The art of an outlet pass is one of the most beautiful sights in the game of basketball. For those that are in the dark regarding outlet passing, it is a pass – typically long – from a defender following the opposing team’s made basket, defensive rebound, or steal to start a fast break. It is typically made by a big man, and usually in the form of an overhead pass. It is not as flashy as an alley-oop, but when executed correctly, the result is equally as thrilling.
Outlet passes are a throwback move, a very rare skill for a player to possess. Additionally, outlet passes are hard to keep track of since there is not stat to look up and analyze.
Throwing an outlet pass requires excellent court vision, basketball I.Q., strength, and precision. It essentially allows the passer to channel his inner quarterback abilities to throw a deep pass for a touchdown.
While a select number of pro basketball players have fine-tuned this skill and most refer to past generations of NBA players that perfected the art of outlet passing, Minnesota’s Kevin Love has reinvigorated this part of the game, pleasing pure basketball fans.
It would be unfair to start the list of the best outlet passers in the game today without paying homage to the legendary outlet passers in the league that came before them. Bill Walton, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wes Unseld, who is widely considered the best outlet passer in NBA history, were the best of the best with this skill. As you can tell by this list and the list that follows, perfecting outlet passing is almost impossible.
As Unseld once recalled, “It’s not a trick. It’s a learned skill of just anticipating and having a little imagination when and where you throw it. You also have to develop some skill to get the ball to where you want it to be.”
With that said, let’s break down the five best outlet passers in the NBA today.
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5. MARC GASOL
Great rebounder? Check. Solid big man passer? Check. High basketball I.Q.? Check. Power? Check. Marc Gasol has quickly grown into one of the best big men players in the league, and similar to his big bro Pau, his versatility on the court is nothing but envious.
Having the quick and offensive-evolving Mike Conley as a player to direct his outlet passes to benefits Gasol’s game. Per NBA Stats, 11 games into the 2013-14 season (not including last night’s overtime win over Golden State, Gasol is averaging 4.5 assists per game, resulting in 13 points created off of his dimes. The Spaniard is also credited for 1.9 secondary assists per game.
Check out this GIF of Gasol’s full-court, sidearm outlet dish in this past summer’s 2013 FIBA EuroBasket that wowed the crowd.