Sport Science on ‘The Block’

I am not a big basketball fan and know little about the finer points of the game. In fact, I did not watch any of the games played by the Cleveland Cavaliers during their championship-winning season that ended a week ago. I did not even watch the deciding game 7, preferring to work on my computer while occasionally checking the score. But when I saw that the score was tied in the dying moments of the game, I decided that it was time to tune in and after doing so, even an ignorant person like me realized that I had just witnessed a play for the ages.

To recap, after tying the score at 89-89 late in the game, both teams were unable to score for about four minutes, which is an eternity in basketball time. With the end of the game so near, it seemed like whichever team scored first would demoralize the other and go on to win the game.

At that moment, two star players from the Golden State Warriors team Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala had a fast break and ran towards the Cavaliers goal, passing the ball back and forth and facing just a single defender J. R. Smith, a matchup that normally guarantees a score. But just as Iguodala released the ball over the head of Smith and towards the basket, LeBron James seemed to come out of nowhere, leap up, and do a clean block on the shot, preventing the score. This block set up Kyrie Irving’s 3-point shot point shot with just 55 seconds left and the Cavaliers ended up winning.

This block has had every sports commentator raving about never having seen anything like it and now ESPN has broken down the play to show what an incredible burst of speed and jumping went into it. The analysis shows that James hit a top speed of 20.1 mph while chasing down Iguodala and then leapt up so that his center of mass was raised by 35 inches, enabling him to get his hand up as high as 11 feet 5 inches to block the shot.

Bear in mind that although this would have been a great play at any time, it was done at the very end of an exhausting game and at the very end of an exhausting finals and playoff series and season where you would have expected players to be out of gas. This illustrates the levels of training that they go through such that they can draw on such reserves of energy.


  1. Trickster Goddess says

    That was interesting but they could have edited it much better. All the quick cuts, wide shots to close ups, flash pans, sudden reverse angles, and speed ups to still shots, not to mention graphics flashing on and off the screen made it hard for me to figure out exactly what I was watching. At least one single-take, wide-shot slow-mo play through would have been nice to establish what the combined and relative actions of all the players were.

  2. Holms says

    Shorter answer: professional players tend to be genetic freaks + constant practice.

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