As I blog today I sit here in awe of Stephen Curry’s 15 point outburst in 118 seconds last week to even the series verse Oklahoma City Thunder. He is hands down the most amazing shooter in the history of shooting. Period! End of discussion. He’s so great that the three, shot by a 6’3” skinny gym rat – is now THE most exciting play in the NBA, a league filled with the most talented, strong and freakish athletes the world has ever seen. It’s like watching David slay Goliath on a nightly basis. You never get tired of seeing the little man sling that rock and nail that target from a mile away (unless of course, you are Goliath, in which case, it gets really old, really fast).
All of the amazement Steph has generated has of course led to a ton of discussion and thought on the art of shooting among coaches, players and fans, and I’m right there with all of you. I am drawn like a moth to a flame to any article or video from a great source about the path that Steph has taken to his superhuman abilities. Some of my fellow coaches, who only had eyes for physical specimens, are now opening their eyes a bit wider when it comes to recruiting true knock down shooters (which are rare finds).
I have a fellow coach, Troy, that helps me out on the Jim Huber Show, Episode #19 Creating The Next Steph Curry. He is obsessed with the science of shooting, and he comes by it honestly, as he has a 6’2” skinny gym rat son, Nic Slavin, who the staff at Breakthrough Basketball have watched develop into an elite level shooter. I’ve had a front row seat watching this kid develop as a shooter from the 7th grade to now going into his senior year at Olathe South High School next year. As a junior, Nic led 6A Kansas in 3 point shooting with 67 makes in 21 games at 42.7 percent. He had 6 games this season with 5 or more made 3 point baskets. Along the way, Troy and I have had a five year running discussion of shooting during Nic’s development. Below are some of the important things that I have learned along the way.
10 TRAITS THAT GREAT SHOOTERS SHARE
- They shoot every day. Shooting is about repetition. There are no shortcuts to greatness when it comes to shooting. If you practice a couple of times a week, expect mediocre results. Practice daily? The odds of becoming “great” as a shooter rise dramatically.
- They have repeatable mechanics. Every shot has the same characteristics. Great shooters don’t go to the gym and shoot 500 shots. Great shooters go to the gym and shoot the same shot, 500 times. Some of the mechanics I emphasize in workouts involve finishing with the elbow above the eye (for proper arc), putting the index finger down through the rim, and “freezing the follow through” to give the ball a chance to go in the basket. Your feet should always be the same, shoulder width apart and slightly staggered. The shoulders should mirror the feet, if the feet are slightly staggered, the shoulders should match the feet.
- Great shooters believe every single shot is going down as they shoot it. They accept the fact that not every shot will go in, but they believe every shot is going in as they shoot it. You have to learn to expect and seek perfection, while understanding that perfection is impossible. There is a reason they call it “shooting” and not “making”. Same reason fishing is called fishing and not catching. Shooters miss, but they believe the next shot will be good.
- Great shooters immediately go to the next play when they miss a shot. They understand that they cannot control misses; they can only control their preparation before the ball arrives, and their mechanics (their body).
- Great shooters go to the gym with a plan. They put their phones away, and they get down to business when they get to the gym. They understand that focus is needed in their workouts. Just going and shooting won’t make you better. Going and shooting game shots, from game spots, at game speed is the way great shooters do their job.
- Great shooters make personal concessions to become great. If you are going to be great, you are going to be in the gym on an almost daily basis. That may mean missing some social activities with friends sometimes. Being a great shooter can be a lonely occupation sometimes. It takes time alone in the gym to make it look easy when the lights are on and the game is on the line.
- Great shooters have no fear of failure. They want the ball at the end of the game and accept the consequence of taking the big shot. They believe they will make that big shot, and they can live with it if they miss. If you cannot accept failure, you cannot become a great shooter.
- Great shooters have an eye for detail. As they warm up close to the basket with feather shots, form shooting, etc., they are their own shot doctor, making the little tweaks and corrections that lead to swishes. They know if their shot is a little flat, they need to finish a little higher for better arc. They know if they are missing to the left or right that they need to concentrate on putting their index finger down through the rim. They are meticulous in their preparation.
- Great shooters think “Shot” when they catch the ball. They do this for several reasons. If you are thinking “Shot” as you catch, you are immediately a threat and the defense must respond accordingly. If you catch and are truly ready to shoot, your defender must close out quickly with hands up. If they closeout late, the shot is gone. If they closeout well, they are vulnerable to the drive.
- Great shooters understand what a great shot is. Shaquille O’Neal was a great shooter because he understood what a great shot for him was (a Dunk). He made around 60 percent of his shots for his career because he only took shots he knew he could make. For a perimeter player, the formula is simple. If you can make 8 out of 10 unguarded shots in practice daily from a spot, you will make about 4 to 5 out of 10 from that spot in a game with a defender. If for instance you cannot make 8 of 10 consistently from 3 in practice, you really don’t have any business launching 3’s in a game setting.
You will find some other great insights about how to develop into a great shooter in this podcast Episode #19 Creating The Next Steph Curry.