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You don't outgrow fundamentals, you master them

By Bill Winfrey

In American basketball culture today, there is a significant under emphasis on developing fundamentals. We are heavily swayed towards playing. Players play all the time yet spend very little time (by comparison) alone with a ball and a basket developing weaknesses and refining skills.

Even the word ‘fundamentals’ seems to have a softness to it, as if they are meant for beginners and are something any decent player will soon outgrow.

Actually, fundamentals are the opposite. The great players do not move past them, instead they work hard to master them with a lifetime of dedication to smart work.

Mastery = simple and efficient. In other professions there is a high value and reward for simple and efficient. Doctors, Builders, Computer Engineers, etc… spend their lives mastering their profession to make the hard things more and more simple and efficient.

The same is true in basketball. A clear indication of a well developed player is whether they tend to make the difficult things look easy… or the easy things look hard. Anybody can make something look difficult, but it takes an expert with highly refined skills to make it look simple. Next time you hear a great guitarist… notice how fluid and effortless his/her music appears. You know that is from a lifetime of dedication.

Balance competition with individual development… Tough games and competition sharpen instincts and reveal liabilities. Liabilities are then sharpened through focused individual work… away from competition where the slower pace allows you to break down and repeat a skill as much as necessary. It takes both, but in American basketball culture, our imbalance toward play is painfully obvious. It shows in the many international players that have come in and had such an impact at all levels. They do so largely with excellent fundamentals and pure shots. Not surprisingly, their basketball culture puts much greater emphasis on individual development.

Looking at the NBA championship teams over time teaches us that even with the most talented players in the world, the winning teams are still those that show the most mastery of the basics like team defense, sharing the ball, getting good shots, and more.

Develop your skills. So, rising young players should take note, there is an opportunity for you. Our lack of emphasis on fundamentals opens a door for you to move through. Become one of the few that put GREAT effort into developing GREAT technique. Continue to play in tough games. But make sure you identify your liabilities clearly and go to work building a well rounded, fundamentally sound game and shot.

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