Jeff Hornacek didn’t enter the NBA as a great shooter. He shot below 30% from deep in his first two seasons in the league. But as the years progressed, Hornacek worked and armed himself with a lethal stroke. His teammate Walter Davis helped him develop his game. But his growth didn't just happen thanks to advice from basketball professionals. Interestingly, Davis’ wife Stacy gave him some useful tips, too.
Line up the seams
While Davis was a mid-range assassin rather than a 3-pointer one, he had sound fundamentals that Hornacek used to become a 3-point shooter. Paul Westphal, who was teammates with Davis and Hornacek with the Phoenix Suns, said that Davis wasn’t capable of missing mid-range shots. Hornacek had an immense desire to improve, so he asked Davis how to shoot the ball.
“When he caught the ball, the ball would always kind of spin in his hand,” Hornacek said. “I asked him … ‘Walt, what are you doing? How come it looks like you’re not even catching the ball right?’ He goes ‘Well I’m lining up the seams’” Hornacek related, per Arizona Sports.
“If you’re always catching your fingertips on that seam, you know how it’s coming off your hand,” Hornacek said. “If you catch it mid-ball, it’s a little more slippery.”
Davis’ tips seem like something a shooting coach would say. Perhaps several kids already know about this little trick of lining up the seams. Davis’ name might not ring a bell to some, but he was one of the best scorers in the NBA. So much so that Michael Jordan patterned his game after Davis, especially his mid-range game.
Husband and wife
So the young Hornacek fine-tuned his jump shot in the gym. His wife Stacy accompanied him in those long sojourns trying to perfect his craft. Much to his chagrin, Hornacek’s shots still weren’t dropping. Stacy observed that his husband’s shooting form needed one more little tweak.
“I wasn’t making shots, and she goes, ‘Just point at the basket.’ And I was kind of frustrated, I wasn’t making them, and I was like, ‘What do you know?’” Hornacek recalled. “Ofcourse, like any other time, about five shots later, I said, ‘Hey maybe if I just point to the basket.’”
“As long as you point at the hoop, the ball’s gonna go that way. And so I started doing it, and they started going in,” Hornacek said.
Come his third season in the NBA, Hornacek shot 33.3% from deep. He would keep improving and shoot as high as 47.8% from downtown. Apart from his playoff performances for the Utah Jazz, Hornacek is most remembered for shooting 8-of-8 from deep in a game in 1994.
It’s a neat little story. Hornacek was right in approaching his teammate for some advice. Davis did give him some invaluable tips. But it was his wife, Stacy, who gave him the most useful tip and the one that turned him into a lethal shooter.