The Wizards were down by like 32 points last night, and I was watching old NBA highlights, as I, an extremely old person whose brain has been turned into a Slurpee by worms, am wont to do when it probably would be smarter and more productive to do blogs instead. And it occurred to me that a fast-break used to look like this:
Or, even as recently as a couple seasons ago, this:
If I had to choose one word to describe these classic NBA fast-breaks, it would be “blurry.” But if I had to choose a second word to describe them, it would be “insanely fucking cool.” The old-fashioned, lane-running, give-and-going, touch-pass-y fast-break, with multiple teammates zooming downcourt and pinging the ball back and forth at each other until somebody finished at the rim, was some of the coolest shit the NBA ever had, and no one can say otherwise without facing me in the octagon. The old Bullets game that supplied that beautiful Chris Webber-to-Juwan Howard-to-Webber-to-Howard-to-a-trailing-Mitchell Butler highlight up there at the top featured a solid handful of this type of break, just from the shitty Bullets alone, and they were all delightful, even the ones where they threw one too many clever passes, let the defense catch up to them, and wound up getting charged with a three-second lane violation. It was just a cool and fun way to play basketball.
Nowadays, thanks to changes in the way the game is played, this type of fast-break doesn’t really happen more than once in a blue moon. For the offensive team, at least one of these guys is running to the three-point line, if not all three of them. This is especially true of the teams that are lucky enough to have superhuman monsters like Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James in the lineup: Their absurd physical gifts negate the need to unbalance defenders with a series of quick give-and-go touch passes; the better thing for those guys’ teammates to do is to spread apart and stay the hell out of the way, lest they drag superfluous defenders into the mix. As for the opposing team, at least one of those retreating defenders is going to stick his arm out and foul somebody on purpose to prevent the easy transition bucket.
And so, in 2018-19, the cool kind of fast-break—the kind with a handful of dubiously necessary but extremely fun touch passes, leading to a point-blank finish at the rim—has been fully replaced by shittier kinds of fast-break. Two kinds, specifically.
There’s this kind:
And there’s this kind:
That’s basically it! Either somebody is fouling on purpose to prevent anything cool and beautiful from happening, or some doofus is running to the corner and pumping up a stationary jumper after, at most, an outlet pass followed by one more pass for the assist. Fast-breaks suck butt now! My proposal is, bring back the good fast-breaks and get rid of the shitty ones. Frankly I can’t believe nobody has thought of this yet.