A good shot in the game of basketball can be a beautiful experience to witness. It can be a perfect moment, time almost standing still for a brief second or two, all sound seeming to disappear — the ball flowing through the air, dropping (ever so slowly) down into the basket — and then, the roar of the fans shocking you back into time and space.
For that brief moment, which almost seems spiritual, we all feel it. It’s the kind of shot reserved for the very best players and moments — the ones where you know it’s going to fall while it’s still in the air.
Last week, I had this interesting conversation with like-minded enthusiasts and some skills experts. It all came from one amazing clip of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, shooting the ball in an amazingly efficient way during the playoffs. And that got me thinking about shooting.
Talking about shooting is not yet one of my strengths, but I do know how a shot should look and feel a lot of times. And the look and feel (through the screen) of Thompson’s shot here is pretty close to perfection.
Here, in slow motion, is the perfect catch and shoot, made in one swift, efficient and fast movement, coming off a screen. No dipping, no wavering. Just the movement of a single wave, as I like to think of it, rising up with perfect alignment and efficiency. If basketball is akin to poetry, this is the closest I’ve seen in a long time.
What’s more, Thompson doesn’t dip at all but goes straight up from catch, something that is very hard to do. Beautiful form, perfect execution.
Skills and sports performance coach, Art Rondeau, who has worked with both NBA athletes and Olympic athletes, agrees.
“Klay’s shot shows what happens when exceptional talent combines with years of perfect practice,” he wrote to me during a conversation about this particular shot.
This clip from Monday’s game against the Lakers is another example of Thompson’s elite shooting. It shows how he follows the ball, waiting to take his shooting arm down until the ball hits the net, something that helps a shooter follow through and keep the right form.
I actually spend a lot of time thinking about shooting the basketball and looking at the form of NBA players during games. Maybe it’s because I did it for so many hours back in the day, when I spent a little time playing on Danish national youth teams and in my country’s best division. It’s no WNBA, but it’s pretty competitive.
Shooting feels like it’s the thing, right after walking, that my body is the most comfortable with. I will simply never forget the movements of shooting a basketball, though I do get very rusty. I’ve spent so many hours repeating the same shot, the same jumper, over and over again.
Visualizing the shot going in, repeat, same steps, never lose sight of the rim, never look down. It’s about spatial awareness and being able to repeat every single little movement, never changing your shot, once you have the correct form down.
Klay Thompson’s catch and shoot executed to perfection in a playoff game is the result of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of repetition in the gym.
Shooting the basketball is not a small part of the game. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important and prestigious parts. Everyone can get to the basket - in theory - but not everyone has the skills, experience, practice and talent - not to mention visual awareness, to shoot the ball well from many different positions. That’s a unique talent, and it’s what truly makes being able to shoot the basketball well an artform.