“They’re great in transition, but in the half-court…” is a description we hear more and more about NBA teams. You’re either a superstar or a specialist, and in that world, you end up with a lot of players that do one thing extraordinary and suck at most other NBA skills. Knowing how to pass, shoot, and dribble used to be a prerequisite to play – now, it makes you unique.
That’s why more and more international players are making it in the NBA. “Cerebral” is often used for white players and is a backhanded compliment that includes “not athletic.” It’s not false; white guys, particularly international players, are, on average, less athletic. To compete, they had to catch up in other areas. That’s where fundamentals kick in.
“The European, the Luka’s, they became the fundamentally sound players. The reason why fundamentals are necessary – it’s like being in traffic with a Lamborghini or a Prius. You can beat the Prius in a straight-up race, but through traffic – nah. The Prius has the advantage. Luka has the advantage over anyone who’s guarding him because these guys are too athletic for this part of the game.”Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports
Being athletic is desirable, but when you rely only on your solely on athleticism, it becomes a crutch. Players don’t develop footwork and ball-handling through AAU and college because they don’t need it to win. Suddenly they are in the half-court against a doughy white guy who’s slower, not as strong, and getting by them with ease. The natural instinct is to increase their intensity – boost the athleticism to the max. That’s where the fundamental guy wants them.
“Half-court where you have to be disciplined – you never learned it. So these basic moves that make you think I’m gonna go that way, but I come back this way. You overplayin’ it, pump-fake – foul. He [Luka] plays the puppet master game with you. That’s why fundamentals are important, especially at a young age. You need the fundamentals before the athleticism kicks in.”Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports
This is why structured basketball education at an early age is crucial. When athleticism kicks in, all kids want to do is dunk like LeBron and launch threes like Steph. Who has time to develop footwork, a floater, or touch around the rim? LeBron and Steph did. They became champions and MVPs when they perfected the other stuff. After he couldn’t solve J.J. Barea in the Finals against the Mavericks, LeBron spent the summer working on post moves and footwork. Steph’s range opened up when he developed a floater and perfected his game around the rim.
“If you learn to do all of this [fundamentals], everything becomes easier.”Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports
If you want to be an 82 game player, hit the weight room and be athletic. If you want to be a 16 game player, work on your fundamentals.