A discussion about the disappearance of the screwball from baseball’s pitching repertoire also led us to ponder about another lost art on the hardwood. Whatever happened to the hook shot, and why is it no longer taught as a standard weapon for post play? There was a physical factor to turning away form the screwball, but the hook shot does not seem to have that excuse.
The hook shot may date back to the early 1920s and multi-sport star Ernie Nevers is one person credited as among its creators. Throughout that decade and into the next, post and pivot players like Hall of Famers Dutch Dehnert and 6-5 Joe Lapchick developed forms of the hook. By the first decade of the NBA, George Mikan and Neil Johnston won scoring titles in the middle using the hook as a significant weapon. Even Bill Russell, not noted for his scoring ability, could apply the hook when necessary.
While the skyhook became the dominant signature of Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, other pivot men from Willis Reed to Bob Lanier to Bill Walton used variants of hooks and half-hooks. Even Magic Johnson, used hook shots in his legendary 42-point fill-in at center for Kareem, to clinch the NBA Finals as a rookie. Only Patrick Ewing and to a lesser extent, David Robinson, had used half-hooks in the last 20 years. As much as someone of Yao Ming’s great height could have benefitted from employing it, he rarely did.
Why is it, in this era of “big man camps” and the like, that giants are no longer taught to use this advantage of their size with a shot that, if properly used, can be unstoppable? Why wouldn’t big men want to have more tools at their disposal? Is it some odd, reverent deference to Kareem? In a league where smaller guys now jack up low percentage treys with regularity, the lack of this high percentage hook shot from the post remains an unsolved mystery.