Zavier Simpson Draws Oohs and Ahhs From Summer League Crowd For His Skyhook Shot

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

LAS VEGAS - Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s fadeaways, Hakeem Olajuwon’s dream shake, Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged step-back, Wilt Chamberlain and George Gervin’s finger rolls, Tim Duncan’s bank shot, Manu Ginobili’s Eurostep drive, and Allen Iverson’s lightning quick crossover are some of the most unstoppable shots and moves in NBA history.

But nothing quite compares to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook, which many still say was the most effective shot all time. 

Granted he’s over a foot shorter than the 19-time NBA All-Star, six-time NBA champion and basketball Hall of Famer, but Zavier Simpson, who’s 6-foot even, has mastered his own version of the skyhook, which he displayed many times in college at the University of Michigan, in the G League the last two years with the Oklahoma City Blue, in his brief stint with the Thunder, and now with the Orlando Magic’s summer league squad. 

How did the now 25-year-old add this shot to his arsenal, you may be wondering? It all started when he was a freshman at Michigan. He was working on his game in an open gym, and by accident he says, he realized he was able to make these shots routinely with multiple variations. 

“I just pretty much started working on it as the years went by,” he said. “I pretty much became more comfortable (with it). Different foot, different hand. Same foot, same hand. I pretty much kind of perfected it.”

It’s a shot coaches want him to take, largely because he spends an exorbitant amount of time practicing it. During pre-practice warmups, Simpson is often seen stationed at a basket taking a few dozen of them – and making most of them, too. 

“I definitely have the green light for it,” he said. “It’s a shot that’s very efficient.” 

Just in Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks alone, he converted on two of them. 

In general, Simpson is a crafty player. He’s not blazing fast or explosive – nor is he the biggest guard – but he has a knack for creating space using his creativity and high basketball IQ. He’s also a sneaky good defender with great instincts and anticipation. 

In the G League last year, he regularly filled up the stat sheet and averaged 14.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 35 regular season games with the Blue. The Thunder rewarded him for his stellar play by signing him to a 10-day contract near the end of the season. He made the most of that opportunity by scoring in double figures in three of the four games he appeared in, as well as dishing out five-plus assists in all of them. 

Born and raised in Lima, Ohio, Simpson was quite familiar with the Magic even before joining them for summer league. That’s because he played with three of Orlando’s players while in college. Simpson was teammates with Moe Wagner his first two seasons at Michigan, with Ignas Brazdeikis his junior year, and with Franz Wagner his senior campaign. 

Just being around them, he knew the Wagner brothers would have great success in the pros, and he’s excited to see them continue making strides.

“It was great playing with those guys,” he said. “They’ve had a tremendous part of my (development), just building a relationship with them. (Moe) was kind of like a big brother who helped groom me…Franz came in my senior year. So, it was great. Both of them work extremely hard. I was blessed to be able to come in under Moe, just showing how much hard work he’s put in, being able to follow him. And have his little brother come in and follow me and make sure I’m kind of teaching him the right things on and off the court to be in a position that we are in today.”