In today’s NBA, the post-up big man is teetering on the edge of extinction. With the new age of stretch fours, and even, stretch fives, back to the basket moves are become less and less of a go-to options for 7-footers around the league.
Although the landscape of the NBA is drastically changing, it’s fair to wonder if one of the most effective post-up moves can ever make a come back. Yes, I’m referring to the unblockable skyhook.
The skyhook was a staple of the NBA throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, and even parts of the 1990’s. However, it eventually fizzled out of the league as the jump-hook became a more common, and granted, easier post move for big men to master.
Nowadays, big-men are asked to run mostly high screen and rolls, pick and pops, as well as the very occasional post-up. Some teams, like the Grizzlies, Spurs, and the Knicks still feature heavy doses of post-ups, but it’s not nearly as prominent as it once was. But as the league is ever-changing, it’s not crazy to think the skyhook could make its return to glory.
One reason to think so is the difference in physicality in the NBA playoffs. While 3-point shooting has become the go-to for most teams today, it’s always good to have a bail-out shot in a player’s arsenal — especially one that’s mere feet away from the basket. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had their fade aways, Hakeem Olajuwon had his ‘Dream Shake’, and Kareem Abul-Jabbar of course had his skyhook. Of all those shots, arguably Kareem’s was the most effective, mainly because of his massive size and the unorthodox sweeping nature of the shot.
In a league where big men possess well-rounded skill sets are once again becoming focal points of offenses, it’s not impossible to see the sky hook make it’s glorious return. Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kristaps Porzingis highlight the new crop of modern big men. Despite the fact that they can stretch the floor and handle the basketball at the top of the key like a guard, a go-to back-to-the-basket move should still be a crucial part of their repertoire.
The player who could benefit the most from the addition of the sky-hook, is the 7’3″ Porzingis, who has yet to establish a fluid post game.
Much too often, Porzingis finds himself with a height advantage at the post, but is too slight in frame to make full use of the mismatch. He frequently fades away from the basket to get off a jumper, but it is far more difficult of a shot compared to making a strong move to the basket. With the lack of a post-game, teams could put a smaller, quicker player to guard Porzingis, without getting badly exposed. The Celtics frequently use this tactic against the Knicks, putting 6’4″ guard Marcus Smart on the 7’3″ Porzingis.
The sky hook could be beneficial to Porzingis because even with his slight frame, he could get off his shot from a farther distance, while still pivoting towards the basket rather than away from it. The Latvian unicorn has a difficult time backing down opponents, but with a swing hook, he wouldn’t have to barrel into close-range like he’s a young Shaquille O’Neal.
His body type, albeit thinner, is similar to that of Abdul-Jabbar’s. Porzingis even has a slight advantage in height, by one inch. If he could add Abdul-Jabbar’s signature move to his already impressive offensive skill-set, he would literally be unguardable at any area of the court.
Porzingis isn’t the only big who could benefit from the skyhook. Towns, Davis, Joel Embiid, and ascending Nuggets bigman Nikola Jokic could all benefit from having the bail out move in their arsenal when the shot clock is winding down. Because as much as the NBA has evolved, getting your own buckets is a skill that will never go out of style. And there’s arguably no better way of getting buckets than using the skyhook.
Will we see a return? It remains to be seen. But it’s definitely a something to think about, especially in today’s era of promising young big men.