Over the weekend I watched several interesting videos on Youtube by a channel called Pro Shot Shooting System. In it, coaches debunk some of the common myths about shooting. These myths are the general cannons of jump shooting that most coaches teach their players as kids, which leads to bad habits as adult players. The first myth is that one should square one’s body to the basket, shooting the ball straight on. On the contrary, if you turn your hips slightly to face 10pm (if you’re a righty), your hip and shoulder naturally align straight towards the basket, making a much more accurate shot. The second myth is that one should never dip the ball upon catching it, instead catching it at chest level and starting the shot from there. But on close analysis, all of the great three shooters in the NBA dip the ball to their hips, also known as the “shooter’s pocket,” which is roughly where the pocket of one’s pants would be. This dipping motion enables you to align your shot better, and conserves the momentum built by catching the pass.
The final myth, which I consider the most important, is that one should never shoot straight up-and-down. Instead, the coaches at the Pro Shot Shooting System advise their players to hop forward slightly, landing on their toes after the shot. The resulting swing in the shooter’s legs pushes the shoulders back, tilting the angle of the shot higher, which increases the area of the possible routes into the net, which means more buckets. In addition, the swinging motion loosens the shoulders, making for a much more comfortable shot.
How common are these trends in the NBA? Well for starters, the techniques came directly from game footage of NBA players in games. Expert marksman Stephen Curry, who broke the single-season 3-point shooting record this year at over 272 made shots, visibly uses all three techniques: he dips the ball off the catch, his hips are turned to the side, and he swings his legs forward and his shoulders back on every shot. Nothing but net. The old record holder, Ray Allen, uses all three techniques. So does three time scoring champion Kevin Durant. Guess what? So does Kobe Bryant, the fourth leading scorer in NBA history. Michael Jordan, the greatest ever in the eyes of many sports fans, also did all three.
But in order to really evaluate if this works, you need to try it for yourself, so naturally I grabbed a ball and hit the gym. The results were almost absurd. Shooting the ball using these techniques, especially the leg/shoulder-sway, I felt much more relaxed and felt like shooting from long range was comparatively effortless. I played a one-on-one game against a kid roughly my age, beating him mostly with long-range jump shots. When the kid’s dad/coach came over to help him learn better shooting, he taught him the standard incorrect techniques. I instructed the kid on what I learned and he instantly started to shoot his free throws much more accurately. As the father/coach debated the techniques with me for about a half-hour, the two of us shot. I felt like I barely paid attention to my shots during the discussion, but I seemed to make about two thirds of my three pointers. The coach said that those techniques are methods that only great players use and one should try to emulate more realistic players. I simply replied that it would be wiser to learn from the great players than the mediocre.
So what does this have to do with the NBA season? Well, when you end up watching your favorite team tank because of poor shooting, you can now feel smart. Clippers fans can watch Blake Griffin miss shots he should make and marvel at his horrendous technique and lament the championship that could have been. You can watch the games with your little siblings and teach them the right way to shoot, so they never miss the game winning shot. Is this really that big of a factor in scoring? Maybe not, but it certainly is for the NBA’s greats. Just look up your favorite scorer on Youtube; how many of these techniques do they use? More importantly, how many of them should they be using…