Shooting Guards: The Hired Assassins of the Basketball

By Dr. Jeff A. Glenn / @jagadelic

With Reggie Miller's selection into the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Kobe Haters salivating over the Mamba's recent 3 for 21 performance like a pack of wild dogs getting the scent of fresh meat (Yes, I'm talking to you, Kenny), shooting guards are making news this week. However, I come not to bury shooting guards, but to praise them. They are often villified for their demeanor and selfish style of play, but the fact is they are under the most pressure to deliver when the team needs it the most. A shooting guard needs to wear that cocky attitude like a coat of armor. He has to believe in himself when his recent play and the loud, vicious taunts of 20,000 "partisan observers" indicate otherwise.

No other position is quite so isolated as the shooting guard, with such a narrow focus. In any of the other four positions, a player whose jumper gets an attack of the yips can still make significant contributions. A point guard can handle the ball securely, pile up assists with good passes and "make his teammates better." Forwards and centers can set spine-tingling picks on offense, play solid defense by blocking shots, rebound with abandon and reap the praises of a hero. Anthony Davis of Kentucky got well-deserved praise as the Most Outstanding Player as he led his Wildcats to the NCAA Championship with his suffocating defense, rebounds, steals and blocked shots. No one seems to care that he shot one for ten. Kobe was on a hot streak compared to that statline.

Yes, shooting guards can also contribute in other areas, and they're expected to. But there's no denying the fact that the shooting guard is the best shooter on the team, and when the offense needs a flame, he earns his keep by supplying the spark. Everyone else can be in a funk and hide their lack of offense, but a shooting guard who passes up open shots will find himself on the bench in a hurry. If the team is down six points with two minutes to go, no one asks the shooting guard to make a good pass or hit the boards. Everyone (including the other team) is looking for him to "hit a quick three." He can't pass the ball off; he can't set a pick; he can't let the fact that he missed his last five shake him. He has to set his jaw and keep firing, wild west style.

Think about your favorite shooting guards. Were they grinning from ear to ear like Magic? No. Michael, Kobe, Reggie, Steve Smith - these fellas were surly, trash talking, arrogant sons of a gun who would never back down. In their line of work, backing down is the beginning of the end. Even though he's technically a three, Carmelo qualifies as an "honorary two" because he's the one trusted to provide the offensive push, come hell or high water. Alan Iverson and the Big O also get the honorary deuce by this definition. None of them qualify as boy scouts. Those of us who know the true psyche of a shooting guard were not surprised when D. Wade swatted Kobe's nose like it was a pesky bee. All Star Game or not, this is what they're wired for. The first six letters of the word "assassin" tells you all you need to know; he's a double ass!

So, the next time you want to get after your SG for a dismal performance, just keep in mind that his coaches and teammates probably insisted that he keep firing. They know he's their best chance to get back in it and, if they're ready to sink or swim with him, then you should be too. No choir boys need apply - give me a prickly demeanor and a cocky attitude. There are just some jobs like secret service agent, armed guard or divorce lawyer where you're just not looking for warm and fuzzy. You need a stone killer who takes no prisoners and shows no mercy.

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