Written by Ethan Feldman
Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
“Ten-toes to the rim! Square your shoulders! Don’t bring the ball down! Keep it high, Straight Up, Straight Down! Release it at the top of your jump!” are a few of the erroneous mantras repeated ad nauseum by ill-informed youth basketball coaches around the world.
Additionally, one common instruction that cannot be condensed into a pithy aphorism is the technique of two-motion as opposed to one-motion shooting. Traditionally, the two-motion shot has been taught to players while the one-motion shot has been delegitimized (but we’ll get to this later).
As a result, many young hoopers experience periods of cognitive dissonance wherein they follow the directions set forth by their coaches, while simultaneously witnessing exceptional high school, college and NBA players disobeying all the tenets of traditional basketball wisdom.
So why is this the case? Why do basketball coaches perpetuate antiquated techniques that have been proven time and again to be ineffective? There is no legitimate reason for this other than the fact that there is a vestigial belief that the aforementioned instructions somehow lead to more successful shooting.
MYTH #1: Ten Toes To The Rim!
In theory, pointing one’s toes to the rim sounds like a good idea that would be conducive to accurate shooting, but in three-dimensional reality, on the court, it is not an effective tactic.
For example, if a player is a right-handed shooter and is directly square to the basket, the ball will be on the player’s right side and not directly aligned with the hoop. However, if a right-handed player compensates by angling his or her feet to the left, the ball is now in the middle of the player’s body which will most likely lead to a more accurate shot.
Of the top 10 NBA players in three-point field goals made per game, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are the only ones who do not definitively shoot while angled to the side (even though they aren’t precisely straight either).
MYTH #2: Don’t Bring The Ball Down
“Don’t bring the ball down” wins the trophy for most asinine instruction that a basketball coach can deliver. Every player in the top ten in 3-point field goals made during the 2016-2017 season dips the ball before they shoot. Klay Thompson is the only player in the NBA that I was able to locate footage of not bringing the ball down on occasion.
This being said, Klay employs this technique sparingly and tends to shoot this way after he has gotten “hot”. Yes, you can point to a couple of big men like Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge who don’t bring the ball down every time they shoot, but in general, there are very few players who do this and there are certainly no guards that do not dip the ball.
MYTH #3: Straight Up Straight Down! Land Where You Started!
The concept of landing where you began your jump shot viscerally seems to make sense; however, many of the NBA’s best shooters do no such thing.
Most notably, Stephen Curry, the best shooter of all time, has the most mercurial landings in the NBA. Depending on the situation, Curry will land with his feet close together, feet apart or one in front of the other.
James Harden and Eric Gordon are the only players ranking in the top ten in three-point field goals this year who keep their feet in generally the same location in which they began their respective shots–and this is the case for stationary shots only. When movement comes into play, i.e a shooter coming off of a curl or a pin-down, there is almost indubitably a turn and a player’s feet land forty-five degrees away from the basket.
MYTH #4: Two-Motion Shot
While it is true that there is no correct way to shoot, many coaches teach the two-motion shot to boys as they are growing up. Conversely, if I were to offer a young player a tutorial, I would advise them to develop a one-motion shot as opposed to a two-motion shot. As a point of reference, here are players that have two-motion shots:
These players were greats no doubt, but I believe that youth basketball players should not replicate their form. Generally, a two-motion shot is an effective method for shooting shots from ten to twenty feet from the basket. Guys like Shaun Livingston, DeMar Derozan and Evan Turner thrive in the mid-range, but struggle as they near the three-point line.
I believe that they struggle from distance because the two-motion shot requires high and pronounced elevation that expends a lot of energy. When a player reaches the apex of a high jump, they are left with only the strength of their arms to shoot the basketball.
On the other hand, one-motion shooters like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Paul George do not deal with this problem. You have probably heard these player’s names come up when “smooth” or “effortless” jump shots are the topic of discussion; this is because they shoot with one-motion shots (and also because they dip the ball, and are turned sideways when they shoot).
One-motion shooting is the future of the NBA. One-motion shooters tend to have quicker releases than two-motion shooters, and they actually utilize power from their lower body to shoot the ball from long distances.
I believe this is the reason why Curry made by far the most three-pointers this season, and Harden and Thompson were both in the top four for three- pointers made. Additionally, George boasted the most three-pointers for a small forward this season, and was second for both small forwards and power forwards, trailing only Anderson.
The one-motion shooter can get his or her shot from deeper without having to expend a lot of energy. Also, this is the reason why Curry, George, Harden and Lillard are exceptional at shooting off of the dribble from long distances. With one motion shooting, a player can turn a dribble into a shot in one concise, fluid motion in the blink of an eye.
Throughout its history, the WNBA has received tons of criticism for its relatively un-athletic style of play compared to the NBA. Men are generally stronger and more explosive than women, so obviously the WNBA features a much slower and less high-flying brand of basketball.
Within the basketball community, women have long been derided for their technique in shooting jump shots.
Traditionally, women push the ball with a one-motion shot because they typically don’t have the strength to shoot a two-motion shot over their head. While it is true that some female players push the ball in such a way that would place a male player in a precarious situation and liable to get blocked, male players would be well-served to study players like Dianna Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne, to name a few. Both Taurasi and Delle Donne exhibit an angled base to their shots, a quick dip and a smooth one-motion push.
If male players, for the most part naturally stronger and more explosive than their female counterparts, would adopt this fluid one-motion push style that many WNBA players wield, it would open the floodgates for NBA players to shoot effortlessly and accurately from thirty plus feet…Oh wait, we do know of one…that’s Stephen Curry.