Goal Orientation

Eduardo Galeano once wrote that the goal is the orgasm of soccer. If this is the case, then it becomes much easier to locate and understand the role of basketball in late capitalist cultures: too many produced orgasms, not enough seduction.

Most goals in basketball, despite the scripted or unscripted (coded or uncoded) nature of the bodies that move in communion, necessarily derive in the end from a solitary effort. This is not an indictment, but rather an affirmation of a tiny linear chain of causality enmeshed within the sweaty conditions of emergence.

But there is one type of goal unique to basketball that would not properly be considered a solo effort: the alley-oop.

Player with the ball senses an opportunity developing within the sweaty conditions of emergence, perhaps makes eye contact with the receiver (or not), fakes the defender and lobs the ball crisply yet gently towards the rim. Goal (orgasm).
Player without the ball senses his defender's body weight shifting away from the basket, perhaps makes eye contact with the passer (or not), feints and back-cuts to leap high in the air and jam the ball through the rim. Goal (orgasm).

Feminine to masculine? No. Rather, co-poiesis between bodies. A matrixial encounter of mutually produced subjectivity. The several-as-one during the revealing of this goal (orgasm), which does not emerge due to lack but to the desire for shared affect in a vibrating string of sweaty emergence.

Several such severalities immediately spring to mind when thinking of the NBA: nashstoudemire, paulchandler, kiddmartin, kiddjefferson, kiddcarter (kidd: that lover of several). But one of the most famous alley-oops in basketball history comes from the college ranks, when Bobby Hurley connected with Grant Hill in the 1991 NCAA championship game. This became one of the signature vectors of sign-value for the annual March Madness basketball tournament, yet it would hardly qualify as pure in its execution: the pass was thrown high and to the right but body adjustments were made in response and the goal was consummated.

What initiates the encounter: the pass thrown or the back cut? Or is it a mutual obligation?

For the co-poiesis to begin, both players must sense and emote (or better, vibrate). Thereafter, a goal is reached, yes, but to consider it in terms of the binary (scored or not) is misleading, for in its co-poiesis the alley-oop is an act of communication between bodies that eliminates language. As seen in the hurleyhill example above, it does not eliminate error or noise — there may be mis-starts and correctives as both bodies bear wit(h)ness. ("There is always surprise in the system of affect.") If both bodies (part-subjects) give themselves over fully to the event, the alley-oop surpasses any codes proscribed on either body in a melding (or metramorphosis) of several-as-one.

Ultimately, the alley-oop still constitutes a goal, but it is a more-than-goal: it speaks that which cannot be spoken, communicating desire, mystery, (com)passion, tenderness, and love. In its concreteness, it expresses an abstract that remains ever so elusive today.


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