The Unintentional Fade-Away

First off, I have nothing against fade-aways. If you can shoot them at a high percentage (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant), then I’m good with them.

But I will always choose a balanced shot over a fade-away from the same shooter. The fact of the matter is, when you fade-away you are creating negative energy in your shot that needs to be compensated for. You are leaning, drifting and falling back, but the rim is in front of you. So your brain needs to make a quick, difficult calculation of how much extra power it needs to give to the ball to compensate for the energy going away from the rim. Now, the brain is pretty amazing, so it can do a pretty job of this calculation, but unfortunately, it is going to make more mistakes than if it didn’t have to. I’m over-simplifying to make a point, but understand that shot with limited side-to-side, forward-back, or rotational energy will always be made at a lower rate than stationary.

So our goal should be to make our shots as stationary AS POSSIBLE. Will we be able to do this perfectly each time? Of course not, but your habits should be to lower the degree of difficulty on each shot as much as possible. This will help you make more of them, and isn’t that the point? After all, we don’t get “degree of difficulty points” in basketball. A wide open layup is worth the same as a long, contested, step-back fall-away.

One habit that I see from young players and NBA players alike is losing control of their hips and shoulders during their shooting motion. These are the players that seem to be leaning back on every shot (you’ll see it most of free throws, where you shouldn’t ever need to learn back). (See picture to the right)

I find that this habit of pushing the hips forward and leaning the shoulders back starts with the feet. In an ideal world, a player would have their weight towards the front of their foot, will counter-balance this with pushing their hips back, and counter-balance that with having their shoulders forward. This is what we know as a typical athletic stance. Players that make the mistake of leaning back start with more weight on their heels (probably not all the weight, but more than they should have), counter-balance that by pushing their hips forward, and counter-balance that by leaning their shoulders back. The equation is flipped from where it should be and the player is leaning back away from the rim.

So check the weight of the feet. We don’t need to have weight exclusively on the toes, but it should be towards the front half of the foot.

Also be aware of the post-shot portion of drills, as many times this contributes to this habit. If players are shooting on a shooting machine, or in small groups where they have to line up, the player is finishing their shot and already preparing for the next ball or getting back in line by stepping backwards. We need to remind and encourage players to finish each shot fully on balance, and then reset. And if they are going to make a mistake of any kind, we hope that players will lose their balance toward the rim. At least that energy is going the direction we want the ball going.


  1. Phil Austen

    Spot on Dave. The concept of negative energy and compensation is difficult to grasp for most players until one shows them through a video (slo mo) of their shot. The comment I get always is ” Oh I did not know I was doing that”.
    Love your “degree of difficulty points ” (NOT) analogy. I have a grandson who insists he is Lebron James or can do what he does…. I will try this on him and see if it can sink in more than my insistence he does the simple (shots) well.

    • Coach Dave

      That’s awesome. I love hearing this kind of stuff. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Bob Verdun

    As always great stuff, coach. John Wooden used to talk about following thru w your head to complete the shooting action. This forces a player to fully execute the process of engagement w the hoop.

    • Coach Dave

      I like it!

  3. Mark Faulx

    Does this “shoulder back” symptom in your experience ever occur in response to ball watching? (Eyes up, head back, shoulders back)

    • Coach Dave

      It absolutely can. If you start looking early you’ll lean everything back and fall away. Totally possible.


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