Decade of Basketball: Dearica Hamby Hits Winner

Welcome to our Decade of Basketball series, reminiscing about the greatest moments in the sport in the 2010s. Through video, we will relive the times from the last 10 years that bring goosebumps to the arms of those who witnessed them. Let’s celebrate the last decade of basketball and look forward to the next one we’re about to experience.

Dearica Hamby Hits Winner

In the second round of the 2019 WNBA Playoffs, No. 5 seed Chicago Sky traveled to Las Vegas to take on the No. 4 seed Aces for a spot in the semifinals. The Sky had dispatched of the No. 8 seed Phoenix Mercury in the first round, and after an enigmatic regular season, Las Vegas was waiting with the one-round bye.

Chicago took a 51-45 lead into halftime that Las Vegas eventually erased midway through the third quarter. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair, with countless lead changes and ties as the drama built during the final 10 minutes.

Down 90-89 and fewer than 30 seconds to play, the Sky worked inside-out and found Astou Ndour wide open in the corner. The 6-foot-5 center drilled the open jumper worth three points, and Chicago snagged a 92-90 advantage with only 24.4 ticks remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Vegas tried working the ball inside to A’ja Wilson, but tough defense and clumsy handles sent the ball out of bounds, giving Chicago the rock with 14.6 seconds left. At that point, the Aces hadn’t scored in more than three minutes.

After a timeout and foul, Chicago inbounded the ball into the backcourt to Courtney Vandersloot. Vegas’s Kelsey Plum applied pressure, and Vandersloot left her feet and launched the ball down the sideline toward her teammate. But the dangerous pass was intercepted by Aces forward Dearica Hamby just behind the half-court line with about 9 seconds on the clock.

Going against conventional wisdom, Hamby took one dribble and heaved from just inside the division line toward the basket though more than 7 seconds remained in the game. Taking such an ill-advised shot in a crucial part of an elimination game could have easily been one of the worst, if not the worst, moments in Hamby’s entire basketball career.

Instead, it drilled into the back of the iron and hung into the net with 5 seconds left, and the questionable shot from Hamby turned into a miracle for Vegas.

The crowd went into a stunned frenzy, though the game wasn’t over. Vegas still needed another stop, up 93-92 with a few ticks to go. Chicago tried another corner three from Ndour for the win, but this time she couldn’t even find the rim, and the airball sealed the Sky’s fate.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like the Hamby shot in all my years of watching basketball. In no way, shape or form is the decision to launch from almost half-court defensible, but once it goes in, that doesn’t matter. Vegas survived, and what could have been an awful moment for Hamby instead turned into one of the crowning plays of her career, and that’s why it shows up in our moments from the past decade of basketball.

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