Almost every team in the NBA has a fan base that holds out hope for the shooting progress of at least one player on the roster. The name "Jason Kidd" will be uttered longingly as the model for each player to improve their accuracy from downtown. It's a best-case scenario, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will. It's what we all glom onto because one of the most talented players in NBA history managed to improve a skill. As we kill time on this Friday, let's see where the idea of improved shooting can take us and find hope for all of the subpar NBA shooters out there.
Let's journey down the rabbit hole:
First Stop: A shooting coach that is a machine
As a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, I hold out hope for and look to find basketball refuge in the idea of Ricky Rubio taking the Jason Kidd route and eventually becoming a solid, maybe even a deadly shooter from downtown. As I get deeper into his career, I'm not sure how much I actually believe that will happen. Despite the numerous similarities in their games at early points in their careers, Kidd is one of the best point guards we've ever seen and was an absolute force. Rubio is good but he's not Kidd good.
Regardless of the hope he'll turn it around, the idea of improving your shot as an NBA player is an interesting process. There are shooting coaches out there who make a lot of money trying to fix or maintain someone's jump shot form. One very interesting case is Alan Marty, who invented a machine to analyze jumpers in an attempt to build much-needed arc on someone's shot. Jordan Schultz wrote about it back in 2012 for the Huffington Post:
"Name one player with a flat shot that ever fixed it. It just doesn't happen," Marty told The Huffington Post. "You can sit there for a while and maybe fix it for 10 minutes in one practice, but when they're in the game, they always go back to their old shot. The idea was to fundamentally change how people learn so that they can actually get better at ball control."
After months of research, Marty and a small team developed the Noah Shooting Machine. Its tag line reads: "Building the perfect arc." By snapping high-speed digital photographs, the device tracks the trajectory of each shot. The ideal score is a "45," for a 45-degree angle. Marty's data convinced him that this was the optimal arc of any shot.
According to Marty, Northern California was quickly buzzing about his shooting machine. Soon, then-general manager Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors -- considered one of the premier shooters of his generation -- purchased one for his club, as did the Dallas Mavericks.
"It's not magic," Marty says with the zeal of a salesman. "It goes back 12 years to fundamental neuroscience stuff that we did with Stanford. If you don't get the real-time feedback within a half a second for fine motor skills, it's essentially worthless."
The machine is incredibly interesting because of the real time feedback. There are shooting coaches out there like Bob Tate, who worked with Jason Kidd to fix his jumper and now works with Blake Griffin among other players, who believe a 55-degree arc is the optimal shooting path for players. Regardless of what number we end up agreeing on, if that's even possible, finding a comfort to shooting mechanics and having confidence will greatly improve your shot.
Having a goal of consistently hitting that 45-degree target and believing that kind of an arc will fix your shooting motion might be the mental trick some players need in fixing their jumpers. As Schultz mentioned in the article, Chris Mullin purchased one for the Golden State Warriors when he was the general manager there. He certainly didn't need to fix his jumper at any time, as you're about to be reminded.
Chris Mullin was the ultimate gym rat, as they say
Mullin wasn't a good athlete, so for someone who was playing the wing in the NBA at 6'6" and 200 lbs., that meant he had to be creative and crafty with how he played the game. He understood positioning with his body and the spin you'd put on the ball in order to find any advantage you can. When Mullin was on the court, there was a rhythm to everything he did. You'd see him almost hopping as he'd dribble before putting up a jumper. He'd go off the wrong foot all the time because it threw off the timing of defenders and he had total control of the ball and his shooting motion.
He was just one of those guys you couldn't let find his rhythm in a game because if he did, you were toast. Mullin was always a player that you felt defeated as soon as he was launching an open shot.
(By the way, I always love a good YouTube mix that has three different songs in a four-minute clip. You just can't decide which one you want so you throw all of them in there!)
There's a really cool video of Chris Mullin talking about his first gym and the one he trained at as a kid. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, but it all has to start for these guys somewhere. For Mullin, it started in the St. Thomas Aquinas Auditorium.
"True character is what you do when nobody is watching."
That's a great philosophy for the people working on their games to get better.
Mullin was a two-time Olympian, playing in 1984 and 1992. Both times he won the gold medal with Team USA. Nike had a cartoon version of Mullin in a commercial back during the 1992 Olympics, promoting the Nike athletes on the Dream Team. He joined Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, David Robinson, and Charles Barkley in artistic form:
He was a star at St. John's in the 80's. In 1985, Mullin faced off against Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas in the NCAA tournament. Mullin was shut down by the Hoyas defense, but you can still see footage of the game which includes Bill Wennington going against Ewing.
While Mullin struggled in that game, he didn't struggle much after that collegiate loss. He was one of the best shot-makers of the past 30 years, having a five-year stretch of averaging at least 25.1 points, 3.5 assists, and 5.0 rebounds. He never played in an era or system that was heavy on 3-point shooting, so he amazingly never made more than 107 3-pointers in a season. That was the only time he cracked triple digits, despite being a career 38.4 percent outside shooter.
And with Mullin, the shot-making ability never left him:
That's just insane.
Can't think of Mullin without thinking of RUN TMC
Back in the late 80's and early 90's, we had an incredibly entertaining trio of Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway. The Golden State Warriors used this trio to bring excitement to the Bay Area and had the fans chanting for pizza because of a promotion that involved the high-scoring affairs of this team. Don Nelson empowered them with the responsibility of being a high-scoring option.
Through Tim Hardaway rules about when he's allowed to attack to the overall play of Mitch Richmond to Mullin leaking out ahead of everybody, this trio was one of the best shows basketball has ever seen. You won't spend a better 22 minutes today than this video. Even if your boss catches you, invite them into the office/cubicle and watch it together. This is a team-building exercise.
They weren't as successful as they should have been, but utter the name RUN TMC to any basketball junkie and watch their eyes light up with the excitement of getting to talk about them. They left a lasting impression on the game of basketball, which is not an easy thing to do.
Tim Hardaway and that crossover
As great as RUN TMC was, the star of it was definitely the crossover and the trash talk of Tim Hardaway. He had the original Killer Crossover, one of the most compact and deadly villains before Mini Me. It was all about body control and balance. If you leaned to take away the initial dribble, he'd shift his weight and make you look like you were wearing cement Nikes. If you protected against the crossover move, he'd simply hit you with the first move and blow right past you.
It was almost unfair how quick and balanced he was when he made the move. You could never be on your heels, and if you were, you might as well just start heading back on defense. Tim Hardaway Sr. was one of the top showmen we've ever seen.
You just can't get enough of watching him turn ankles into dust. There are some pretty good mixes of his career out there but they include music I can't really post in here. You can watch this one or you can watch this one. Or watch the tribute the Warriors made for Hardaway:
If you're an employee of the Golden State Warriors, how do you not just go lose yourself and days in the film room, watching all of the old footage of Tim Hardaway that you can and pretend it's a work project? This is all I would ever do. In related news, I do not work for the Warriors.
Hardaway was such a great personality that he was cast into a couple commercials as well, including this one that might be the most 90's presentation you can find in an ad:
Why is that court attacking my retinas? Could you have even had this commercial in the days of HD television or would your TV have thrown itself off the roof?
"Attention, class! Say hello to professor Hardaway!"
That commercial was back when "skills" was one of the most popular words to use as a self-promoting adjective-noun hybrid of sorts. It was also often spelled with a Z at the end for some reason. There wasn't a lot of logic to the 90's but it was what we had to work with back then. Kind of like this time he made an extremely weird PSA with Spike Lee about recycling whilst promoting Nike: