Mental Approach

Brain Speed

by Tim Keown

ESPN The Magazine

Jason Kidd sees more. He sees more on the basketball court, on the freeway, in the movie theater. After he and his wife watch a movie, he routinely asks her if she noticed some subtleties in the film’s background. She rarely does, even though she has learned to look for them. Reporters who have spent time with Kidd say he invariably finishes their sentences, slightly under his breath, as a prelude to his answer. In a practical sense, this mental acuity allows Kidd to make high-speed decisions in the open court, decisions that go far beyond the mundane choices of shoot-or-pass. His refined sensory awareness is not limited to the basketball court; it’s part of who he is.

This is why Kidd performs physical feats that can’t be practiced, or repeated, or sometimes even believed. It is why some witnesses say he threw a pass on Feb. 22 against the Knicks that came straight out of Area 51. After a steal in the Knicks forecourt, 70 feet from his own hoop, he saw Lucious Harris down court, breaking to the basket through a floor scattered with Knicks and Nets. This is where the story takes on some fourth-dimension quality, and where it becomes slightly unbelievable. With the window of opportunity opening and closing in roughly half a second, Kidd wound up and threw a 60-foot bowling-ball pass — complete with an Earl Anthony follow-through — in the direction of Harris. Witness reports vary, but the ball bounced at least three times and was thrown with enough backspin to avoid defenders and somehow curve back — on the third or fourth bounce — to hit Harris in stride for a layup…

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