Why I’m Starting This Blog III: “Basketball Training is Too Homogenuous”

July 16, 2015 § 1 Comment

I’ve dug through mountains of YouTube videos, websites, and books about basketball training. An underlying problem I’ve discovered is most resources either only cover basic fundamentals, or cover team strategy.

I believe that after a certain point of learning from these online materials, you hit a barrier. After the first few times, reading “follow through on your free throw,” or “work on dribbling with both hands” just don’t help anymore. You want next-level training, you want to learn the small things.

You get exasperated when a video tells you the crossover is leaning one way and then dribbling to another hand. That’s a “crossover,” yes, but that’s not an effective, dominant, or nasty crossover.

So to be clear, the first part of what I mean by basketball training is too homogeneous is most material on the web covers only basics.

The second part: I believe basketball coaching tends to be ingrained in outdated beliefs. This arises largely because the basketball world is, interestingly, hierarchical. It starts on recess courts, where ten year old boys naturally enforce a hierarchy amongst themselves, with the best players being chosen as captains, and decent players getting picked subsequently. The worst, less athletic boys (and girls) face humiliation and rejection, resulting in some harboring lifelong aversions to the sport and the hierarchy it stands for. A few of these kids, I suppose, become spearheads and voices of equality movements in their adult lives, but that’s a story for another day, and another blog.

The rigid hierarchy of the sport carries on. At the top of the hierarchy are the Michael Jordan’s and Phil Jackson’s of the world, whose words trickle down to the ranks of high school coaches, who pass down their philosophies to their best players and future coaches. The lessons of the best become gospel handed down from generation to generation.

As great as the founding fathers of basketball were, we are only now learning that innovation and openness is the best path towards excellence — in any field. Take, for example — from Bill Russell’s Celtics of the 60’s, to Magic and Kareem’s Lakers of the 80’s, to Jordan and Pippen’s Bulls in the 90’s, to Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers of the 2000’s, for as long as basketball fans have existed, the greatest NBA teams have centered around one to two “superstars.”

Yet, European coaches who were never exposed to the rigid American basketball “core philosophies” developed a basketball paradigm that focused on passing and ball movement, as opposed to focusing on the stars. In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs adapted this style, and became legendary for their ‘beautiful basketball’ as they defeated the ultimate team of stars (the 2014 Heat, with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh).

Analytics are also shifting paradigms in the basketball world. No longer is basketball “a big man’s game,” despite what great coaches like Phil Jackson will tell you. Analytics have unearthed the value of the 3-pointer and teams across the NBA have been forced to adapt in order to win.

The basketball hierarchy is showing cracks, and this is a good thing for the sport. But we need to continue to embrace the openness of ideas in basketball — after all, for a game so dependent on natural athletic ability, it makes little sense to merely assume the best player is also the one with the most basketball knowledge. Let’s embrace the ideas of all basketball players on this blog, and we’ll publish the ones that are the best — old or new, common or rare, revolutionary or not.

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