An Idyll: What is Classic? Part VI: The Classic Jumpshot

A Debuscherre, a boulevardier, the inimitable jump shooter brings his finger to his lips and shushes the maddening crowd. He has created silence. He has seen the quiet in his mind. He has seen time stop and matter expand. This is flow. This rim of creation a yawning maw.

I asked the Head of the Neurosurgery Lab at Stanford University Dr. E.J. Chichilnisky, my yoga student.  What this is?  He can say, yes flow starts when the P.C.C. is turned off. But why? Why does time slow? What does this experience? Are you experienced? Not just stoned? But beautiful.


Klay Thompson knows. He is a Classic jump shooter. He has experienced the ephemeral and not undisputed notion of the hot hand. He has entered the zone where the posterior cingulate cortex has turned off. That area of the brain under the top knot where we experience self -consciousness. When we swipe right on Tinder and when we hit all the coin on Candycrush. The area of the brain most diseased by Alzheimers. He has the record for most points in a single quarter of basketball in the National Basketball Association’s history.

Klay’s jumpshooting form is perfect, Classic. They say. When he shoots his body is a paradigm of perfect balance, like a Jerry West, like a Ray Allen. Feet under the hips. His back, which is shaped like, all of us--a serpent, is lifted at heart, and tucked at the pubis. The ball held at the brow exploding from the temple like Artemis’s pointed spears poking out from the forehead of Zeus. 

The irregular NBA jumpshooter is aysemmtrical. (Rarely will you find an irregular jumpshooter in the WNBA) His limbs askew and elbows akimbo. The dynamism of his personality is infectious, but then his percentage of made shots is so significantly less than it reduces the time he is allowed to play. Shaquille O’Neal’s wonky wrist for example placed him on the bench in important periods of the game as he was a liability as a free throw shooter. Therefore we have the “Hack a Shaq” tactic which Coach Phil Jackson maximized by hiring a three headed monster of centers all with 5 fouls each like a kaleidoscope of Kali’s waving arms.

The symmetry of the jump shooter is an organization of the entire being. Klay is the perfect example as he does nothing but work on his form. He has a bull dog, he has a condo, a PS4, and a collection of Harry Potter books. That’s it. He has no drama, and nothing interesting about him. His entire being is imbued with the quality of Stoicism, which is entirely counter to the self-aggrandized individuality that makes the NBA popular. He is a difficult star to market. Though his commercials promoting and marketing milk were in equal parts amusing and fascinating like Laverne’s coke and milk. Klay imbibing a milky wet white wash seems entirely appropriate.

Shane Battier perfected the art of placing the palm in the eyes of the shooter, notably Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bean Bryant (the Demi-God) so named after a perfect cut of Japanese Beef. Once the shooter has seen, the ball penetrates the cervix, and we lift our arms and open our mouths and constrict our diaphragms sharply vibrating our larynx.  Wildly like Maenads until souls are ripped from the men who play for the other. Like Orpheus’ head was ripped from him because he too, played for the opposing team.


As described in a wonderful and hyperbolic NBA Lookback documentary the 1977 Finals between Bill Walton’s Portland Trailblazers and Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers was labeled a battle for civilization.  The dynamic here, similar to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry’s Warriors versus Lebron’s anybody is one of selfishness versus teamplay.  The essential contradiction with basketball is that any effort to enforce your will on the game displaces the rest of your team. However, within this team sport like no other, one individual can radically alter the landscape of victory and defeat. Michael Jordan famously, like Kevin Durant, is a man for the last minutes, when all notions of team play scatter.

Dr. J by himself with his speed, height, intelligence, and massive superior athleticism, like Lebron, can win a huge number of games for you. Unfortunately for him, a passing team like the Trailblazers or the Warriors or the Celtics, that constantly presents and misdirects the ball can fundamentally circumvent a generational talent like Lebron, or Wilt Chamberlin, or Dr. J.   That a player like this who with their own flash brings punters to the stands in the first place is the tension within basketball.  Basketball has this essential quality of exceptional doing.  The ball can go in the hoop just fine without a shimmy or a contortion or a double pump. The gentlemanly thing to do is put the ball in the hole and immediately turn around and play defense. Like Tim Duncan of the Champion Spurs would do or James Worthy of the Champion Lakers. Yet when Allen Iverson over rotates the ball and wears his hair long and tattoos his arms the game suddenly is infused with frisson! 

So when the 1977 finals is described as a battle for civilization it is this argument. That there is a a punk game played the right way, and a gentleman’s game played selfishly.  It is the quality of punk that brings in the casual fanatic.  It is the geometry of passing lanes that delights the connoisseur. 

Harmony Slater describes the back bend in this way. “If you have a basketball team of five players and you only use one or two of them like Lebron and Kyrie. What happens to the other 3 players? Right, they get fat and lazy. Just like your lumbar thoracic spine, your quads, and psoas get lazy if you only use the neck and lower back to back bend. You need a team game like the Warrior’s motion offense to keep everybody involved!  Everybody wants to play on a team like that. Nobody wants to watch Lebron win all your games for you.  And so eventually your lower back falls apart.”

She needs a little more opening in the neck

She needs a little more opening in the neck

Harmony adds a sidebar midstream during a recent lecture on the back bend in San Jose “You remember like last night when Boogie took up too much  attention. (It was Boogie Cousin’s first start of the season for the super team Warriors after a year lay off with an Achilles inury.) Everybody was too excited, right? And then when he sat on the bench and Looney came in and the whole team was just so much more fluid, right?!”  

Don’t get too excited about one part of your backbend, people.

For those of us, like Harmony, who have made these exotic trips to the far West of the Indian Sub Continent we experienced a similar dynamic--and also related to the Post-Structuralist notion of pods of history.  We were of a particular generation.  To compare that to this generation is to ignore myriad structural differences between us.  However..

We came to the suburb of Gokulum during the first year that the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute had been founded in 2003. It has never done research other than that of the intuitive kind. It is suggestively and pretentiously named in the manner of the Kuvalyananda Yoga Research Institute.  We arrived when hot water was becoming intermittently available. And rooms were going at the high end of $3000 rupee a month.  Now a dwelling that has AC, WIFI, and a fridge goes for $30,000 rupee.  We in 2003 felt that the fridge and the hot water was an indulgent luxury. Now it is considered standard.

For the generation preceding us in the 90’s hot water came in a bucket that you boiled yourself.  You were probably alone with 10 other westerners in the city of one million; covered in flies and a mosquito net, and a filthy blanket at the Kaveri Lodge in downtown Lakshmipurum. 

To speak for my generation we had a punk romantic ideal of this crew of super beings. Bronzed and naked contortionists who endured everything and all.  Non dualist Vendantins who took radical subterreanean muladhara adjustments from an Brahmin male with equanimity. This was healing… for some.

A generation that is institutionalizing an essentially punk experience will be confronted with accusations of inauthenticity.  Like when Jerry Seinfeld bemoans what happened to Manhattan. How clean and inviting it is to tourists.  “But we’re not getting knifed in alleys anymore, Jerry.” Said his friend on Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. 

Likewise Eddie Stern and other post punk proto yogis have said about a generation of fastidious and fussy yoga students. “Spiritual tourists.” They refuse to accept hard adjustment, pain, bad smells, poor food, diarrhea, sexual harassment. 

It actually sounds reasonable.

Just to say that a conflict of punk versus civilization is occurring now. And we might very well be in a post punk period of yogic study.  This might be a social harmony where intolerance for boorish behavior and uncouth circumstances has become standard.

There are places where you can still be you, punks.  Goa is a kind of Mad Max Wasteland where you can still be raped, and abused, and ride a motorcycle with nothing on but assless chaps. For a suburban manchild this is finally becoming suddenly Real and exploding the Maia veil of dull existence that seems to cloud the unreality of the petite bourgeois home.. its permeating cleanliness, and safety…

As was said about Altamont you can’t have women entering ecstatic and libidinous states of consciousness without a corresponding violence to the social more.

As was said about Altamont you can’t have women entering ecstatic and libidinous states of consciousness without a corresponding violence to the social more.

Speaking about basketball is thinking about these competing states of control over the individual and it is to speak to the competition over what cool, and over what is interesting.. to the public and to the Self.

The shame of Lebron is that he stems from a Kobe “iso” childhood. One, where it became clear that the supranatural athlete could rise above so far and high into the air that he was unguardable even in isolation against the entirety of the opposing team. And if he was double teamed and triple teamed he need only pass the ball to the 3 and D man that was standing there quietly, like a Dennis Scott or a Ray Allen. Stand and shoot. That these failures of civilization (or shall we say corrupt and expedient loopholes) come from Michael Jordan’s example is tragedy. 

Michael played (with Steve Kerr, the very wry coach of the Warriors, coached within the Bulls by the wry Phil Jackson—later the beleaguered coach of Kobe’s Lakers) within the beautiful Triangle system. A system that favors a passing big like a Bill Walton or Luc Longley or an Andrew Bogut, who could whip back door passes to insignificant and under looked players like Jud Buechler for easy, easy lay ups.  This was missed by Kobe, misunderstood by Lebron.  Instead of playing within a perfect beautiful passing selfless system they combined their talents with other geniuses. So it was one long individual “iso” game by one athletic genius after another.  Until we turned off the television for a decade if only to watch the Mavericks embarrass Lebron. Which was a total delight btw.

The born again Christian comic Dick Gregory said of American History that Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, and Richard Pryor were her 3 pillars of Comedy. Her three great comics.  The genius of Richard’s comedy was also constantly misunderstood. Younger children listening to their parent’s giggling in the den heard only blue and missed unfortunately his subtleties. He anthropomorphized everything. Rich turned a heart attack into a conversation. He transformed fear into freedom.  Likewise selfless Michael resembled selfishness to a child.

Knowing this, Mike came to back the game, unretired again, to “teach” he said, and to right a wrong. His greatness at such an advanced age only reinforced misconception.

With Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, I feel also there was a classic misunderstanding.  Like Christian soldiers we came to him, a jungle doctor, seeking freedom.  He was a Brahmin you see. He organized society. And paradoxically so, as a Shaivite he sought freedom from the tyranny of alienation. You are that, he said. This.. all this..  God.  And so these freedom seekers made him into God. And gave of themselves everything. Like a kind of arching comet in the sky this previous generation came to Guruji (we called him) seeking super consciousness, health, healing, and freedom.  And he sat there in his gravitational solar system moving energy, pushing aside obstacles, and demanding that we settle down, have children, deny Islam, and homosexuality. We kissed him endlessly.  He fondled us. Those of us fat and soft found his hands shoved in our innards demanding a contraction. Our motivations were antagonistic.