HeadFake Hoops
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HeadFake Hoops

This Starts & Ends With Jamario

A gravity-defying hooper who wore the Moon on his back

Original Art by Antonio Losada (chapulana)

For many fans, the NBA is a league measured in statistics and correlative impact on the hardwood: wins, losses, points, assists, rebounds, and other metrics calculated to determine the best and worst ratings.

Then, there’s the poetry behind the numbers — those moments of soulful transcendence and levitation; plays in-between plays, reminiscent of a free-flowing jazz session — when it all amounts to something measureless, meaningful, and beloved despite any tangible outcome.

Every once in a while, basketball becomes performance art — unexpected and unimitable — when a player takes flight midgame to a chorus of cheers, or makes a no-look shimmy pass down the lane, or palms the leather in hand while floating past helpless defenders on the way to a silky lay up. Consider it an act of holy achievement. A blueprint of NASA proportions. Indeed, sometimes, a player just shoots for the moon — even if history and record books can’t hold them.

Jamario Moon is one of those hoopers. And with a name like that, how could we forget him?

He wasn’t the flashiest or most dominant of his era. Not even close. On a good day, the casual fan would be lucky — if not surprised — to see him do much. He wasn’t an All-Star; in his five NBA seasons, he wasn’t even a consistent starter. No. Moon was simply one of those skywalkers who would part the clouds of an arena somewhere in America for a thunderous dunk one night, then recede to the far end of the bench into late-2000s obscurity.

Some other players are trendier to remember and categorize: How good was he/she? Did they win a championship? Are they among the all-time greatest?

But on an instinctual level, Jamario lends a more complicated, inexplicable connection: Did he pull off some cool shit that the average human could only dream of? Is his name dope to say aloud? Does his game evoke a vague, other-worldly memory that can only be honored in a nerdy retrospective essay like this?

Did he hop on the moon of our imagination?

From a sterile standpoint, Jamario Moon’s basketball career has been documented by the Big3 League — where he played in his aging days like many vets, including the ageless Joe Johnson — as such: “Acquired by the Triplets in a midseason trade with 3 Headed Monsters, Moon played a big role in the team’s run to the 2019 title, pulling down nine rebounds in the championship-game victory over Killer 3s. Born in Goodwater, Alabama, Moon hooped at Meridian Community College for one season before deciding to play professionally. A versatile forward, Moon played in the D-League, overseas[,] and with the Harlem Globetrotters before making it to the NBA. Moon went on to play for the Raptors, Clippers, Heat and most notably, the Cleveland Cavaliers.”

In another instance, Bleacher Report summed up his NBA accolades into the following two sentences: “He did start for Miami when they made the playoffs, and he did have a start when the Raptors played Orlando in the first round. He was the first guy in Cleveland to fill the three spot when LeBron James left.”

At one point, the New York Times even wrote an article about him, in a story titled “For Moon, Many Stops Before N.B.A. Arrival.” I’m sure it’s good, but I exceeded my limit of free NYT joints and was swatted away by a Mutumbo-like paywall.

Point is, there isn’t too much-documented history about this astronaut-adjacent man on the internet. And I, for one, think that’s bullshit.

I don’t know anyone from Goodwater, Alabama. I especially can’t recall any NBA player from there — besides @IAmJamarioMoon, the former Raptor who joined Toronto in 2007, back when the Nets were still loitering along New Jersey’s famously putrid shores.

But this isn’t about those facts. This is about Jamario’s “inhuman rebound” against the San Antonio Spurs — a highlight clip which is made all the more enigmatic with the lulled excitement of the German commentators. (It’s also a rebound that was ranked as a “3 most athletic rebounds in NBA history” by The Jump).

This is about Jamario, “the NBA player who literally JUMPED to the MOON” — a low key dude who modeled his game after Scottie Pippen, then debuted for his first-ever NBA appearance on Chicago’s court, where local announcers said he made a “Scottie Pippen-like” defensive block on Luol Deng’s dunk attempt, despite playing for the opposing team.

Jamario, who gifted us this sweet melody of a “hammer dunk!” against the Chris Paul-starring New Orleans Hornets.

Jamario, who went overseas to ball for Greece’s Olympiacos and drew the woos of a packed foreign arena with his fastbreak yammies.

Jamario, who, along with Xavier Moon, became the first uncle-nephew combo to play in the NBA G-League at the same time.

Jamario, whose international reputation has earned him the nickname, J-Luna (Moon in Spanish).

Most of us learn how to walk when we’re children. But the lucky ones get to moonwalk.

Only in watching these moments though — these games, these icons— can we reconsider the way we think about sport, or the way we might even consider the gravity of all possibilities in our lives. I don’t think that’s an overstatement.

Like a Google search, YouTubing “Jamario Moon” doesn’t yield more than a page or two. But Moon epitomizes how it’s not the quantity of content that a baller has produced in our lifetimes that makes them memorable, but the quality. From his time in the NBA, I would hang Jamario up there with the most thrilling to watch — a walking poster.

Jamario Moon really was that dude, if only for an instance. For that, I’ll uphold him as easily as LeBron James — that one guy he replaced in Cleveland, remember?

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