Basketball is one of the most exciting sports on planet Earth. It’s blazingly fast, constantly back and forth, and generally drops down to the wire. Also, some of the best athletes on the planet perform an impressive range of movements.
Among these, is the oop alley. The high-flying maneuver is one of the coolest moves in all of sports. This guide will look at what it is, how it works, and its history, to better explain why.
A driveway to an Oop
An alley oop is one of the most exciting and flashy moves in all of basketball. Basically, it’s just a pass in a dunk. However, in practice, it’s a much cooler (and harder to pull off) game.
When an alley oop occurs, a player throws the ball up or just over the edge. Then another player (usually a big man or high-flying wing) jumps up, catches the ball in the air, and puts it into the basket or (more commonly) slams it through the rim.
Either way, the play counts as an assist for the player who threw the ball, and it’s two points for the team, just like a normal dunk would be. It’s extremely difficult to pull off and requires a good amount of basketball IQ, but it’s extremely effective and fun to execute correctly.
The move is most common on quick breaks when the defense doesn’t have time to prepare, but it can also be used in a half court when a guard drives into the middle of the defense and slumps the big men, or on a special in-limits game. Either way, it ends the same.
Jump through history
Alley oop might sound like a bit of an odd term, and that’s because it has an interesting origin. The expression comes from a French term go hop!, which refers to the cry of a circus acrobat just as he is about to jump from a trapeze or from one platform to another.
This phrase has been known for a long time, but it slowly turned into an alley oop in the 1950s when San Francisco 49ers quarterback YA Tittle threw high passers at RC Owens.
During these plays, Owens would jump over smaller cornerbacks to snatch the ball in the air in a manner similar to how basketball players finish alley oops today. Also around this time, bigger NBA players like KC Jones and Bill Russell started catching dipping passes themselves.
These two moments led to the creation of the alley oop pass, which eventually only became known at the alley oop. The move died out a bit in football, but it has become more and more popular in basketball over time.
In fact, the Phillips 66ers had it as a fixed play in their playbook in the 1960s. No one knows which player popularized the move or where it started gaining traction, but it really has become a modern staple in the late 1970s due to the amount of Magic Johnson and Greg Kesler using it.
The duo connected for many aisles and used it extensively during their 1979 national championship run. It immortalized it in basketball history and many other teams started using it in a range of different games. It brought him to where he is today.
Climb and more
Alley oops are incredibly cool, but they’re also incredibly effective. The move isn’t just flash, it’s also two guaranteed points that generate a lot of hype and can help build momentum in the game.
However, they take a fair amount of work between the setter and the person catching the pass. Both players need to know he’s coming and they need to make sure they’re in sync as they head for the hoop.
For this reason, alley oops tend to be half-court, improvisational plays during a fast break. Either way, they greatly depend on basketball IQ. Not only do both athletes have to recognize the game at the same time, but they also have to go for it.
In a set game, this is not a problem. During a fast break, it can lead to disaster if both players don’t know what’s going on. It takes a lot of practice and chemistry to get an alley oop to happen during a match. That’s why they usually come from the best guards and great sportsmen.
Few moves in any sport are more iconic than the alley oop. It’s not only fun to watch or perform, it’s also intrinsically linked to basketball. It has long been the symbol of the game and perfectly represents what makes it so exciting. That won’t change any time soon.