Forman silencing NBL doubters all the way to 500

Chris Pike Columnist

By Chris Pike, Chris Pike is a Roar Expert

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    Early on in his NBL career 15 years ago Oscar Forman was trying to find a way to stand out and was challenged over his three-point shooting. Little did anyone know that as he moves past 500 games he’d become one of the best ever long-range bombers.

    Forman’s 500-game milestone might have been delayed almost a week because of a calf injury suffered on the morning of the game against the Perth Wildcats on 23 December, but it was only a minor setback, and the Hawks won that clash anyway.

    The 35-year-old missing a game is indeed a rare thing – that was his first game missed since joining the Illawarra Hawks in 2010-11, breaking a consecutive streak of 235 matches and overall 448 of the past 449 he had been available for.

    The injury would cost him only that one game, and Forman was back last Thursday night to celebrate his 500-game milestone. He delivered a vintage performance, with three triples in the first quarter as the Hawks won 106-102 in the highest-scoring game of the NBL season.

    Forman went on to nail another three in in the team’s New Year’s Eve victory over the Brisbane Bullets as they improved to an 8-9 record to close in on a top-four position.

    Forman became the 13th player in NBL history to reach 500 games, and he’s now within striking distance of James Crawford (504) and former teammate in Adelaide Paul Rees (506).

    Forman’s length for someone who has often played as a small forward has meant his shot has been impossible to stop. Combine those natural physical traits with his quick and high release on his shoot, and he looks as natural a three-point shooter as there could be.

    Forman has now hit 899 three-pointers in his 501-game career to be 13th all-time in that category. He is more than 300 ahead of the next current player too, which is his former New Zealand Breakers and Hawks teammate Kirk Penney.

    To have seen Forman nail three-pointer after three-pointer throughout much of 501-game career makes it remarkable to think that it didn’t start out that way, especially when he has shot 42 per cent from beyond the arc over his career.

    By the time he was in his fourth season with his hometown team, the Adelaide 36ers, his three-point shooting was a strength, but it wasn’t so before that for Forman.

    He shot just 18.8 per cent from the field in his rookie season in Adelaide when the Sixers won their last NBL championship. He improved to 21.4 per cent a season later and then 33.9 by the 2003-04 campaign. But by 2004-05 he had become a standout long-range bomber, going at 47.2 per cent.

    His move to New Zealand further enhanced his shooting, and that included an especially strong 2008-09 season during which he made 98 threes at 47.8 per cent.

    Ever since joining Illawarra for the 2010-11 season and missing only one game Forman has hit 459 of 1049 three-point attempts at 43.8 per cent. That places him behind only Hawks legends Mat Campbell and Glen Saville for his 225-game career in Wollongong.

    As he was preparing to celebrate his 500-game milestone, Forman reflected on the fact that he was anything but a knockdown shooter early in his NBL career.

    He always felt he was better than his early percentages were suggesting, but he remembers being put in his place by veteran Adelaide journalist Boti Nagy. By his fourth season at the Sixers he felt comfortable beyond the arc and then flourished in New Zealand and has never looked back.

    “I remember Boti Nagy talking to me about one of my early games asking why I shot three threes on one possession, missing the first two and making the third. My answer was that I was a shooter, but he pointed out I was shooting 22 per cent and I wasn’t a shooter,” Forman said.

    “I had never thought about my percentages until then, and it took until my fourth year to get into the 40s. I guess I wasn’t a shooter to start with, but what else can you do except practice, and I kept on practising catching and shooting.

    “I guess that’s what I liked to do when a lot of other guys would play pick up, but I never really did that or practised combo moves. I would go out and catch and shoot, and that’s what evolved in my game.

    “In New Zealand I turned into a three who was more coming off down picks, which is always tough when you’re running the other wing to Kirk Penney and you don’t get as many looks, but coming off down picks and hitting threes became a strength of mine.”

    Forman’s high shot release and his ability to get it off quickly after grabbing possession has been a key to his shooting success. Hard work is undoubtedly a big reason why he remains able to shoot at such an impressive clip, though.

    “It took a while to realise that with my height and with a high release on my shot, that made sure I could get my shot off and not have it blocked,” he said.

    “It was in the New Zealand years when I tried to become a volume shooter and I was always going to be someone who tried to take the right shots for the team, but then once I shot at a good clip it was about trying to get them up.

    “I would come off screens from Tony Ronaldson or Dillon Boucher, and that gets you pretty open. I would have games where I got off seven or eight threes a game, but it has been good not having to worry about my shot getting blocked.

    “I’m taller than most people in my position, especially at the three, and I release the ball quite high, so that has meant I have just been able to worry about getting the shot off.”

    Reaching 500 games is far from something Forman thought was possible when he came out of the Australian Institute of Sport to return to Adelaide to debut with a 36ers team that won a championship in his rookie season.

    The league has been through plenty of ups and downs over his career too, so there were chances along the way that there wouldn’t be an NBL there for him to make it to 500 games.

    But he has remained a diligent worker to ensure he has been physically able to get on to the court night after night and ultimately still perform at a high level where even this season he remains a key cog in Illawarra’s charge towards a third successive playoff appearance.

    “When the numbers get dragged up talking about the milestone, it does sink in that this league has been around for 40 seasons and I’ve been involved in nearly half of them,” he said.

    “That means a lot in terms of longevity and there aren’t many people who have reached 500 games, so I’m definitely proud of that.

    “Half my life I have been involved in this league, and I’ve seen it go through so many changes with so many different owners, GMs and everything, but I never thought I would survive this long when I started.

    “I look back on my AIS class and we had quite a strong group and for me to still be playing is something that is very special.”

    NBL Round 12 results
    Tuesday (Boxing Day)
    Melbourne United 69 defeated Brisbane Bullets 68

    Thursday
    Illawarra Hawks 106 defeated Cairns Taipans 102

    Friday
    Adelaide 36ers 88 defeated New Zealand Breakers 85

    Saturday
    Sydney Kings 79 lost to Melbourne United 103

    Sunday (New Year’s Eve)
    Illawarra Hawks 104 defeated Brisbane Bullets 82
    Cairns Taipans 68 lost to Perth Wildcats 83

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