There is no debate about the fact that foundational skills have slowly eroded over the past 25 years. The Michael Jordan era ushered in a new style of individual play. Instead of swinging, shooting, cutting, passing, and defending, the young players focused on a different set of skills. An exhaustive analysis of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time makes one thing very clear; the greatest players in history devoted themselves to the fundamentals of the game of passing, dribbling and shooting. And them loved the game.
Forget vertical jump ads, blast to the brim, and miraculous “jump shoes.” They can help you jump higher, but they will never make you a complete basketball player. The game is and always will be based on the fundamentals. The same goes for soccer, baseball and golf sports.
Have you ever heard a coach interviewed after a tough loss say, “If we had executed more tip dunks or 360-degree shots, we would have won.” I doubt you’ve ever heard that. Instead, you hear the NFL, MBL, or NBA coaches say, “We need to get back to the basics of the game. When we have away from them, nothing good ever happens. “ That is the statement that I have heard hundreds of times over the past 25 years. A commitment to the basics of any game leads 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 youth in the sport of basketball, consider these questions:
- Did Arizin, Cousy, Jones, Russell, and Shayes spend their time working on the vertical jump?
- Did Larry Bird lean on your athletic prowess throughout your high school, college, and NBA career?
- Why did Julius Erving become a fundamental and well-rounded player after realizing he could jump?
- How much time did Stockton, Monroe, Frazier, Greer, Archibald, Thomas, and Wilkens spend learning the fundamentals of handling and passing the ball?
- Why did Pistol Pete Maravich dribble in the theater and out of 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 becoming better jumpers?
- How high would you rate this group’s basketball IQ?
- What are the traits that this group of players have in common?
Without the fundamentals, knowledge of the game, and love of basketball, how many of these 50 players would have been on this team? NONE! If you are a youth coach, pay attention to the message in this article. Bells and whistles work on kid’s bikes, but they don’t get you anywhere in basketball. The key to improving as a player is and is always about hard work, perseverance, and respect for time-tested fundamentals of the game. Don’t miss this bus!