February 21, 2002: The Bowling Ball Pass
Of Jason Kidd’s many considerable basketball attributes, passing and decision-making were his two best. The best example of these (or at least his most ridiculous one) came against the cross-river rival New York Knicks in Kidd’s first season with the Nets. After stealing the ball in the Knicks frontcourt, Kidd surveyed the court and in a split-second literally bowled the ball 60 feet down court to Lucious Harris for a layup.
The pass is amazing for several reasons. First, Kidd had to make the decision in about a half-second. Second, he didn’t just bowl it straight down the court. He curved it around Clarence Weatherspoon, and the ball had to bounce four times with enough backspin to elude defenders and hit Harris in stride for the layup. It’s a pass few guards could make successfully in a practice drill, let alone in the middle of an NBA basketball game. Third, and my personal favorite, Jason Kidd does the stare and lean that any amateur bowler waiting with anticipation for a strike or spare knows all too well.
Here’s what then Nets coach Byron Scott, who played with Magic Johnson, said about the pass at the time. “I could see his body language, and I’m looking at this ball saying, ‘I don’t believe this ball is going to curve right where Lucious can catch it.’ I’m watching this thing come down and I’m shaking my head. I told Jason, ‘That was one of the greatest passes I’ve seen.’”
To make the pass even sweeter, it came in a Nets win –- the fifth straight over the Knicks -– that dropped the MSG dwellers to 20-33 and raised the Nets’ Atlantic Division-leading record to 32-17. The Nets would go on to their first NBA Finals appearance that season, while the Knicks were in the early years of their decade-plus run without a playoff series victory. The ESPN recap of the game, which tragically fails to mention the pass, has a picture of a Knicks fan holding a comically large milk carton with a picture of former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy under a “Missing” sign.