The Trouble With Copying Steph

“But Steph does it and he’s a great shooter.”

That’s usually what I hear from young players when I suggest a fundamental that they don’t want to hear.

“Try to get your feet wider apart so that you have better balance,” I’ll say.

“But Steph has narrow feet when he shoots and he’s a great shooter.”

Unfortunately, these people don’t know what they don’t know. There is a lot of information out there that they don’t have access to. They don’t even know it exists, but they think they know everything. It’s tough to argue with these people, but I’ll try to explain.

Steph can make 42% of three point shots in games. That’s really good when you compare to everyone else in games, since the average is 36%. He is running all over the court, being chased by the greatest athletes in the world, shooting through windows of opportunity that the rest of us wouldn’t even see, let alone shoot through, let alone make the shot. These great defenders take away any time that he has to set up, so his set up isn’t as good as he’d like it to be.

In games, he leans and rotates, finishes on one foot, and still somehow makes 42% of his shots. When he shoots open shots in games, he doesn’t lean as much, rotate as much, finishes on two feet, and makes 60%. In practice, where he gets to do exactly what he wants, I bet he makes 80% of his threes. Meaning, he is a better shooter from 24 feet away than most of us are from 15 feet away.

I say this as a joke, but it’s a tremendous compliment. I’m starting to wonder if Steph is actually a human being. I’m not sure if he’s another species, or a robot, but I’m pretty sure he is very different from most of us. He is very gifted, whatever he is. This is unrelated, but in addition to being the best shooter in the world, he’s also a scratch golfer. The amount of attention to detail, practice, and discipline required to be either one of these things is unfathomable (without fathom!), let alone to be both of them.

If Steph makes 80% of his threes because he has time, is balanced, and eliminates all variables, but only makes 42% when the game creates variables he isn’t in control of, shouldn’t we also be trying to eliminate all variables? A young player would be crazy to copy those spinning, fading, unbalanced habits in their practice. What younger players need to understand is that you can’t watch the habits of someone performing at their worst, build those habits as YOUR best, and expect it to work out. Copy him at his best, not at his worst. Eliminate variables in your habits, don’t add to them.

A similar idea is players preparing habits that will only work in the best case scenarios and hoping that maybe the habits will still work in the worst case scenario. For example, they build habits of average balance because they can get away with it when they are shooting in an empty gym. There aren’t the variables present that would cause them to need good balance.

Then all of a sudden, they are playing in a game, sprinting full speed, pivoting hard, being leaned on by their defender, and what then? Their habits haven’t prepared them to be successful in that situation.

If they had flipped the equation and prepared for the worst case scenario, always having great balance, they would be in better position to make that tough shot. In the situations where they didn’t need the balance? Well, too much balance is never a bad thing.

Try watching Steph shoot off the dribble. Specifically watch his feet. His base is not as wide as I’d like it, but while he is setting up his defender with the dribble, his feet are always getting ready to shoot. Whether he is coming off a screen or pulling up after a crossover, he gets his feet balanced and under his shoulders. Steph is a special player and his balance is a huge reason why.

So, don’t put in the minimum amount of work and expect great results. Don’t prepare for the easiest situation and expect it to work in the most difficult. Don’t mimic someone at their worst and hope it leads you to being your best. If you’re going to mimic someone, make sure you pick the right foundational skill and not something that makes your job more difficult than it already is.

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