A Story of a Shooter: The 10 Ways Our Shot Evolves

August 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

The following post is a romanticized, hypothetical story of a young shooter’s journey. I hope it conjures memories of all the dog days and high points of your own shooting journey. 

Basketball Journey

Think way back to when you first shot a basketball. You are ten years old. Shooting seems simple. Basketball is fun. If you can make a few shots, you must be good at basketball.

Ignorance is bliss. After you make your first few shots, Papa Zhu, says, “Now, son, let’s try a free throw.”

You step back to the free throw line. Air ball. Damn, son. You exert more effort, jumping off the ground. CLANK.

Papa Zhu shows you. “Son, you have to relax. Bend your knees, and follow through on your release.”

You do it as he says. Air Ball. In frustration, you tell yourself excuses. You say, I followed his directions perfectly, but I still missed, it must be because I was born weak. Born with inferior health. Not born to be a basketball player.

Papa Zhu has none of it. No dinner til you make three in a row. CLANK. CLANK. SWISH…

—–

“Wanna run?”

You turn around. It’s this tall, lanky, older kid who goes by “Filthy Frank.” You are thirteen. School just got out and you’ve been squaring off with your little brother Michael on a dusty court at the park. You’ve been having a good day shooting, even knocking down some threes. Basketball is fun.

Ignorance is bliss. You smile and say to Filthy Frank, “Okay.”

The game commences. Filthy Frank hounds you. You dribble past him but have the ball poked from behind. He scores.

Next possession. Michael gets you the ball. Filthy Frank is again all over you. You throw up a shot, but it’s slapped away. You push Filthy Frank. “Man, you play dirty!”

“It’s called fucking defense man. Grow up.”

You get the ball again. Filthy Frank is smothering you, screaming all sort of profanities. He calls you a “fucking joke.” A carcass. A soft “piece of shit.” He even cracks a joke about your mom’s weight.

You shoot, air ball. Square one. You lose it. You walk away.

Filthy Frank smirks, “Nice defense, man.” He takes your ball home with him. You don’t say shit, because what can you say?

“Michael, let’s train.”

Filthy Frank

—–

You are sixteen years old. You slip the ball between your legs and pull up for a three. BAM.

You have learned the art of a pull-up shot. You can shoot the ball off the dribble with ease. You pump-fake, your opponent jumps, and you pound the rock once to your right, and rise up for a shot. SWISH.

Coach Marshall nods in approval. An hour later, Coach Marshall begins to read, “Filthy Frank, Euthanizer Dave, Ed of Eden…”

After a final pause, he gives you a nod. You’ve made it. Varsity Basketball.

—–

The game is blur. It’s whizzing past your eyes. “C’mon son, what the fuck are you doing!” Filthy Frank gives an expression of disgust. His lip is rolled like an ocean wave. You hate the ocean.

“Coach, I just wanted –”

“Man, don’t talk back to me! Give me a suicide!”

You run. You focus on the glutes, gliding across the court. You finish.

“Five free throws!”

So it is. You make all five. You look at Coach Marshall.

“Son, I’ll tell you this: I don’t know who taught you, you can shoot lights out. But let’s get one thing straight: this is Varsity Basketball. Shooting straight ain’t enough. You gotta be fast, you gotta create that little extra space.”

After practice, Coach Marshall pulls you and Filthy Frank aside. “Frank, work with this kid on popping his release on a few catch-and-shoots. Also, teach him that step-back of yours…”

—–

Basketball Journey 3

Papa Zhu gives you a hug. “Son, I’m so proud. Are you sure you want to do this? These feels…”

You nod, you’re sure. You visited, and you felt at home. They thought you could be a star shooter for them.

You get Facebook messages from folks all over. Even Filthy Frank forwards you a message.

“Waddup Sniper!

Congrats big dawg, doing what u do. i would say i knew you had it in you fomr the start lmao.. but u kno, really, i’m proud of u man.

keep doing ur thang and get bitches, my homie. don’t get caught up in senioritis!! i’ll be watching u next year.

Filthy Frank”

You smile. Filthy Frank, what a guy. Life can be unpredictable, huh? He’s now studying astronomy in college.

—–

“MOVE, MOVE MOVE! Sniper, this isn’t high school anymore. You’re not going to be open just standing there. And stop with those crazy turn around jump shots! At this level, even the average guy can block you unless you move yourself open. Take pride in being relentless. Your hear me, son?”

It’s been days of running, but somehow, it’s not enough. You burp, but the burp dreams of being something more. Your lunch splashes onto the hardwood.

Damn it. You wipe your mouth on your jersey. Salt in your mouth. You continue on, because you’re a tough motherfucker, a GI Joe.

“Look Sniper, and I don’t know if I should keep calling you that, cause you gotta earn it. Use the screens. Change your speed and direction. Make cuts to the basket. That’s how you get open.”

You nod. It’s going to be a long four years.

—–

You sit in an empty gym. The lights are off. You close your eyes, and give the ball a dribble. THUD. You feel its pebbles once again caress your fingers.

You wipe off your sweat and stand up. You throw the ball in front of you, and then, with lightning speed, perform a shamwow. You shoes squeak across the floor.

You shoot a shot. SPLASH. Nothing like the sound of the ocean.

Now you shoot a few free throws. SWISH, SWISH, SWISH.

CLANK. 

The ball bounces off the rim, and hits the ground with a thud. It slowly rolls away, until it hits the wall and stops. Silence.

This is your second home. You feel comfortable. The sights and sounds feel natural to you. You are respected; your abilities are validated by the scores of people who wear your name on your back. You’ve come a long way, and you’re a pretty damn good basketball player.

Ball is life. Ignorance is bliss.

A still from the Showtime documentary Kobe Bryant's Muse. - Photo: Kobe Bryant's MUSE/Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID: KOBEMUSE_gr_002.R

TLDR:

  1. Close stationary shots
  2. Free Throws
  3. Mid-range jumpers
  4. Three-pointers
  5. Pull up Jumper
  6. Stepback
  7. Catch and Shoot
  8. Fadeaways and Turn-around Shots
  9. Moving Without the Ball
  10. Meta

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