Breaking Down How LeBron James Can Improve His 3-Point Shot
LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, already among the all-time greats and quite possibly on his way to being considered the best ever to play the game.
In other words, his game isn't exactly lacking in many areas.
As an 18-year-old basketball virtuoso, James dazzled fans with a diverse set of NBA-ready skills and a refinement not seen in some 10-year veterans.
Nine seasons later, James is still wowing fans on a nightly basis, while adding to what may already be the most versatile collection of skills that the league has ever witnessed.
In 2011-12, he finished in the top 20 in minutes played (10th), field goals (second), free throws (second), defensive rebounds (17th), assists (12th), steals (fourth), points (second) and field-goal percentage (12th).
There's seemingly no weakness to his game and his hybrid point-forward position allows him to make plays all over the basketball court.
But opposing coaches can't simply tell their teams that the King is unguardable. They're forced to at least attempt to find ways to slow him down.
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Even as James has evolved from physical freak to three-time MVP, the defensive strategy has largely remained the same: force him to beat you with perimeter jumpers.
It's a logical strategy for anyone with his size (6'8", 240 lbs.) and quickness who's seemingly always one dribble away from the basket.
But it's a sound strategy as well in that the perimeter shot remains one of the final turns of basketball's Rubik's Cube for James to solve.
The 2011-12 season saw his best season to date in terms of 3-point percentage (36.2) but that was largely due to the fact that the reconditioned power forward attempted 130 fewer shots from long range than in the 2010-11 season and nearly 240 fewer than in 2009-10.
So how exactly can James add a consistent perimeter jumper to his bag of tricks?
The obvious answer would be spending time around new teammate (and NBA all-time leader in made three-pointers) Ray Allen.
Aside from being one of the most prolific shooters in league history, Allen has (not coincidentally) displayed one of the more pure shooting strokes of all time.
His footwork (whether off the dribble or off a screen) is consistently squared up toward the hoop before his upper body enters his shooting rhythm. His back is perfectly straight throughout his gather and release. His release point is identical no matter the shooting situation.
James, meanwhile, has struggled to develop that consistency in his jumper.
His feet have the tendency to flail at times, leaving James' upper body to fade to compensate for the disconnect between his legs and his shoulders.
Any good shooting coach will tell you that a consistent shooting form is the key to consistent results, which leaves those lacking a pure motion with an obvious streakiness to their attempts.
Some nights, everything clicks and the King can seemingly rip nets from anywhere on the court. Take, for instance, the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, when James earned his place alongside marksman Mark Price for the most three-pointers in an All-Star game with six.
Other nights, however, James reinforces why the aforementioned defensive strategy remains the opposition's best option. During two five-game stretches in 2011-12, James missed all 19 of his attempts from deep.
The other question that needs to be asked is why exactly the reigning MVP (and Finals MVP) would need to worry about adding any skills. After all, the guy is (and has been for a few seasons) playing better basketball than anyone in the world.
But adding a perimeter shot to his repertoire would take James from opponent's headache to opponent's migraine.
Imagine opposing power forwards being forced to respect his three-point shot. Even today's hybrid forwards wouldn't have the quickness and agility to stay in front of him that far away from the basket.
Add that to the fact that Heat president Pat Riley has surrounded one of the league's best passers with a world-class firing squad, and opposing coaches might start taking a sick day whenever the Heat roll into town.
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