You can keep your sidearm football throws squeezed between four defenders and lacrosse-style hockey shots. Enjoy those no-hitters, perfect score gymnastics routines and absolute screamers on the soccer pitch. Same with the penalty-kick saves and diving outfield snags and Odell Beckham Jr. catches.
For my money, none of those beat the most beautiful moment across all of sports: when a basketball player catches fire and the world (including everyone else on the court) has no other choice but to sit back and watch magic happen.
These moments of pure, unadulterated unconsciousness come to mind with ease for any hoops fan. Klay Thompson. Stephen Curry. Tracy McGrady. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. I could go on. And that’s just at the NBA level.
Basketball romantic that I am, I chase these stretches of perfection like tornadoes.
I take major pride in having watched, among other absurd heat checks, Curry’s near-halfcourt, game-winning 3-pointer against the Thunder complete with Mike Breen’s incredulous call of “Bang! Bang!” on live TV in 2016. I consider myself lucky to have covered Coby White’s 33-point explosion against Miami a year ago and Stephanie Watts’ 10 3-pointer game in 2016 for The Daily Tar Heel.
For the last few years, I’ve even unashamedly kept a YouTube playlist filled with whatever videos I find of players on fire. The classics are in there — Thompson’s 37-point quarter, McGrady’s 13 in 35 seconds, James’ 16 in two minutes, Bryant’s farewell game, a lot of Damian Lillard — along with more random occurrences, such as spurts from Zach Randolph, Kyle Korver and Omri Casspi.
Why the obsession? I’ve thought about it a lot, especially so in these last few years as a sportswriter, and it boils down to two reasons.
First, the hot hand is equitable. It mostly eschews the advanced statistics that dominate today’s game in favor of a simple maxim: if you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it.