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In one of the last scenes of Finding Forrester, Jamal the basketball player needs to goal in one of the two shots. He misses the first shot which seems normal considering the pressure on the protagonist due to lately situations. But he misses the second one too.

Before taking the second shot, he sees Claire (love interest) and Prof. Crawford (literature prof.) who are the center of situations which have created tension for him.

William Forrester observes this on TV and in the climax he asks Jamal whether he missed those shots on purpose, which Jamal avoided to answer saying "Not exactly a soup question, is it?".

So did Jamal miss on purpose? Is there any clarity of this event in the novelisation?

From one angle it makes sense if he did miss it on purpose, which is if he wants to leave the school because he can't fit in.

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  • There is no source novel although there is a book form of the film. Edited for clarity. – Paulie_D Mar 1 '18 at 16:11
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I believe if Jamal had wanted to hit both those shots, he would have. There are two major points in the film that show his skill and his motivation to do so.

Skill: Shortly after the Jamal transfers to his new school, Mailor-Callow, he gets into an altercation with another team member during basketball practice. The coach settles the dispute by having Jamal and the other player shoot free throws until one of them misses. After 50 consecutive hits by both players, they call it a draw (personally, I think he could have kept on hitting, but that's not the point). This shows us that Jamal has complete control over free throws, especially when his pride is on the line.

Motivation: At the beginning of the film, we see Jamal as a basketball player who happens to write. He feels a need to hide his academic performance from his peers (e.g. journaling, telling his brother not to mention good test scores), and he finds refugee in working on his writing with Forrester. As his writing improves we see Jamal transition what he takes pride in, moving from basketball to writing. This reaches a tipping point when Jamal is at the free throw line for the state championship. At this point, Jamal knows he is a good writer, but he feels a conflict that Mailor-Callow is only interested in him as a basketball player, and not for his writing. So how does he respond?

He walks up to the line bounces two shots off the rim.

Keep in mind, we already know he can shoot under pressure. We saw that in the earlier altercation. What I believe (and this part is up to the viewer), Jamal wants to remove any ambiguity about his reason for being at Mailor-Callow. This completes his arc of being a basketball player who happens to write, to be a writer that likes to play basketball.

Now, everything in this answer is secondary to a much more important question from the film, which answers your question much better than I ever could...

That's not exactly a soup question, now is it?

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  • I agree that he most likely missed them on purpose. But even the best free throw shooters in history rarely made 50 in a row. Having two high school kids do it at the same time is, well, let's call it "artistic license" – Kevin Mar 11 '20 at 13:35

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