In your local neighborhood, you may have a few basketball courts around you. There, you’ll see plenty of pick-up ball and one on one ball. When you watch these games closely–as a bystander or a participant–you’ll notice that things often get stagnant. There’s always one or two people who touch the ball on any given possession. NBA linguists would call this style of play Hero ball. This is what you don’t want your children to watch.
Though, to most people hero ball is the proper way to play basketball. It showcases–and even emphasizes–the given skill of any one player. The casual basketball fan or observer will think that this is the correct way to play when its actually not. Though having a plethora of moves to go to is great, they are supposed to be your last resort in a game of basketball.
This is how players are overvalued in the NBA. You’ve got gunners like J.R Smith and Nick Young who are valued for their shot making ability in the public eye, but sometimes frowned upon in the NBA for their shot selection and their sticky hands. Holding onto the ball allows the defense to make their move to prevent your move and as a coach, you despise that. Ball stopping loses games.
This is why sharing the ball is the most important aspect of the NBA game. It makes the rest of your teammates better. The best players in the NBA were ball stoppers, yes. Their talents warranted such time with the ball. However, the best players know when to give the ball up and how to make their teammates better. From situations that they put themselves in with the ball, they can capitalize off of the defenses coverage to get their teammates open looks.
Knowing when to give the ball up may be the hardest thing one can do with a basketball. Tunnel vision is a thing that you have to beware of when possessing the ball. You’ve got to know what your steps will be to get a shot and if you don’t get that shot you must give the ball up. Nine times out of ten, you’ve created a look for someone else with what you just did. You just have to have the ability to get them the ball.
There’s a list of great players who excel at getting the ball in its proper place at the right time.
Magic Johnson was a guy who knew where everyone on the floor was at including the defense. He knew where they were going and what they were going to do and that’s why he’s the greatest point guard of all time. He knew how to run the offense that was being implemented in Los Angeles to its full potential with the players around him. Kareem Abdul-Jabar wouldn’t be half the player that he is without Magic Johnson by his side.
Larry Bird was also a player who knew how to make everyone around him better. He did the same thing as Magic except for it was within a different offense. They’d both draw double and triple teams at times, but excelled at getting the ball out of their hands and into the open man’s. That’s the key to the game–finding the open man and taking the open shot every single time down the floor. Larry was never flashy with it because that wasn’t needed. As long as the ball got to where it needed to be it was fine.
Also, passing the ball doesn’t always lead to an assist. If you pass the ball looking for an assist every time, that isn’t making your teammates any better–that’s you padding your stats. Hockey assists are just as important as normal assists. Giving the ball up and extra passing will result in an open shot almost every time you utilize those strengths of your offense. No one on defense can move faster than the ball–the end. Once you swing that ball to the open man, its a good look.
Making your teammates better is always important because no given player can win a championship by themselves. Though there may not always be two or three stars on a team, the great ones are able to make due with the role players that are on their teams also. When you look at a player like Hakeem Olajuwon, the best player that he had was a declining Clyde Drexler when he was winning championships. Clyde was really only featured on one of The Dream’s teams. Other than that the most consistent player was probably Kenny Smith.
Hakeem made those guys better by getting them the ball in the perfect situations. Without them, he doesn’t win a championship. And without him, they don’t get any open looks to win a championship.
Even our most recent NBA champions in the Miami Heat had to rely on their bench a little bit more to be the dominant team that we all thought they would be. They had great series from Mike Miller and Shane Battier because of the looks that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh created for each other. They knew how to share the ball and keep it moving instead of just ball watching. That leads to the bottom end of productivity for NBA offenses.
At the end of the day, making other players around you better isn’t an easy task by any means. However, at the end of the day its the proper way to play basketball and winning isn’t always easy.