There is no debate over the fact that fundamentals skills have eroded slowly over the past 25 years. The Michael Jordan era ushered in a new individual style of play. Instead of pivoting, shooting, cutting, passing, and defending, young players focused on a different set of skills. A thorough analysis of the NBA’s All-Time Top 50 players make one thing crystal clear; the best players ever were dedicated to the game’s fundamentals of passing, dribbling, and shooting. And they loved the game.
Forget the ads for vertical leap, exploding to the rim, and miracle “jumping shoes”. They may help you jump higher but will never make you into a well-rounded basketball player. The game is and always will be about fundamentals. The same is true for the sports of football, baseball, and golf.
Have you ever heard a coach interviewed after a tough loss say, “If we just would have executed more tip dunks or 360 degree slams, we would have won.” I doubt you have ever heard that said. Instead you hear NFL, MBL, or NBA coaches say, “We need to get back to the basics of the game . When we get away from them, nothing good ever happens.” That’s the statement I’ve heard hundreds of times over the past 25 years. A commitment to the basic fundamentals of any game lead to progress, growth, and success.
The following is a list of the NBA’s All-Time Top 50 Team:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Archibald, Paul Arizin, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Gerorge Gervin, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Magic Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Earl Monroe, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit, Scottie Pippen, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell, Dolph Shayes, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens, and James Worthy.
As you coach young people in the sport of basketball please consider these questions:
- Did Arizin, Cousy, Jones, Russell, and Shayes spend their time working on vertical leap?
- Did Larry Bird lean on his athletic ability throughout his high school, college, and NBA career?
- Why did Julius Erving become a well-rounded, fundamental player after he realized he could jump?
- How much time did Stockton, Monroe, Frazier, Greer, Archibald, Thomas, and Wilkens spend on learning the fundamentals of ball handling and passing?
- Why did Pistol Pete Maravich dribble at the theater and out the window of a moving car?
- Why is George Mikan known as the “Father of Post Play”.
- How many of these 50 players spent their time become better jumpers?
- How high would you rate the basketball IQ of this group?
- What are the traits that this group of players have in common?
Without fundamentals, knowledge of the game, and a love for basketball, how many of these 50 players would have made this team? NONE! If you are a coach of young people, heed the message of this article. Bells and whistles work on kid’s bikes, but get you nowhere in basketball. The key to improving as a player is and always be about hard work, perseverance, and honoring the time proven fundamentals of the game. Don’t miss this bus!