Help kids appreciate basketball

Remember how surreal it was in Chicago in the 90s when Michael Jordan – the GOAT – and the Bulls racked up 6 championship rings. I don’t know how popular basketball was in the decades before, but that Bulls Dynasty of Jordan, Pippen and Rodman is the reason Chicago is arguably the best basketball city in the world today.

While it was an incredible decade to Bulls fans, it was hard for some of us kids to try to Be Like Mike. As the Bulls won rings 4-6, I was a student in grades 4-6 at a modest elementary school on the northside where we didn’t have the priviledge to regularly play ball.

Gym teachers assumed basketball was too difficult, too dangerous and too much of a timewaste for us kids, so it wasn’t part of gym class. Besides, most kids just wanted to play weaker games and sports like kickball, dodgeball, softball, etc. These were fun as hell, don’t get me wrong, but every now and then, when the basketball racks came out during open gym, I used to get crazy butterflies. Nothing else came close to being that exciting. But these were teasing and short-lived moments.

Some of us wanted to play more, play daily but we didn’t know how. All after-school basketball programs were only for 6th-8th graders. The school would never let trust us with open gym. The park district basketball programs were too expensive to enroll in. The outdoor park courts were always busy and the older kids and adults never shared the court.

In everyone’s eyes, we were too young, too little. It sucked. But we were 90s kids and we were Bulls fans. One way or another, if we wanted to ball, we’d find a way.

We didn’t have Google to guide us and yet we still discovered new ways to play. We made baskets out of cut-out plastic milk crates and nailed them to telephone poles. We shot around on basketball hoops that had only a white backboard, no rims.

It was literally just a backboard.

The worst – but still fun as hell – was when we shot at a 5 foot steel pole.

Fortunately, the older I got, the easier it became to play more. On real rims. Against good competition. After all, the only way to improve and get better is to play as much as you can and to play with people better than you.

I think it’s important that we encourage kids to start playing early. It’s important to give them a shot at basketball while they’re young, they’ll discover for themselves whether it’s a sport they enjoy investing in. Their window of opportunity is from ages 3-18.

These years will not only shape young players to be better, stronger athletes but also smarter and more confident human beings. I don’t know much about youth development, but I know that I am a better person today – both at work and at home – because of my passion of the NBA and basketball.

See, when you get older, it becomes harder and harder to play as often just like it’s harder to remain as close with friends after college. So start playing earlier. It’s not just about becoming better and playing at professional levels. It’s about appreciating the beautiful game of basketball which could have a significant impact on your career and life. There are countless benefits of learning, playing and understanding basketball.

If not basketball, then help them find and commit to some sport/physical activity. The last thing you want them to devote their childhood years to is a stupid piece of technology like an ipad, ‘smart’ phone, tv or laptop.

Here are some tips on improving jump shooting that your kid might find helpful.

Lessons learned from 3 failed basketball start-up projects

During and after college, I managed to burn down 3 basketball start-up ideas. Overall, I think they were a lot of fun and I learned a lot about basketball, people and the internet. If it wasn’t for these experiences, I probably wouldn’t have switched professional paths from finance to digital marketing & entrepreneurship. I’m going to share exactly what we did right and where we went wrong to inspire ideas and conversation with those looking to help grow the game of basketball, locally or globally.

Creative Basketball Events with Cash Prizes, Trophies and profit-sharing with local youth organizations

During college, I played ball in local tournaments, leagues and intramurals. Along the way, a friend –  UK – and I saw opportunity to make money organizing basketball games and events in a way no other park district, school or health club did.

Some local amateur leagues made thousands per ‘season’ so we thought, ‘why not replicate, brand it better and share the wealth with local charities and youth organizations?’

When we inquired about rentals, we had solid responses from local gyms. **Instead of charging us the normal hourly rates, they cut them by almost half because we promised to give back to charities.** If we had to pay normal rates, this whole project would be a bust.

In tough times, public parks hurt so the residual income from each event meant they got to earn more while doing less marketing. We also promised to keep the gyms neat, keep the games civil and eliminate almost all liability.

Park facility managers loved the ideas and gave us the green light. We contacted several youth non-profits to let them know we intended to help them, no strings attached.
They were thrilled too.

Lesson: Identify win-win-win opportunities, communicate them clearly and you can win people over. Partnerships with people and organizations go a long way. It wasn’t just about money, it was about more basketball and more community support.

Looking at our basic projections, we were also thrilled because well, kachinggg. We were also thrilled about our branding of the events. We’d rent out speakers and play music sparingly like in NBA games. We’d give out custom jerseys. The winners would receive $3k-5k in cash prizes and get legit trophies. We’d also host 3-point shootouts in between games that even spectators could join for a small fee. All at the same price that similar events charged. With all these unique selling points, we figured the sign-ups would come easy.

Fail.

I assumed wrong. We struggled with marketing and operations. We failed to get firm commitments from players and referees.

We wrongly thought we could just hit up friends from previous leagues/tourneys and let the word spread. We set up a FB group, FB events and blasted invites. The word spread and players expressed a ton of interest but we failed to collect signed checks and waiver forms. We also had trouble finding legit referees who fit our budget.

The first day of the tournament neared and we only had 5 committed teams. One more and we would’ve broke even. As it turned out, teams started asking for refunds. We cancelled the whole thing and upset a lot of people. They had every right to be pissed off.

Lesson learned: Get firm commitments upfront not only from partners and vendors, but especially the customer/users.

That’s the truest way to validate market potential for a new idea. And don’t get excited to a point where you begin to overlook the necessary work. Gotta keep composure at all times.

Our excuse for not doing enough to close teams and collect checks is we focused too much on creating a fucking business plan. Pardon the language but your whole life in business school and the real world, people tell you to create solid business plans and forecasts. We wasted so much time putting together these 50 page documents that we’d never refer to because of the constant change in reality.

Lesson: Planning is absolutely critical, but plans are bullshit. Stop wasting time, energy and paper. Do the things that add value like listening to potential customers, closing deals and building stronger partnerships. Envision the future, but stop predicting it. It’s not in your control.

So that was the end of that.

A Derrick Rose/Chicago Bulls online community in his MVP year

In Dec 2010, Derrick Rose and the Bulls were gaining traction and Rose himself looked like he was in full bloom mode in his 3rd year. His MVP prediction was starting to materialize. I sensed the momentum about 30 games in and started a ‘Drose4mvp’ fanpage to build support among fans.

Initially, I reached out to FB friends and they also spread word about the page. We had a 1000 organic ‘liked’ in a week. I then tested Facebook ads to target 18-30 year old Chicagoans who were interested in Chicago Bulls. Approximately $500 of ad spend later, we had 15k passionate Bulls fans.

The plan now was to push the traffic to a site/blog. So I put together a basic WordPress site. A friend – HN – and I wrote posts on drose4mvp.com with game-by-game analysis, in a pretty creative format, which we promoted on the fan page.

We attracted ~3-5k monthly visitors who read and shared content. We wanted to continue the aggressive growth but also improve site design, content, usability, user participation and monetization tactics.

Unfortunately, we worked full time jobs, we had too many ideas in the pipeline and no business model. It became difficult to keep up. Eventually, we burned out, stopped writing content and lost all traction. The fan page still exists today, the site’s dead with little to no remaining imprints on the web.

Looking back, I realize we lacked actionable purpose in this project and ultimately, that’s the reason it failed. When a project holds meaning, there’s real motivation to make things happen regardless of the difficulties.

We had the right ingredients: an engaged audience, a reader-focused site and a passionate topic. However, we lacked a clear vision and a viable business model.

Lesson learned: The internet makes it unbelievably easy for anyone to start and test a startup/project without significant investment. You just need a basic WordPress site, a Facebook fan page to test (and potentially build) your target audience and a clear idea of where you want to go. It especially helps if your subject matter is something you’re incredibly passionate about.

Months after that project died, I felt compelled to try again. This time, I wanted to test out the Indian market because of NBA’s increased attention in recent years.

BasketballinIndia.com: An online community of basketball and NBA enthusiasts in India

Ever since Yao Ming put China on the NBA global map, David Stern, his corporate people, global brands like Nike/Adidas/Li Ning and even NBA players have looked to repeat in India.

The question that came to mind was:

How open are kids and young adults to basketball in a country that’s dominated by cricket? How accessible are indoor and outdoor courts in both rural and urban areas? How much interest do Indians in India have in the NBA and how does their basketball knowledge compare?

Again, I went back to the FB fan page and WordPress to find answers. I tested a lot of different ‘interests’ and thankfully, the FB targeting tool shows you numbers in real-time. Within minutes, I found out there are hundreds of thousands of people (male and female, kids and young adults, all throughout India). I found out that they love (or at least interested by) Kobe Bryant more than any other active/inactive NBA athlete.

I also looked at the web landscape to determine areas of opportunity. I was pretty encouraged by the lack of NBA/basketball site results presented by Google.in. There weren’t any websites personalized to Indian fans/players so me and UK teamed up again to launch basketballinindia.com

This time around, there was a clear vision, a scalable business model, a passionate topic and a connected audience through Facebook and the website.

In comparison to the DRose4MVP project, we learned enough from our mistakes/achievements to earn more success…just until our site got wiped out overnight.

See, for this project, we wanted to stay away from the standard hosting providers like Godaddy. So I picked a managed WP host called Hostguts and signed up a 1-year contract. Along the way, I did all the basic design and development work in WordPress.

While I understood the basics, I didn’t invest enough time in maintenance and security. This would come back to bite us in the ass.

We received a notice in the 11th month about renewing our domain name and host plan. When I tried to contact HG however to update my credit card information and to renew, they were unresponsive. Apparently, they closed up shop but their website still showed active. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone or do anything thru the host dashboard to extend the hosting services.

For weeks, I carelessly assumed everything would be fine. I didn’t back up the files correctly. Then the deadline hit and shit hit the fan. I was unable to salvage the domain name and the site as a whole.

Basketballinindia.com fell off the face of the web overnight. If I were more diligent and didn’t take this issue so lightly, we could have easily transferred the site to my current favorite WP hosting provider, WPEngine.

Lesson learned: You don’t have to be overseas to try an international project. The world is flatter thanks to Facebook, Google’s international search engines, readily available keyword research data and India’s increased accessibility to the Internet. Managing overseas relationships though is difficult. We reached out to several folks who were interested in helping write content for the site as well as coordinating local basketball events for us, earning sponsors and even building basketball training aid equipment prototypes. Due to the large gaps in American and Indian basketball cultures, time zones and knowledge transfer, it was almost counterproductive. Some things you just can’t do over the phone or the web. Face to face time has no viable alternative.

TL;DR?

The internet makes it easy for anyone to test and validate new ideas with little cost and little skill. Taking the next step from the infancy stages is the real challenge. There are no shortcuts and there is no overnight success. The details matter greatly, pay attention and take nothing for granted.

Don’t take human relationships lightly. If you meet great people along the way as you validate an idea, don’t cut ties when you kill the project(s). They might need you in the future and you might need them. Weak ties are better than no ties.

Above all, don’t be afraid to use your instincts and common sense. To hell with the textbook education, the business plans, the formal processes. Sometimes. These abstracts won’t make or break your business. Ultimately it comes down to you, the people you work with, and the decisions you make and live with.

While all 3 of these projects were ‘failures’, I never felt regret. It’s not even about ‘learning from mistakes’. It’s about the experiences and surprises that keep work and life interesting.

The irony is not lost on me. Basketball helped me grow as a professional and a person and now I find myself, in one way or another, passionate enough to help grow the game itself.

I’m not alone. There are others – writers, coaches, players, parents, marketers, business people – who are playing a key role in expanding the game on micro and macro levels.

If this sounds like you, feel free to reach out with ideas for collaboration.

And be sure to check out our complete guide on learning to shoot basketball like a pro.

Smartest Coaches in NBA Basketball

Tom Thibodeau and Doc River studying the game

Photo credit: Boston.com

There are people who don’t clearly get basketball. There are many that do. And then there are a rare few non-conformists who see the game in a completely different light. They go on to make amazing contributions to the game of basketball. This includes players, coaches, executives, analysts and even fans. This post is on a few coaches that I highly respect.

Tom Thibodeau, Doc Rivers & Greg Popovich

The 3 things Thibs, Doc and Pop have in common is their ability to maximize their team’s true potential, even when their respective rosters’ face significant injury/personnel challenges. They demand nothing less than excellence in the rosters and challenges they are presented with.

As a Bulls fan, it’s incredible to watch Thibs’ coach, it seems like he’s a 6th player on the court, always yelling and orchestrating. Don’t let his anger fool you, because inside he’s actually one of the calmest and most poised coaches this game has ever seen. He didn’t give a shit when Lebron, Wade, Bosh and other 2010 FAs didn’t come to Chicago. He took DRose under his wing and helped him become a better defender, an improved shooter and eventually the youngest MVP in NBA history. He helped every other player on the team improve defensively and offensively and took the team to the ECF even despite key injuries throughout the season.

He continued producing similar, arguably better results, the past 2 seasons. We didn’t get as far as the ECF but damn, with Rose and Noah fighting major injuries, he still manages to max out on the team’s potential. You can argue all you want about how he overworks players and how he’s too demanding. At the end of the day, you are wrong because the players all believe in him and they are willing to go out there and give their best, even if it means playing 40+ minutes every single night.

I don’t watch Pop and Doc as much but when I do get to see them coach on national TV games, it’s so easy to see how much they all share in common and how they approach the game from a coaching and teaching standpoint. Not every coach follows these rigorous standards of excellence. If you don’t believe me, go watch Vinny Del Negro coach.

How to Increase Chances of Preventing common Basketball Injuries

2 nights ago, Russell Westbrook became yet another casualty of a significant injury and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. It seems like more ‘stacked’ teams in NBA with high potential for championship/deep playoff runs are set back because of major injuries to star players. It’s normal, it happens all the time, but with the increased speed and tempo of today’s NBA game and in basketball in general, the likelihood of freak injuries like torn ligaments and tendons, as well as contusions, concussions, sprains and fractures increases.

derrick rose can only wish he could've prevented that ACL injury. The Return is near though.

Injuries happen when there’s a disconnect between your mind and body. Usually when a player jumps up, the mind focuses and prepares itself for the landing so the body’s defense mechanisms ‘brace for impact.’ If you lose focus and there’s disconnect for even a split second, you’re essentially fucked. Think back to Derrick Rose’s injury, Kobe’s recent injury. Westbrook wasn’t doing anything crazy like jumping, twisting or contorting but his mind was on dribbling the ball up, not expecting Beverly to leap in to steal the ball.

In basketball, there’s so much you have to be aware of and your mind doesn’t have the capacity to process to focus on everything equally. And players who are more aggressive and hyper than others, like Westbrook, Rose and Lebron James with their explosiveness are at greater risk.

Unlike NBA superstars, the rest of us average ball players don’t have the luxury of ‘superstar treatment’ when recovering from and rehabbing after injuries. Even with insurance, most major injuries lead to thousands of dollars out of pocket. One ACL tear might be enough to stop you from balling or partaking in any athletic activity for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, you can just keep your fingers crossed and pray to God you don’t have to endure anything as bad.

Here are some simple tips to follow that could potentially increase your chance of major injury prevention.

1) Wear protective gear, such as a knee brace and/or ankle tape support especially if you have a history of structural issues.

2) Warm up before every game. When you walk in the gym and you’re immediately asked to jump in a 5 on 5 full court game, resist the urge. Stretch, walk, jump, dribble and shoot around to break at least a small sweat before you go full court.

3) Don’t get unnecessarily cute with your crossovers, layups and dunks. You might just snap your own ankles or blow out your knees trying to showboat.

4) Try to be as mindful of ‘the land’ when you go mid-air as much as possible.

5) Strengthen the essentials: your knees, back and legs. Not just the muscles, but the joints and bones as well. Supplement with calcium, glucosamine/MSM and protein to get stronger.

6) Increase your flexibility: Take some yoga classes and loosen up the muscles in your body. Yoga not only helps prevent injury but with looser back, arm and leg muscles, you perform better. Ball handling becomes easier because you’re able to dribble low and wide. Your on-ball defense and rebound box-outs improve. With a cooler and calmer head, your court vision increases and game pace decreases for better passing. Your muscle memory is sharper so you shoot with a better release too. So man/woman up and get in a yoga class or DIY. I imagine Pilates has similar benefits.

7) Limit playing in non-competitive games. No matter the intensity of the game, there’s always a risk of landing awkwardly and tweaking something. Why take the risk by playing in non-competitive games with little kids and/or older people who are there just for fun? I realize this isn’t exactly a tip, but you’re better off shooting around alone.

The challenge most serious players face is finding a healthy balance between playing aggressive and playing mindfully. The more aggressive you are, the more productive. The risk of injury increases. And vice versa. Ultimately, it comes down to you and what you want to get out of playing ball. For guys like Kobe, Rose and Westbrook who are motored to be aggressive,

 

The Most Interesting Quora Threads on Playing Better Basketball

dirty looking basketball with ugly stitching. Awesome.

How does one shoot the perfect basketball jump shot?

Always shoot with the same form. Always follow through fully. Always keep eyes inside, not on the basket. Jump equally everytime. If too tired, use more arms. Repeat thousands and thousands of times, yearly. You can find more jump shot tips here.

Why do big men overseas shoot better long-range shots than domestic players in the US?

Because they can. Big men overseas are encouraged to be well rounded players, not simply well-rounded big men who should dominate only the post, rebounding and defense. Overseas, what the players lack in athleticism, they make up for in basketball IQ and versatile skill sets. International big men have proven they can handle the ball better, shoot it better from long distance and even pass better on offense than local big men who grow up playing high school and/or NCAA ball.

Which sport’s athletes are better: hockey, basketball, football?

As a basketball fan, I’m biased, but I have to go with basketball. In every meaningful game, the elite show the ultimate combination of concentration, skill set, experience, practice, fitness, intelligence, courage, composure, determination, patience and many other heroic traits. Yes, most of these apply in football and hockey but not all, not as many. In every position of the game, you’re expected to perform at your best. Basketball is it. It’s not even close.

What are the most important point guard skills?

It’s more of an attitude than a skill set, but composure. In high pressure situations, a point guard is the most responsible for ensuring all his teammates stay calm and make good decisions. It’s up to the point guard to orchestrate and guide the rest of the squad. His dribbling, driving, passing and shooting all must be on point, in sync all at once. Neither one of these skills is more important than the other. It all depends on the player and the team/offensive system he plays in. Like Chris Paul and Derrick Rose do in crunch time, elite point guards need to control the tempo and preserve key possessions.

Why do NBA players have low free throw shooting percentages?

They don’t believe in its’ value. Most players average 3-4 free throw attempts a game. Whether they shoot 50% or 80%, it seems that the difference isn’t worth spending more hours at the free throw line in practice, but rather all the other FG shots. It’s an understandable decision players take but I don’t agree. Free throws, and even single points, make a big difference. While free throw percentage is a key indicator, the ability to make free throws in crucial moments is the greater point to note.

Would raising the rim make the game more exciting?

No. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’d love to see some other rule changes like eliminating intentional drawing of offensive fouls and double technicals.

What are the most important basketball fundamentals to teach a kid?

Learn to love the game. Let the kid figure out what aspects of the game he enjoys. Start with basic shooting, passing, dribbling. Let him/her get comfortable with the ball. The closer he/she grows with the basketball, the more likely to use it consistently. This develops better practice habits.

Once one habit is solid, develop the next, and the next after that. That’s the path to continuous improvement. Small and gradual habit changes. It doesn’t matter specifically which habits or which skills. Every skill is created equal so let the kid figure it out over time and repetition.

What are some good sources to learn about basketball analytics

RealGM, 82games, basketball-reference, synergy sports, elias

How do I deepen understanding of NBA games?

Watch basketball games in person at all levels. Pay attention to the local pickup games at your gym, the high school games, the college games and most importantly, the NBA/WNBA games. The more you watch each of these, the clearer the patterns that emerge. Over time, you’ll really develop habits to keep your focus on the moving parts of a basketball game. You start noticing off-the-ball activity, as well as on-the-ball. You eventually develop a sense of predictability.

Also, pay attention to coaches during games. Watch Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls coach and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Lastly, listen to selected analysts who know what the fuck they’re talking about. 80% are clueless. On tv and on the web. My favorites are Chris Webber, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Steve Kerr, Tim Legler and yes, at times, the often hated Skip Bayless.

How to develop basketball in India as a secondary sport

Align it with cultural values, tradition and history. Cricket, as a sport alone, has just as much significance to India as any other sport. However, cricket is symbolic. Until basketball can be conveyed in similar fashion, it’s tough to encourage the youth to increase participation. Advertising it won’t cut it, the game itself has to be sold not just to the players, but supporters such as family, teachers, health clubs, etc. Done effectively, basketball can spread like wildfire in less than a decade or it could grow gradually and take a century.

How many people play basketball in the world?

Not enough. 🙂


How to Shoot a Jump Shot in Basketball Accurately

How to Shoot a Jump Shot like a Marksman

a kid shoots a basketball while a defender jumps up to contest shot
Basketball by ~ozgurcanakbas on deviantART

Increase your shooting accuracy and become a real threat on offense.

Here are some simple tips you can implement in shootarounds, in practice and during games to develop a deadly jumper.

Stop taking ‘hero’ shots.

Here shots are dumb. They seem harmless, but every time you shoot from half court 3 or an unnecessary fadeaway or with your eyes closed or you get too fancy with the layups and dunks, you’re hurting yourself and your team.

Practice with discipline by only shooting jumpers that you would take in real games. Less is more, especially when it comes to hero shots. Stop trying to emulate Michael Jordan and just focus on getting better.

You can only get better when you become comfortable and confident shooting the ball. You can only shoot with comfort when you accept and commit to your jump shooting form. You can only shoot with confidence when you routinely take hundreds and thousands of shots with consistency in your form. Same shot, every time. This is how Ray Allen and Stephen Curry shoot lights out. They always shoot with the same form.

It doesn’t matter what your form looks like. You don’t have to listen to any coach or guru telling you that your shot has to look a certain way. It’s all about the repetition. Over time, if you practice consistently enough with the same rigorous form, you can adjust and work yourself into shooting with high accuracy. The human brain is incredibly flexible.

You know what jump shooting really is? It’s a combination of mechanics and muscle memory. How you spot up, aim, shoot and follow-through determine the arc, the distance and the rotation of the basketball. Ultimately, the more effective your habits, the better your mind ‘learns’ and the more accurate your jump shot becomes.

Start inside out.

I don’t care whether you’re a newbie or pro, stop wasting all your shooting sessions launching long 2s and 3s. If you really want to perfect your shot, master the art of the short-range.

Go around the world, 3 feet from the basket.

Essentially, you’re shooting a normal shot instead of laying it up. Notice your arc. Notice your follow through. Notice your off-hand. Notice how your focus increases, aiming in the center of the rim. This is a more difficult shot than it looks. The more of these you take, the better your form will be from long distance.

The aim, the flick, the follow through become much more fluid. Instead of shooting 500+ mid-range shots and beyond all the time, mix it up and spend more time in the short-range.

You not only become a better long distance shooter, but you also develop a softer touch for shots you need to take from 5-10 feet during games.

Think of it this way, if you can’t master the short-range shot, you can’t master the mid-range or the long-ball. Spend time here! Most people dont. That’s the best part. This is an easy competitive advantage to capitalize on.

Change it up, occassionally.

Shoot with your left (right).

I know, this contradicts the point about not taking pointless, stupid shots. There’s good reasons though. First of all, you don’t want to rely 100% on your dominant hand. Second, practicing with your left (and only the left) hand for extended periods of time can improve shooting with your dominant hand. Try shooting 400 jumpers with your offhand and then 100 jumpers with your dominant hand.

Shoot in the dark.

If you can go past midnight to your local gym, go. Chances are the gym’s empty so you can turn off the lights and shoot in the semi-dark. Shoot 400 in the dark and 100 with the lights on. Notice the difference in your mechanics. Psychologically, your mind relaxes once it goes back to ‘normal conditions’. One of the many reasons to changing up your routine.

Shoot with hands in your face. 

Get a friend to stand 2 feet in front of you with both their arms straight up as you shoot. Alternatively, get the SKLZ Defensive Mannequin or the Profender. I first saw this on Shark Tank, at which time they were selling for $300 and $500 models. That was an expensive selling price so no Shark invested, but today they sell them in $99 and $199 models. More affordable for most serious basketball players.