactly how I felt and it needed to be said. We need to stop making excuses for our poor play. We’ve stood by them and anointed them the future before they proved anything. They have yet to prove anything… except that they can’t shoot.

  7. Jason says:

    I loved your comment about how much I, the reader sucked at basketball. It made me laugh out loud. I didn’t see it coming and then you tactfully mentioned it again. I quoted it and sent it to a friend. Don’t let the nasty folk that comment stop you from producing enjoyable content.

  8. JimmyDeanSausages says:

    This is a bad article. The title says the shot-chart from hell and then doesn’t actually show a shot-chart. It includes statistics like his 1-17 shooting night but doesn’t provide any other statistics like other players who have shot this bad or worse. It doesn’t actually say anything useful other than saying that the author and probably most of the readers have shot badly too. I love the Jazz and like Hayward but this article seems like filler. He is in a shooting slump. Is it a bad one or a good one? Did it last for a short time or a long time? Still wondering what the point was. Keep trying Evan, it’s just one bad article. Please put more effort into the next ones.

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