In basketball, artistry is paramount. Whether it is the smooth no-look elbow pass to a teammate for the game winner or the thunderous windmill slam dunk of the ball into the hoop, aficionados of the sport have seen time and time again how the aesthetics of play inspire and excite. It’s not just the appearance of the game that grabs our attention, though. Players are the artists on the hardwood and their individual skill, style, and personality add layers of meaning to their art both on and off-court. Avid fans of the NBA can tell you all about on-court and off-court swagger, what they think makes it up, and how they feel about it.
Image by Jeremy Chan
Ultimately, the starting point for being swagger in the NBA is to have a highly stylized style of play and ooze confidence and bravado in all situations on the court. This most definitely includes isolation plays which display individual shot form and space creation (example: Carmelo Anthony), 3-point plays (examples: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Chris Paul), and crafty personalized moves (examples: Jason Williams, and Gary Payton). Highly stylized play work best under certain coaching systems which emphasize offence over defence like the Mike D’Antoni run-and-gun system or Don Nelson’s helter-skelter system used by the exemplary 2007 Golden State Warriors in one of the greatest upsets in NBA history. Many times this type of play is not ideal for team success but because of a player’s confidence, we factor it into the formula. An example of this is New York Knick J.R. Smith who set the single game 3-point attempts record with 22, making 10 of them, in a game that the his team lost to the Miami Heat. The key here is to celebrate individuality, creativity, personal flare, and break away from conservatism or any kind of imposed tradition. Allen Iverson, the definitive founding father of basketball’s anti-establishment stylish rebel, famously embodied this attitude by saying “I don’t wanna be Michael Jordan … When my career is over I wanna look in the mirror and say I did it my way.”