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The Basketball Shot

Hooting is without a doubt the most important skill in basketball. Just like baseball is at its essence a battle between pitcher and hitter, basketball is fundamentally about making baskets; everything else was subsequently invented to aid or prevent a player from scoring. However, as the evolution continues, scoring, and more precisely shooting, fades further from the game’s focal point, as coaches emphasize defense and players try to impress and dazzle the crowd, and not simply score. At every basketball camp, a coach explains to the campers that coaches will always keep a player who can play defense and hustle. I say the easiest way to make a team is to be the best shooter; no coach will cut the best shooter at a try-out because every coach knows he must score, regardless of his defensive propensity.

Every coach has a shooting theory. While theories differ, they center on one goal: the ability to score consistently. The most important aspect is not the elbow or the legs, but the MIND! Reggie Miller’s shot is not fundamentally sound, but he is among the most prolific shooters the NBA has seen. Miller’s success is due to two things: supreme confidence and his ability to get open and put himself in such a position to take and make the big shots.

“Confidence is hard to teach; Confidence is only born out of one thing, demonstrated ability. It is not born of anything else. You cannot dream up confidence. You cannot fabricate it. You can not just focus on it really hard and hope it will come. You have to accomplish it. “I think that genuine confidence is what we all really seek and that only comes from demonstrated ability,” (Bill Parcels). Shooters have bad days and suffer through slumps, but great shooters, moreover great players, never allow their confidence to waver. Shooters have short memories (not really) and always believe their next shot is good. “Life is a collection of self-fulfilling prophecies” (John Naber); therefore, it is imperative that a shooter truly believes in him or herself and their shot. The confidence is more vital to success than any technique a coach can teach.

Great shooter hardly ever think about missing; Once the negative thought enters the mind, the chances for success are lessened. Michael Jordan said two things I admire. One, I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot. Why? “Because when you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result”. The second comment he said is that I appreciate is “I am a strong enough person to accept failure, but not strong enough to accept not trying”. These comments ring home on many different occasions in life, not just basketball. Jordan was not a phenomenal shooter, but at the end of the game, nobody was better. The pressure never affected Jordan; it raised his level of play, sharpened his focus. He believed the shot was going in, so a game winning shot never had added pressure. His confidence created a calm enabling him to knock down the big shots.

Players must be able to catch the ball in a position to score, or all the confidence in the world will not allow him to make a shot. Therefore, the ability to move without the ball is imperative to a player’s success, especially since the average player possesses the ball for an average of one minute per game. Players must be hard to guard without the ball; consistently working on skills with the ball is not enough. Players must work to improve their ability to play when the ball is not in their hands. Shooters will think shot every time they catch the ball. A shooter has to shoot, and shooters possess this mentality. In order to shoot the ball when they receive it, players must catch the ball with knees bent in a ready position to shoot the ball, with body already squared to the basket. When receiving a pass, players should attempt to catch on a one count for a quicker shot, and turn their body to face the basket while in the air. This will not always be possible; however, it should remain the goal, to land with body facing the basket, knees bent and ball in the shooting position, ready to immediately shoot the ball. Catch and let it go. Trust your training.

Great shooters will know when they receive the pass whether they are open for the shot or not. They will anticipate and think a play ahead. As the player waits to receive the pass, moving to an open spot, he will gauge the proximity of the nearest defender and the speed of the closeout; he will know upon reception whether he is open for the shot, or whether he should take one dribble away from the closeout or pump fake and then dribble to an opening. Great shooters have a feel, they anticipate or act, rather than react and therefore find the opening and take the shot, while others catch the ball and are easily defended. Against a zone defense, a shooter will find the gap in the zone, or a soft spot, positioning themselves equidistant from the nearest two defenders to maximize the closeout distance. He will catch the ball ready to shoot, and shoot the ball with no wasted time.

A great shooter will stay in motion, becoming hard to guard without the ball. He will know how to read screens and the defense in order to create openings. Larry Bird, one of the best shooters ever, was said to be the “master of the half inch.” He needed only the slightest amount of room to shoot or the slightest advantage to get a step and drive on his defender. He created this advantage with movement and his ability to read screens. Reggie Miller plays the game in a similar manner; He is like the Energizer Bunny on offense. This is one of the main reasons Reggie Miller was able to break away from Michael Jordan so many times they competed, perpetuating their animosity towards each other. However, he doesn’t just run around; He cuts and runs with a purpose and at the same time fatigues his opponents. He reads the defense so he can flare or curl; he sees the switch and punishes it. He wears out defenders through his motion and he scores with his ability to find an opening.