Wednesday, June 3, 2009

next level offense

As an offensive player, you have the advantage over the defense, because you dicate the action. The defense can't force you to shoot, dribble, or pass the ball. You, as the offensive player, make that decision. This puts you in a position of power, and the defense in a reactionary, and therefore weaker, position.

To really take advantage of the defense, it's important to make your moves with quickness and power. And that's why the first step is so important. The first step really sets the stage for the success or failure of the move.

By making a quick and decisive first step, you can get part of your body (maybe even half your body) past the defender, putting them in a position from which they'll never recover. Once you've got that much of advantage over the defender, they're done. They're beat. Most likely, they won't be able to recover from a great first step, and their only hope is to foul you or get help from a teammate.

How do you make a killer first step? Here are a few keys to the move.

One element of a big-time first step is attacking the defender's front foot. If a defender has one foot closer to you than the other, attack that foot with your lead foot. If you can get yours past theirs, you've pretty much got them beat. Why? Because the defender will have to drop their front foot back to try to cut you off, and by the time they do this, you should be well into your second step and working your way past them.

As we've talked about before, the key it to make the move fast, since that's the only way to get by the defender.

But attacking the front foot isn't always enough. If a defender has backed away from you, or is very quick, simply attacking the front foot won't get you past them. In these cases, you have to move onto other techniques for getting past your defender.

Another technique for a killer first step is the misdirection move. The mis-direction move is accomplished with either a jab-step, cross-over dribble, or a lean-in-on-direction then go-in-the-other move. With these moves, you fake in one direction and get the defense leaning that way, and then explode past them in the opposite direction.

This is a move that is used over and over again in the NBA. Because NBA players are such good athletes, and so quick, attacking the front foot isn't enough. Players like Grant Hill, Kobe, and Allen Iverson use misdirection moves time and time again to get past their defenders and to the basket. When you have a chance, watch one of they guys play and you'll see what I mean. These mid-direction moves are a staple of their offense.

A third aspect for a killer first-step is using a pump-fake. The pump-fake serves to get the defense moving towards you, up on their toes, and off-balance. Once you get the defender leaning towards you or on their toes, you then explode by them with a great first and second step. Again, the key is to make the move with quickness, since you may only get a slight lean forward by the defense on your shot fake, and you have to take advantage of it with quickness.

So remember: when you make your move as an offensive player with the ball, the key is to make your first step so fast and explosive that you drive past the defender (at a minimum, get your attacking foot past the defender's front foot). Once you gain the advantage with your first step, continue blowing past the defender, putting them at an even great disadvantage, and finish the move strong.

You may decide to pull up for a jumper, kick the ball out to a teammate, or drive all the way to the basket if you've got an open lane. That decision is up to you. But it all starts with that first, explosive step that gets you the advantage over the defender.

The game of basketball is a game of inches. Gaining a slight advantage over the defense, even if it's just a few inches, can mean the difference between a move that doesn't work, and one that does. It can mean the difference between getting cut off by your defender, or blowing by them for an easy basket.

Work on your first step and you'll improve your offensive game. Guaranteed.

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