Published Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 10:38 pm / Updated at 1:02 am
BASKETBALL
Long shot bet on Kyle Korver paid off for Jays, in NBA
Korver's role in Bluejay history
Kyle Korver played an important role in Creighton basketball history, helping build the Bluejay fan base that eventually would fill the CenturyLink Center.

Steven Pivovar's “Road to the Big Time” tells how Creighton's centurylong dream of big-time basketball led to the Big East. The 250-page book features hall of fame coaches and legendary Bluejay players such as Korver, along with the work of The World-Herald's award-winning photo staff.

The book is available for $29.95, plus shipping and handling, online at OWHstore.com or by phone at 402-444-1014.

Dana Altman needed a shooter.

Altman was four seasons into rebuilding Creighton's basketball program when, during the summer of 1998, he and assistant Greg Grensing headed to an AAU tournament in Las Vegas hoping to fill that pressing need.

One of their targets was a young man from Pella, Iowa, by the name of Kyle Korver. The thing was, Korver was an under-the-radar prospect. While the big-time prospects played center stage, Korver and his team were performing in a basketball version of off-Broadway.

“He wasn't playing in any of the main gyms,” Altman said. “We had to go find him. As we watched him play, Greg and I kept saying, 'Gosh, he really shoots it.' 

“We were a little concerned about some of the other parts of his game, and we wondered who he would be able to guard. But we kept coming back to that we needed him as a shooter.”

Altman eventually signed Korver, but neither the coach nor anyone else could have imagined then just how good of a shooter Korver would become. He went on to set a basket full of school records at Creighton, including 371 3-pointers in his four seasons, each of which ended with an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

When it came time for Korver to move on, the professional scouts had many of the same questions Altman had the first time he watched Korver play. But most acknowledged Korver could shoot it, and shoot it he has for four teams during the past 11 seasons. He is currently in his second season with the Atlanta Hawks after playing previously for Philadelphia, Utah and Chicago.

Heading into Monday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Korver has made 1,378 3-pointers. Only 24 players in NBA history have made more.

Korver has made 42.2 percent of his career 3-point attempts. Only 11 have shot better, and no player has shot a higher percentage in a season than when Korver shot 53.6 percent from beyond the arc for the Jazz in 2009-10.

He put his name into the NBA record book again Dec. 6. That night, for the 90th straight regular-season game, he made at least one 3-pointer. That broke the record of 89 consecutive games by Dana Barros, a mark that had stood for almost 18 seasons.

Korver has added three games to the streak, making one 3-pointer against Oklahoma City on Tuesday and four against both Washington on Friday and New York on Saturday. Monday, the Lakers will try to become the first team to hold Korver without a 3-pointer since the first game of last season.

Asked how much longer he expects the streak to continue, Korver laughed, then added, “I don't know, man, I don't know. I'm not playing for the streak.

“I don't shoot shots just to shoot them. I hate to miss shots. However that turns out in the end, all right. I never thought I'd get this far.”

In some ways, the same could be said about his professional career. The thought of Korver playing 11 NBA seasons might have seemed far-fetched when he broke into the league as a rookie with Philadelphia.

In those early years, Korver now admits, he played to prove his detractors wrong.

“But if you let criticism and negativity be your fuel, you get really tired,” he said. “When you get to the professional level, especially today with social media, there is just so much negativity out there.

“The last few years, I've tried to let other things, like joy for the game and purpose, be my motivation. I don't want that to sound cheesy, but I just got worn out trying to prove people wrong all the time. It makes your life miserable.”

He looks around the league and sees players — some big-name stars — who are driven by the need to prove others wrong every time they take the court.

“Those guys are just not fun people to be around,” Korver said.

That's hardly Korver. He has long balanced basketball with a desire to help others. His foundation has raised millions of dollars to help inner-city youth in the cities in which he has played and for people with special needs.

“He's a pleasant heart,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin told the Salt Lake Deseret-News. “He cares about where he lives. He's a giving person that wants to take care of his community as much as he can and be a part of it.”

Corbin was a Jazz assistant when Korver played 2 seasons in Utah. It was with the Jazz that Korver set the season record for 3-point percentage, but it also was where he battled some of his darker days as a professional.

A series of knee problems cut into his efficiency and his playing time.

“I had some pretty serious stuff going on, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could play,” he said. “It was pretty gnarly for a while. I had to learn how to fight through injuries.

“It's been a process getting back, and it's pretty cool now at 32 I'm probably the healthiest I've been in six or seven years. And, it's good to go through some of those tougher times when I wasn't playing a lot and I wasn't getting as many opportunities. You never want to take this for granted. It's a privilege to play in the NBA.”

And it's a thrill to do something no other NBA player has done. After playing two seasons with Chicaco (2010-12), Korver joined the Hawks last season as a free agent.

He didn't make a 3-pointer in his first game with Atlanta. He did in his second, and he hasn't been shut out from beyond the arc in a game since.

Since Barros set the record in 1996, no other NBA player had made a 3-point basket in more than 62 consecutive regular-season games. Korver started this season with a 74-game streak.

As he kept tacking games onto his streak, he tried to separate it from his job.

“I didn't want to be out there playing for the streak,” he said. “I'm out there to try to help my team win. I didn't want that to get in the way of the real picture of helping the Hawks win games.”

As he closed in on the record, Korver couldn't help thinking about the streak.

“I was definitely nervous the last couple of games,” he said. “I don't always get five or six looks a night. There were games that the other teams were aware of the streak, and they're talking about it, and how they're going to try to end it.

“That made it difficult to get shots off, let alone make them. The thing about it was that it (streak) was just so long. Every game I really had to be locked in, thinking about my shot, about my legs, about where my shots were going to be coming from. You don't want to do all that work and not get the record.”

Korver let out a hearty laugh and quickly added, “That would have been a bummer.”

Korver tied Barros' record by making six 3-pointers in a Dec. 4 home win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Two nights later, the record was his when he went 2 for 3 from 3-point range while scoring 10 points in a win over Cleveland.

His parents, Kevin and Laine, were in attendance to see him break the mark. So were wife Juliet and daughter Kyra.

Korver's achievement that night earned him a tip of the cap from LeBron James, who tweeted: Congrats to Kyle Kolver on breaking Dana Barros consecutive game with a 3! 90 straight games. That's a cannon!. #Congrats @TriggerFinger

Tom Thibodeau, his former coach in Chicago, told ESPN that Korver's record-setting ways are a product of an unrelenting attention to detail.

“It's not an accident; this guy, he puts a great amount of time into not only his shooting, but to preparing himself to play in each and every game,” said Thibodeau, who was an assistant when Barros started his streak with Philadelphia.

“Kyle knows how to find openings. And he does everything. Everyone says he's not a great athlete; he's got great quickness because of his knowledge. And it doesn't take him long to get his shot off. I'm happy for him.”

Korver concedes he's a different shooter than when he started jacking up 3s for Altman and the Bluejays in 1999.

“I break it down more,” he said, “and I'm probably a better, smarter shooter than I was then.”

What makes his newest record special to him is that Korver sees it as a testament to his consistency as a shooter.

“That's really important to me,” he said. “I've never wanted to be a high-volume, hit-or-miss guy. As a shooter, I've strived to be consistent. I think more than anything, that's what this shows. There's a level of that here.

“You work really hard to do that, and that's the really cool thing.”

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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