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.
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.
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.
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.