“Square your feet and chest to the basket”, they say. “Keep the ball to the right of your eye, keep your elbow in, and your arm straight”, they say. If you ask, every coach and every basketball player will tell you that those things lead to proper shooting form.
But those things don’t lead to accurate shots.
None of the top shooters in the NBA shoot like that. Not Kobe
I’ve known this for the past year now, yet every single practice, when I head to gym after class to shoot, I tell myself to Keep the ball to the right of my eye, to keep my elbow in, my arm straight, and my feet and chest squared to the basket.
Why? Why did I stubbornly practice “good mechanics” even though there is no evidence that it makes my shot accurate?
Because I didn’t want to let go of that “ideal” form. I didn’t want to let go of my years of discipline, of telling myself “I know that was a swish, but the ball was covering your eye, that was a bad shot Lawrence”. I feel stupid for judging other people’s shot: “His shot is so ugly, there’s no way he’ll make it” – and they make it in my face. I was taught that these were good mechanics at such a young age and practiced with obsession over the details of my form that my perception of a good jump shot was completely skewed. I wanted so badly to be right.
Only now, a year later, did I decide to try this new form, and you know what? It works. It seems so ridiculous now. A year’s worth of wasted time and wasted dedication. I was so scared that people would think this shooting form was ugly, but nobody thinks it looks ugly. Nobody thinks Kyrie Irving’s shooting form is ugly besides me. It was all in my head.
How many other things in our lives do you think is affected by this phenomenon? My guess would be more than we’re aware of. Think about how ingrained your ideals are. Something is taught to you at an early age maybe by a teacher or parents, and they slowly continue affirming those ideas, or you find an instance or two of those teachings and as the years ago by, those ideas, for absolutely no reason other than that they were said and repeated, become truth to you. Even if there’s no examples of that truth in real life, like I said, I have not seen one successful shooter in the NBA shoot with their feet and chest squared to the basket, and their arms straight. Ray Allen comes close to shooting with this feet and chest squared (he turns slightly) but his elbow is bent outwardly.
I think we should quickly recognize this phenomena when it is taking place when it happens and stop blinding ourselves. But that’s easier said than done. How do we draw the line and know who to listen to? How do we know for sure what good form looks like? In the end its about what works for us, and what has worked for us in the past will probably work in the future. And to really be open minded: open minded enough to try a new movement, and open minded enough to stick to that movement if it works.
I remember when I first wanted to get good at basketball. Like anyone of course, I Youtubed Kobe Bryant moves and tried to learn them. I remember thinking that his advice was generic and inapplicable. His advice, however, is actually really good advice, it was just that it was inapplicable for me. That’s how many people view strategy; their inability to value it isn't because the strategy itself is bad (although sometimes it is) but because they don’t have the referential compression to understand it and see how they would apply it. With those Kobe videos, I was still new to basketball, I could barely shoot the ball let alone do a post up—fadeaway jumper...
This perception of generic advice was very similar to my early days of attending business conferences. At the end of the conference I would ask my fellow friend/audience member what he thought of the keynote and they would say something like, “Wow, it was so good. Thinking of retargeting pixels as a form of long term branding, that’s going to be amazing for my business”, and I would be thinking What? why can’t he tell me something that I can actually do today.
Only after I got better at basketball and learned fundamental movements, could I appreciate Kobe’s strategic choice of moves. Since I now know how to do a spin or finish with a reverse layup, I can string them together. I can appreciate the strategy behind that combo: your defender thinks you’re going to drive hard baseline, so instead you spin back into the paint, since you’re in the paint the big will come in to block your shot so you reverse layup using the rim as protection.
And as for my understanding of business, back then I didn’t even know what retargeting pixels were, and I still don’t really know what they are. But I’ve practiced running Google ads and Facebook ads, and I know how to use the Divi theme for Wordpress, and I’m decent at writing copy so basically I just write three ads and copy and paste the script that Google gives me near my contact form. Quick note: I haven’t actually done that yet, and I intend to implement it soon.
And the result, well, it’s not perfect, and will take refining, but the point is I can scrap something together, and when I can do that I can appreciate simplistic advice that sounds heady and do higher level work.
Flames erupted through my lower body, shooting from my calf to halfway up my back.
I'd been training pretty hard lately to get back into shape - every day at least 15 minutes of exercise, closer to an hour most days. I'd mix up the form, a little walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or training with weights. Now I was having a masseuse in Hong Kong break up the lactic acid and knots in my muscles, and I cried out when she dug her elbow into my already tender thigh.
Focus. Focus. I read a lot of history, and greatly admire the warriors that wouldn't cry out even when wounded or being interrogated. I was just reading a story a samurai who faced torture for a day straight without crying out once.
I try to go into my head, separate the pain from myself. Like I'm sitting on top of a cliff and watching pain battle my body down in a valley below. I do roughly the same thing towards the end of a workout when things start to hurt - I don't try to tune it out. I observe it. I try to enjoy it - time is slowing down and becoming harder? That's good, it means I get to experience more time. And the hurt is proof I'm alive.
I do the same if I'm ever feeling sad - I try to reflect and appreciate the sadness. It's an emotion, it's something natural to be felt, and can be enjoyed like a bitter type of food or an acidic glass of wine. It burns a little, but acknowledging transforms it in a way. Instead of something to be fought, it can be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated for what it is.