Originally published on 9 Jul, 2012 on Sportskeeda
Here are 10 reasons why running can improve your ballgame irrespective of your skill with the rock.
Kids are taught endless drills upon drills about ball-handling. Many have an idea that to effectively practice basketball, you need to do so with a ball in your hands. But moving without the ball is just as crucial, because whatever you do with a ball is done through your body and your legs are a major part of the skill set which will allow you to dominate.
Whenever I play an NBA 2k game with a created character, I make it a point to select the ‘Athletic’ template for my athlete. Perhaps in a video game it's easy to overlook ratings like court awareness to a point because you have a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. But the one skill-set which makes the difference is speed, quickness, and vertical.
Going the extra inch. Going the extra mile. It’s all about beating your competition to the line. Growing up, I made it a point to run a couple of kilometers everyday. Little by little it makes you faster and able to run longer and the difference shows on court. That further reinforces your game as a baller, if you’re a couple steps ahead of the competition you can always maintain an upper hand in the game regardless of their skill level.
Playing with intramural players for the most part, it really helps to be able to run endlessly like a headless chicken, heedless of fatigue.
Here are 10 ways you can make an impact on the court by being a better athlete:
1. Go coast to coast
The easiest points come off fast breaks. The basketball court is 91 feet in length. That gives you ample room to sprint ahead of the defense before it can go back in transition and set up. The thrill of zooming ahead, crossing over the D, feels like a 100m dash. Even if you don’t get all the way to the rim, you can still get the defense to backpedal and collapse near the basket allowing you to launch an uncontested shot.
2. Hustle for loose balls
To be able to dive for a loose ball, you need to be spry enough to jump at it and have the stamina to go after it. Being springy on your feet lets you leap at loose balls before your opponent can get possession.
3. Play the passing lanes
The brain works subconsciously and tells you the speed and trajectory of a pass and lets you automatically calculate the time when it will be at a spot for you to go and intercept it. Here’s the thing, the brain takes into account your speed into this too. And it can only account for the speed you have expressed in the past.
To be better at anticipating and playing the passing lanes, you need to be able to run fast and run for long.
4. Get rebounds
Rebounding is as much about position as it is about reach and strength. Look at Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. All supremely undersized for their position, and yet they were among the best at rebounding at their positions.
5. Be a better defender
Being able to run all day long lets you shadow your man as if you’re glued to each other. Fighting through screens, keeping your man in front of you, switching assignments, being able to run better, lets you do all of those things.
6. Better off the ball movement
Rip Hamilton could open a IGNOU certified correspondence course with this one. He runs through and around and above and below screens round and round, making the D’s head spin. Even the most tenacious defender ends up getting a step behind Rip while he’s zig-zagging around, allowing Hamilton to get a clean look at a pick and pop J.
7. Chasedown blocks
Galloping ahead like a gazelle, behind upon a blissfully unaware guy streaking ahead for what he thinks is a clear layup and swatting that shit right out of his hands. And then the stare down and Mutombo finger wag.
8. Back attack
If I had a dime for every time I heard “Back attack! My ball!”, I’d go to a bank to convert the dimes to Indian currency and walk out with a big fat sack.
So many ballers dribble up-court like they are taking a stroll in a park, even the fit ballers move ahead with speed but without the trepidation and wariness that someone may come up and take the ball away. Many hoopsters move with a mindset that the game begins when you reach the opponent’s court on offense and when the opponent approaches your 3 point line on defense. It seems like there’s an unspoken tacit agreement between the teams “Ok, the game is played between the 3 point lines on both ends. In the meantime we will dribble the ball around slowly because you have no business trying to play defense that far ahead where we can’t score from. So lets have a mutual agreement to not pressure each other in this no man’s land.”
I always rub my hands with glee when I approach the other team’s point guard dribbling the ball ahead heedlessly. By now the people I ball with know that there’s always something lurking behind, waiting to lurch ahead and strip them of the ball. Its just so easy, if you’re willing and able to exert a little more speed and effort to come up on an unsuspecting dribbler and swat the ball away from them. And you can do so if you can run faster and longer than the other guy.
9. Saving loose balls from going out of bounds
Few dives are as awesome as when you leap out of bounds to save a ball and toss it back in. Takes you back to those days when as a kid you’d pretend that the floor is made of lava and you gotta save your stuff by avoiding the burning plains.
10. Simplest fakes
Simply stopping and moving again can shake your defender out of his shoes. Herkey-jerkey, helter-skelter, stop and go, the simplest moves with proper athleticism can let you blow by the defense or create space.
Shuttle running and long distance running can make a whale of a difference in a ball player. Put on your kicks and pound the ground, it’ll improve your game to no end.
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