Remember the old school Gatorade commercials about MJ, where kids sang “I wanna be like Mike!”. Maybe not, but the same mindset still remains true where young basketball players are trying to emulate stars like Lebron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden without gaining the fundamentals first. They want to do fade-away Jumpshots, step-back threes, floaters, 360 layups and high flying dunks, but can’t perform a proper triple threat. The younger generation always seems to gravitate towards the flashy moves and highlight plays, without understanding the hours of work on the foundation is what allowed them to perform these advanced moves. If James Harden could not finish a lay-up in traffic, he would be able to do a Euro-step between two people? If Lebron couldn’t make a perfect chest pass, he could make a no-look bounce pass across the court? I don’t think so. Here are a few core basketball fundamentals that you need to perfect in order to be the next NBA star.
The triple-threat may be one of the most underrated lethal scoring weapons in basketball. Ask Kobe Bryant, arguably the best scoring guard of all-time what he thinks of the triple-threat. Actually you don’t even have to ask him, go to YouTube and check out some of his highlights and tell me how many times he made a defender off balance without even taking a dribble. You know who also loved the triple-threat? The greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan. I feel like we starting to see a pattern here, great scorers have a great triple-threat game.
For those of who are unware, the triple threat is the offensive stance you are in when you have the ball before taking a dribble. It is called the triple-threat because you can shoot, pass and dribble from it making you the ultimate threat to the defense. I know what you’re thinking, if it is the ultimate threat then how come everyone doesn’t use it? Well the answer is the best are, you just aren’t catching it. Players like Demar Deroan, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry are all masters at making you off balance without having to dribble. The problem is, it doesn’t get the same coverage because it is subtle and boring to eye. As a player having great footwork is essential to your skill set as a scorer. Without it, you are limited and the defense will know it.
Watching the NBA or college basketball is similar to watching a dance, in the sense of how acrobatic these athletes are. They elevate and contort their bodies in a way that seems impossible to the average person. Younger players try to do the same and often end up failing miserably because they never had balance. Balance is what stabilizes the body to be able to do amazing things and still have a center of gravity. This is why men who are 6’7 220 pounds can wiggle through a small gap, finish a play while being fouled and still remain on their feet while the average person can fall walking down the street.
Before attempting to do the advanced tricks and fly through the air to avoid defenders, find your balance. Make those types of plays when necessary, but consistently remain in control. The players who have the ability to do those things are the ones who are also able to make the right play on the ground in a fundamental way. Every play doesn’t have to be a highlight, if it did you would be attempting to make the Harlem Globetrotters not the NBA.
Some guards have all the ball handling skills in the world, they can weave in and out of the defense at will, but where did that get you? If the move does not lead to a basket for yourself or a teammate, then what did you do it for? Coaches are becoming fed up with the players who make unnecessary moves that look good but don’t do anything for the team. I am not saying to limit your creativity; I am saying to make it effective. Be decisive with your movements and then execute it.
If you want to make a no-look pass, don’t take 10 dribbles before getting it there, take a dribble and make the pass. Wasting time, energy and movement is only going to land you on the bench at the next level. The best players in the world are extremely decisive with every movement which is why they are so efficient. It doesn’t take Chris Paul 5 moves to beat his defender, he may want to make one or two but then he is gone. Limit the dribbles, make the play and then come back and do it again over and over and over.
The fundamentals are overlooked for lack of excitement, but there is a reason why all great coaches and great players preach about them so much. They are vital to your improvement as a player, without them you are limited and at some point this ceiling will catch up to you. Develop the fundamentals and the sky is the limit.