Baller’s Blueprint: Jason Terry On How To Hit The Clutch Shot

The term “clutch gene” took on a life of its own over the past few years. Michael Jordan birthed it. Kobe Bryant pushed it. Skip Bayless popularized it. It became indistinguishable, something that we can’t quite grasp. No one can explain how you get it or how you improve it. It’s just out there, sitting as the ultimate when it comes to validating yourself as a player. If someone doesn’t have it, they’ll never reach the apex.

Jason Terry has it. Ever since he was a sophomore on Arizona’s 1997 National Championship team, Terry has thrived in fourth quarters. In Dallas, despite starting just once during the Mavs’ last three playoff runs, the JET has almost always come through, the ultimate late-game sniper next to Dirk Nowitzki. It’s no coincidence that his two best individual playoff runs took Dallas to the Finals.

Last year, Terry was at his very best, averaging 17.5 points and shooting 44 percent from deep while winning his first NBA championship. Along the way, he tied a playoff record with nine threes against the Lakers, and then in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, burned the Heat with a game-clinching trey. How does he consistently come through with the game hanging in the balance? We asked him.

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Dime: Now you’re known as a guard who can step up and make big shots. You’ve been doing it for a while…
Jason Terry: All my life…

Dime: They always talk about guys who really relish that. Talk about the attitude that you have when it gets late in a game.
JT: My thing is it’s not for everybody because if it was then the coach would just drop the play and just roll the ball out there. So it’s just knowing that the game is counting on you, knowing that if you fail it’s on you, and if you win, you’re going to get all the praise. I think I relish that roll because I like being the villain. It’s cool to do it at home, but when you do it on the road in front of 20,000 people, and you hear the silence of the crowd, that’s the ultimate feeling as a competitor. And I think I’ve watched all the greats and tried to emulate them on the playgrounds of Seattle when I was younger. Counting down the clock, everybody’s done it. 5…4…3…2…1, you take the shot. You hit it. I just live that moment, and then to be able to really do it in a real, live game on the highest level gives me the ultimate joy.

Dime: Take like the last five minutes of a game if it’s close…
JT: Oh, it’s not even the last five minutes. When the fourth quarter comes on and I see 12 minutes on the clock, the whistle blows and they roll the ball in, I’m locked in. I’m unbelievably focused on every possession and every shot and I’m looking for every opportunity to put that team away. So the game better not be close because I’m coming. That’s just my mentality. I think to be a player that wants to take that kind of burden on his shoulders, you have to feel like that.

Dime: Sometimes they say late in a game you should take the ball to the rim. Does your game change at all late in the game? Do you try to do different things?
JT: Fifteen feet away from the basket is the rim for me. That’s my bread and butter. That’s what I’ve made my name on and that’s what I really work hard on doing, better than anybody in the league at the mid-range game.

It’s somewhat of a throwback. You look at Jerry West and some of these guys that played back then that didn’t have the three-point line. It was all about the mid-range. I’m a historian. I’m a student of the game, and that’s what I’ve taken from guys like George Gervin who personally trains me in the summer. I spend two or three days with the Ice Man and all we do is shoot mid-range. We don’t shoot no threes. We’ll have 500 makes from 15 feet and in. I think it’s a craft that has gone unseen because of the three-point line, but I’m still a good three-point shooter too.

This article is taken from the current issue of Dime Magazine

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