Finger pad control, back spin, follow through.
Finger pad control, back spin, follow through.
At the risk of showing my age, this was how I first learnt how to shoot a basketball. I was watching a movie called The Pistol, a story about “Pistol” Pete Maravich when this scene came on. He was laying in bed, lying on his back with a basketball – “shooting” it at the ceiling. He would set his hands, snap his wrist, the ball would fly towards the roof and drop back safely into his clutches. When I realised I was going to take up the sport as a barely 6 foot white guy, I figured I had to do one thing – learn to shoot, and shoot well.
The NBA has changed a lot in the decades since I first watched that movie. The pace of the game has gotten quicker, the players are now more athletic than ever and a fair amount of the game is played above the rim. The shorts are longer, haircuts different and all these sleeves and compression gear are being worn – but that is a story for another day!
One thing that hasn’t changed however, is the objective of the game – to put the ball in the bucket. We don’t see underhanded free throws (although some may argue players like Dwight Howard could benefit!), we don’t see set shots, the three-point line has moved countless times but player’s goal is to score points – and that they do.
If I was to ask you (and I will) who you would say the best “pure shooter” is, what would your answer be? (Leave it in the comments below and let’s get some discussion happening!) For me, I see four really pure shooters – Ray Allen, Steph Curry, JJ Redick and Kevin Durant. Whilst all four of these players offer something unique, are built differently and have varying game styles, to me they represent some of the best shooters in the league right now.
But what makes these guys “pure shooters” and why do I rate them so highly? The answer for me, is simple: they can shoot from anywhere, have terrific form on their shot, are fundamentally sound, efficient and reliable.
What was the most memorable moment of the NBA Finals last season? Was it a jaw dropping dunk from Wade or James? The terrific defence of Kahwi Leonard? The ageless Timmy Duncan? No – it was a sweet corner jump shot by Ray Allen.
Pure fundamentals, poetry in motion, efficient and effective and game-winning – some may even go as far as to say championship winning. Only moments prior to Jesus saving the day, LeBron James – arguably the games best player right now – had come up short on not one but two jump shot attempts. Not ragging on LeBron, but as great as the man is, he is not the accomplished shooter Ray is, and that moment highlighted for me, just how important it is to be able to shoot the ball and shoot it well.
So with all that in mind, I want to get stuck in and really have a good look at the brilliant shooters I named earlier. What makes them great? Who did they look up to and learn from? Are the best shooters born or made?
Technique has a lot to do with being a great shooter, and while each player definitely has a unique style (think Kevin Martin) the fundamental technique remains the same, and that is why they are effective and efficient at lighting the net up.
Ray Allen has a very quick release on his shot – he gets into position quickly and fires off a jump shot before anyone else can react. Kevin Durant is a master at using his length and ball handling ability to get himself to his spot and shoot over defenders. JJ Redick has a textbook jump shot technique and moves so well without the ball, he is able to make up for a lack of athletic ability. Steph Curry is a combination of all of these techniques and is equally at home on the move or when squared up behind the arc.
All these great shooters have terrific footwork, have no unnecessary movement, soft hands and terrific follow through action. They are focused on the rim and can balance themselves to shoot even when they are “off-balance”.
None of these players are overly “big” in terms of muscle mass. However, their muscular strength has a positive impact on their ability to shoot the basketball. Core strength allows them to stay balanced or in control of their body as they move around the court and get into their shooting action. Once again, core strength and a solid shooting base (legs and footwork) ensures that they have range on their jumpshot without sacrificing technique or shooting form, which is why these “pure” shooters can drop in the long bomb, or curl around mid-range screens and tear apart defences.
In the modern league where players are a lot bigger, stronger and faster, these shooters have been able to remain at the top of the league by adding functional strength and flexibility, allowing them to compete in other aspects of the game (driving the lane, defending bigger opponents etc) while not sacrificing their “bread and butter”.
Ray Allen is the oldest of my top 4 shooters. At 37, he has seen and done a great deal of shooting and winning at the NBA level. Allen has always been one of the purest shooters the game has ever seen, but what people don’t see, are the hours of dedicated shooting practice that go in to making Ray such a talented marksman.
The Miami Heat call him “Everyday Ray” because he literally never takes a day off. He is always working on his craft in some way, shape or form – even when he is injured. He generally gets to the arena a good three hours before game time and heads straight to the floor to put up jumpers – working on all types of shots, getting his touch and his rhythm correct so that in a game situation, his body already knows what it has to do.
Truly inspirational – Jesus Shuttlesworth’s jumper isn’t a God-given gift, it is the result of some extremely hard work. Pretty impressive for a guy who was told in school that he had a very poor jumpshot!
The talented #30 from the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry also puts in work. Ever since he was a young kid, he has worked at shooting the basketball. It helps when you have a good pedigree too. Steph’s father, Dell Curry was one of the NBA’s elite shooters during his career in the late 80’s, late into the 1990’s and early 2000. He is still the New Orleans Pelicans’ (originally the Charlotte Hornets) all-time 3-point scorer, having amassed 929 throughout his time there.
While I am not implying that shooting is genetic –although one could argue the case watching the two of them shoot together– Dell obviously taught Steph the mechanics, fundamentals and techniques of a good jump shot. Steph has since turned this guidance into a record breaking season, taking the NBA record for NBA 3 point field goals in a season last year with 272 makes from downtown.
He has proven to everyone out there, that he possesses a devastating long-range shot and a wide variety of leaners, floaters and runners. In reality, it’s Steph Curry, not Monta Ellis that “has it all”.
It is quite easy for the average basketball fan to forget that JJ Redick was once more than just a sweet shooting role player. He is not overly flashy and has bounced around a few teams with relative obscurity, but what the guy can do is flat out shoot the rock. Whoever he has once played for, would remember that they had in their hands a deadly shooter who could really space a floor.
During his tenure at Duke, Redick actually led the Blue Devils in scoring, won a host of Player of the Year awards and is Duke’s all-time leading scorer, which led to Duke retiring his jersey.
Redick has plied his trade in the NBA ever since. A career 39% three point shooter with 43% accuracy on field goals and 88% for free throws? The stats do not do his stroke justice in the least.
For a great deal of time, Redick has played on subpar teams – but he has been able to adapt his game from college to the NBA game –unlike Adam Morrison who was Redick’s equal in college and is now non-existent– with relative ease. This season looms as his best yet as he teams up with one of the best point guards and distributors in the game – Chris Paul. Add the low post presence of Blake Griffin, and all signs point to Redick hitting a huge number of open looks.
Finally, we come to Kid Clutch – Kevin Durant.
If you watch KD in action, you are usually in awe, not by how many points he scores or how he scores them, but simply because shooting a basketball looks so natural and effortless for the wiry small forward. He already has a number of game winning baskets that earned him the Kid Clutch moniker, and he has a host of scoring titles. Having the wingspan of a jumbo jet and a textbook technique on his shot, add the fact he tirelessly works on his game (including the famous Dirk Nowitzki inspired one foot step back) and you can see why he is a great shooter. Repetition and repetition is his key, and he never stops.
Last season, Durant joined elite company when he posted extremely efficient shooting percentages across the board. His shooting line looked like this: 51% FG, 41% 3PT and 90% FT, which put him in with some of the game’s best shooters ever (Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki) in the “informal” 50-40-90 club. Durant studies tape upon tape, looking for anything that will give him an advantage and it has resulted in a much more polished game. One thing that hasn’t changed since he took the league by storm – his ability to shoot with precision.
Hard work, an efficient form with no wasted motion, countless hours of study, feedback and a little bit of help from genetics & role models – mix it together and you have yourself a great shooter. Malcolm Gladwell mentions in his book Outliers, that 10,000 hours of practice is an important key to success, and it certainly holds true here. Whether it be getting to the gym an hour early to get shots up, never taking a day off or studying those with great technique and trying to emulate it, shooting is not a skill you are born with, and simply retain with minimum effort. You need to develop it and continually work on it in order to have it count when it matters. Fine tuning all the aspects of the jump shot is imperative, and hard work what makes the difference between a good and a great shooter.
Sometimes – and you can ask Ray Allen this – it is the difference between an NBA championship and an off-season of heartache.
An old saying states, “practice makes perfect”. This was then updated to read, “perfect practice makes perfect”. What this means is that you need to really work at making something better, but you need to be doing it correctly in the first place. Focus on the small techniques and details, use each shot and gather feedback from how it felt and the result.
All in all though – work hard. Spend the extra time that others are sleeping to get that competitive advantage. When you feel like you have done enough – do more. If you want to be the best, you need to work harder than the best do – that is what makes great shooters.
ShootersRev believes in the same ethic of hard work, that extra hour of grit and grind to hone the craft, and they call it #The25thHour.
If you haven’t got access to a mum, dad, girlfriend, mate or coach who is willing to head to the courts with you and rebound your shots for hours and give you feedback, ShootersRev have the next best thing for you.
The team has developed a basketball called the EVO ONE, which contains embedded technology that acts as your shooting coach when you can’t afford one! Along with micro-sensor technology, a chip (the “coach”) is inserted into the basketball and tracks your shooting workout. It will provide downloadable information relevant to your shot technique that you will be able to use to ensure you are shooting correctly and correct any deficiencies in your stroke. Talk about exciting!
The Pick and Roll has partnered with ShootersRev to bring about an exciting giveaway contest to our Australian basketball fans. All you need to do, is to head over to The Pick and Roll’s Facebook page. Like the contest post, leave a comment with the best hoops tip you know. What is the best piece of basketball advice you have ever known?
Take a shot, leave a comment and you might stand to win a ShootersRev EVO ONE basketball and an exclusive ShootersRev shirt, along with wristbands!
Now, it is time for you to give us your list of the NBA’s deadliest marksmen. Am I on target or have I missed out? Let me know who YOU think are the game’s sharpest shooters!