The guys asked for some Basketball Torah as we enter the NBA playoff season. Here’s one thought:
Everyone knows that swish shots are cool. That’s when the ball sails right through the basket, barely making a sound, not touching the rim and surely not the backboard. But the funny thing is that you don’t earn any extra points for swish shots. Yes, they are more perfect, more precise and more exact, but you don’t get any extra points for it. The same points are earned if the ball came off the background, swirled around the rim, danced about on its way in and finally went through. Same points.
But if you took the shot from behind the 3-point line? That’s different. Swish shot or no swish shot, shots that come from that level of distance are automatically elevated to 3-points.
What does this basketball Halacha teach us?
It supports and reflects an important life-teaching from Tanya chapters 15 and 30. Perfection of the shot isn’t awarded as much as the distance it comes from. Tanya speaks of the effort and challenge-level that goes into Mitzvot that is “awarded” more than the perfection of it.
And one last point with UAlbany flavor. Perhaps the single most memorable play of UAlbany Great Danes Basketball History is Peter Hooley’s Buzzer Beater Shot (a 3-pointer actually) that sent UAlbany to the NCAA!
That shot teaches us something about timing. Look, any 3-pointer during that game, whether in the first quarter or the buzzer shot, contributed to the win. But it is that last shot, in the few seconds when it was needed most that becomes the famous one, that is most cherished.