Scorer’s mentality: Attacking the top foot

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Kyrie Irving
Aug 20, 2014; New York, NY, USA; United States guard Kyrie Irving (10) controls the ball against Dominican Republic guard Juan Coronado (6) during the second quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-186132 ORIG FILE ID: 20140820_pjc_ae5_067.JPG

Maybe one of the most beneficial things to master as a scorer is the nature of attacking the defender’s top foot. All great scorers understand this so well that it just becomes instinct over time, and it’s something that any player with a true scorer’s mentality should understand.

The best on-ball defensive stance squares up the ball handler. You want your toes and chest almost parallel with the ball handler, the objective of course being to keep the offensive player in front of you.

But defensive stances are rarely that perfect. You’re almost always inclined to favor one side, whether because of your strengths, the ball handler’s strengths, or where your help is coming from. For the offensive player, that becomes an advantage and a point of attack.

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James
(LeBron James has his right foot up in this shot on defense, trying to wedge Kobe Bryant to drive right, where LeBron can meet him and probably send into help)

At some point, Kobe’s objective will probably be to attack LeBron’s top foot. LeBron is more prepared for Kobe to drive right with the way he’s positioned. That would make it relatively easy for LeBron to defend him. If Kobe can get to his left, LeBron is forced to drop his right foot and open up his stance, giving Kobe the advantage.

Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan

Here’s a more popular example of what it means to attack the top foot using one of the most popular crossovers of all time. For guys like Iverson with great quickness and shiftiness, and obviously a ridiculous crossover, reading the defender’s top foot is absolutely everything. Iverson was able to shake off Jordan because he tested that top left foot with a left-to-right crossover.

Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan

This was the second crossover after Mike recovered from the first and squared Iverson up. Since Iverson tested Mike’s top foot on that first cross, he put Jordan on his heels and ultimately at his mercy.

It’s rarely as easy or simple as making one move at the defender’s top foot to get a good luck at a basket. The best defenders are able to drop that foot and stay with you on the first move, so it may take a double move or some counters to finally get the shot that you want. Making them drop that top foot, whether with the dribble or with jab fakes, is what makes them work, keeps them guessing, and gives the offensive player the advantage.

When you’ve done enough scoring as a perimeter player in 1-on-1 or game situations, the nuances of getting your shot off become invaluable. The art of attacking the top foot is one of them.

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Martin is the Founder, Chief Editor, and Head Skills Development Trainer for Basketball Society. He has work experience in digital media and marketing, radio, and journalism. Currently, he does freelance work as a videographer and content creator. He has been featured as a writer on sites such as Def Pen, TV Film News, All Hip-Hop, and more. Martin played high school basketball at South Brunswick High School (NJ) where he graduated in 2007. He is a 1,000-point scorer at SBHS and an All-Middlesex County performer as a 3-year varsity starter. He helped lead SBHS to their first-ever Central Jersey Group 4 sectional state championship in 2007. Martin played college basketball at Eastern University, where he graduated (BA, Communications) in 2012. Martin was a four-year starter and a 1,000-point scorer at EU. Follow Martin on Twitter @Marsoaries and on Instagram @martin_soaries

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