The Heat Check

How about that heat check?

How about that heat check?

For those of you who haven’t heard heat check in the last two years during an NBA broadcast, let me explain. A heat check is when an NBA player has made a few shots in a row and an announcer excuses his next awful shot (either through a double or triple team or from 37 feet out) as a heat check. Just to see how hot he is. I do not like this Sam I Am, I do not like green eggs and ham. (Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss).

The biggest offenders of absurd heat checks are predictably the two best players in the game: Kobe and LeBron. Having watched a lot of Kobe, I know that he does it often, which is partially a side effect of getting hot often I suppose. However, LeBron is the holder of the award for the most egregious heat checks. See the shot chart of his game against Milwaukee (I’m pretty sure this is the shot) on February 20th – you may have to adjust to just see LeBrons shots only. You can see that he took a 32! foot three in the 4th quarter. He had hit a few shots before this and launched that abomination. He does launch them from +30 from time to time. This is not ok.

What’s interesting about the heat check is that statistically, a player isn’t more likely to hit a shot after hitting one before. There’s a note on this in the Michael Lewis deification of Shane Battier about this as well (the article is a good read, but to be taken with a grain of salt). We know that this isn’t completely true though, because players get hot, but it gets taken too far with heat checks.

The heat check is bad basketball. All streaks must come to an end, but if you’ve seen a heat check, you know they’re always out flow of the offense and invariably END the streak. Based on no statistical evidence, I think that 1 in 10 go in, not exactly ideal. Also, taking one possession to not shoot doesn’t necessarily end a streak, so why do players have to shoot (ego is the obvious answer). What I would like to see is a player use the hot streak to (gasp!) help his teammates. The other team is going to focus on the hot player, so drive to the basket and find the open guy. If  players do this twice in a row, an open shot may magically appear for themselves on the next possession, and its not like they’ll lack for confidence because they took two possessions to pass the ball. Moreover, THAT would be demoralizing to the opposing team, not just a guy who’s hot for a streak then ruins it with a bad shot.

I might be a basketball curmudgeon but I do know that this is more about entertainment and ego than anything else. By the way, I’m much more willing to accept this in a home game because making a heat check blows the roof off the place (although it does deflate the place to miss one – did I mention I’m a curmudgeon?). It’s definitely entertaining to watch a guy pull up from 35 and nail a 3, and entertainment is the primary goal of the NBA and this is also just a side effect of being an elite player with an elite ego,so I guess I’m just going to have to take the bad with the good.

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