Damian Lillard’s DEEP THREES! Make a Mockery of the 1925 YMCA Gym I Play Basketball In
By Pete Tothero
Damian Lillard started game one of the NBA first round playoff series between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder with a statement:
As Mike Breen notes on the telecast, that isn’t just a three-pointer, it’s “from way outside.” In the parlance of the NBA (and the creator of the highlight video above), that’s a DEEP THREE!—the kind of shot that can cause an otherwise mature and genteel fan watching the game at home alone to rise from his couch pumping his fist while shouting, “LET’S GO!” (I presume. I have heard.) It’s a shot only a handful of players in the league can hit with any degree of reliability. For the casual fan, the avatar of DEEP-THREE!-ness is of course Golden State’s Steph Curry, but Lillard can also fire from what we used to call “a different area code” back when area codes meant something.
For the casual player, however, the deep three begs a question: if Mike Breen felt Lillard’s first shot was from “way outside,” well…just how way outside was it? The next time I decide to start chucking shots from wherever I want in my local game, where do I need to shoot from while shouting, “DAME TIME!”
I am here to answer this question. Allow me to introduce you to the gymnasium in which I currently exhibit my basketball wares:
This is the gym at the Northeast Community Center in Portland, Oregon. The building was originally a YMCA, built in 1925—when the dimensions considered acceptable for a basketball gymnasium were a bit smaller than they are now. Note the viewing/jogging track that hangs over the court. Note the court’s (short) length, note its (thin) width, note the spartan bench upon which the athletes may find respite from their toils. A thriving youth basketball league plays here on weekends in the winter, a youth volleyball program puts up their net in the evenings, and all manner of pickle ball and exercise classes take place on this floor. But also: much adult drop-in basketball has this court seen and known.
There is, however, a problem: does 1925 YMCA offer DEEP THREE!?
The NBA Stats website describes the Lillard game-opener as “Lillard 30' 3PT Running Pull-Up Jump Shot.” Should I be embarrassed to admit I walked into the NECC gym early this morning with tape measure in hand? Probably. But so what? I did. Here is the 1925 YMCA location of the opening Lillard DEEP THREE!
Later in the first quarter Lillard hits what the NBA stats site labels “Lillard 28' 3PT Jump Shot”:
This requires those of us engaging in the time-honored exercise of mapping professional basketball player exploits onto our personal lives to add the following:
The game then turned into a grind—defense, turnovers, hits and misses, but no more DEEP THREES! until mid-way through the fourth quarter, when Paul George makes the mistake of allowing his center of gravity to float back toward his heels for a moment. Lillard notices.
The NBA statisticians list that as another 30-foot three-pointer, and who am I to doubt the precision of their measurement? I am here only to scurry across the 1925 YMCA basketball floor and place the circle:
But wait…there is another. With under two and a half minutes left in the game, the Thunder had closed the Trail Blazers’ lead to one point. Russell Westbrook doesn’t do anything wrong on defense here other than assume Lillard is not suddenly going to launch another 30-foot jump shot early in the shot clock at this point in the game.
Russell Westbrook is wrong.
Again, Lillard is scoring by shooting before he has even crossed over onto the offensive half of the court at my community center:
If there is a lesson to be learned from this, I feel it is the following: I am now allowed to shoot from any of these spots. These are good, basketball-game basketball shots. I saw Damian Lillard take them, and they worked.