by Gene Callahan
I’m always shocked by the idea that “the star has to take the final shot” in basketball. I just watched UConn, down one point with eight seconds left against Louisville, force the ball to Kemba Walker for what must have been about a thirty-foot shot. They had the ball in the hands of Shabazz Napier, a dynamic, fast point guard, who can drive, and they only needed two to win. When Napier saw Louisville was focused on Walker, why in the world wasn’t he given the green light to go to the basket? (And I’m sure he wasn’t: UConn Coach Calhoun has publicly declared that Walker will always take the last shot in tight games: and publicly stating that, by the way, seems even more dull than secretly determining to do that… unless Calhoun was bluffing!) In any case, this seems a clear failure to implement a minimax strategy, which says your shots should be distributed amongst all players so that the odds of any of them hitting the final shot equalize (otherwise, you have a superior strategy available that you’re not employing).
In other words, if the defense double-teams your star, someone else should take the shot. But, time and again, we find the star forcing a shot while his supporting cast stands around open.
Is this simply a failure of rationality on the part of basketball coaches, or is there some other explanation? Pete B., you got anything for me here?