Narender Grewal- the one handed shooter. Photo credit- FIBA Asia. No copyright infringement intended.Narender Grewal- the one handed shooter. Photo credit- FIBA Asia. When you reach for a basketball for the first time usually the first thing you want to do is shoot. You don’t think about how you do it, you just try and get the ball through the hoop anyway you can. When you get into the gym and in front of a coach however, he will talk about a thing called shooting form. All the cliches come out about using one hand only and, knee bending, watching your target etc. There are even set out drills and lists to go through to get that perfect form.
  1. Eyes on Target
  2. Stance and Balance
  3. Shot Pocket
  4. Grip
  5. Balance Hand
  6. Delivery
  7. Upforce and Landing
  8. Follow Through
  9. Correct Shot

But how true is it when they say you can never be a consistent shooter if you don’t have these tips? Is that right? Is shot percentage all technique or can that boy reaching for the ball for the first time and shooting it how he feels it should be done, be able to reach the top using that technique? There are many examples of great shooters with pretty forms such as Steph Curry and Ray Allen. But for every 10 orthodox stars there will be another who for whatever reason has kept that organic jumper and makes it to not only to the big leagues but succeeds there.

When you think of ugly forms, often you think of the big men.  Joakim Noah is widely viewed as one of the strangest looking players, but his shot is just as strange. Not only does he use both hands to shoot the ball, but he even applies a side spin to the ball. So it’s impossible to imagine how any go in. Shawn Marion was also a man with a two handed jumper, but with no follow through it left his wrists to do all the leg work. The bizarre action didn’t stop him being a great all-rounder and even hit some open three-pointers. A jumper is a strong word when it comes to Spaniard Marc Gasol, who does not even leave the floor when shooting. If you look really really close you may notice his right foot moves slightly forward, but that is it.

All of those players aren’t specifically required for their shooting so it would have been easier to get their style past stickler coaches, but there are some great examples of point creators with unorthodox forms. Kevin Martin, Matthew Bonner and Leandro Barbosa all have ugly shots and if you watch just the jump you would assume an amateur is trying to play with the big boys. Not so, whether it is double handed (Barbosa), starting incredibly low (Martin), or releasing from the shoulder (Bonner), it hasn’t prevented them from becoming top shooters. Bonner has a 42% career three point average which any coach from his past would probably not think possible. His 6’10” ft mass definitely helps though as any other player would find their shot blocked if they released from shoulder height. Playmaker and scorer Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has battled his technique for years at the behest of the Hornets, which sees his right elbow bending in the wrong direction and causing his jumps to be unbalanced. He was drafted at 2nd overall in 2012 but after a few years they tried to improve his form, and the only outcome of that has been a diminished point average, only 8.9 for last year.

It is the age old question of nature vs nurture when it comes to shooting. I would recommend that if you are a player who is easily modifiable and ready to learn from a young age, then learning better form will be a quick way to improve shooting. But if you have put years into your shot, never changing, and people claim it is unorthodox, it would be unwise to change what you are comfortable with. A case in point, is India’s “one handed shooter” Narender Grewal. Muscle memory is a powerful thing and changing your action may not only alter your shooting technique, but your perception of basketball overall. If we are to learn anything, I believe it is up to the player to decide on his/her preferred technique, not the coach, and trust in the path it leads them on. If you yourself have the self belief there is nothing, as many players have shown, that will stop you getting to the top.

Joshua Mason
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