Master your basketball fundamentals first

James Harden Basketball
Mar 3, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) handles the ball while Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Have you ever heard the saying: “You have to learn how to walk before you can run“?

It’s a common phrase that’s used in reference to trusting the process and taking baby steps before getting to the end goal. That same phrase can be used in the game of basketball.

What makes the game so beautiful is that it is always evolving. We’re seeing new moves daily, new ways of practicing and players are implementing new things into the game causing us to question its validity such as James Harden’s step back. With that follows all of the young and undeveloped players who are being influenced. The kids who see these moves and immediately want to do them and this is where that quote comes into play.

While that’s okay, it’s important that they master their fundamentals first. Behind any fancy move/combo is a solid fundamental or two. If you think about Tim Hardaway’s between the legs crossover, Stephen Curry’s double behind the back or Harden’s step back, they’re all fairly simple moves that are hard to execute.

The Harden step back, for example, he lulls you to sleep with the between the legs and then he rises, steps back and launches the shot. Most guys just look at the move from the surface but if you go more in depth it’s very complex. The between the legs cross requires solid ball-handling skills. In addition, to be able to create enough separation on the step back, have balance and get a clean shot is very difficult. Then consider how far out Harden performs this move. It takes a lot of strength in both the upper and lower body to efficiently and successfully pull this off.

A lot of players and trainers are getting creative with their moves and drills. We’re seeing moves introduced in the game that we have never seen before. But there’s no point to performing these moves if you don’t master the basics. If you don’t have the crossover or the between the legs down then you can’t perform a between the legs crossover. To break it down even more, if you can’t dribble with your off hand or with your head up, then you should strongly focus on strengthening that aspect before evolving into more complex moves.

The same can be said about layups. The euro step or the jelly is a tough package and it makes the crowd get out of their seats. But if you can’t make a layup with your off-hand then don’t even think about getting on the court and trying the fanciest layup in the world.

All of the greats that you see out there practicing and performing your favorite moves perfected the fundamentals first. They all started right where you started and they constantly worked at it. Kyrie Irving has the best handles and craftiness around the rim because he mastered his fundamentals first of dribbling and shooting with both hands then he evolved into different packages and finishes at the rim at different angles.

Walk before you run. Master the fundamentals and work your way up.


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