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Respect Your Elders


What we can gain from watching the NBA of yesterday


Although the game has improved tremendously over the past decades, there is value in learning from the past and the greats who came before us. As the age-old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. By watching NBA games from the past, we start to gain an appreciation for these forgotten skill sets, which can be incorporated into our own play.


Hook shot: For older NBA fans, this is usually the first move that comes to mind when talking about lost arts in the game. Although Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook was the most iconic hook shot, it is not the easiest shot to imitate as not everyone is blessed with his height, grace and athleticism. Instead, players might be able to pick up more from Bob Lanier’s hook shot, which granted him a successful 15-year NBA career. The Hall-of-Famer was undersized for the center spot and used the shot to evade taller defenders, sometimes adding a little fade for increased separation.


Post-up turnaround: The turnaround jumper in the post has experienced a slow demise, but a quick glance at Bernard King’s highlight reels should be enough to bring in back. Standing at just 6-foot-7, the dynamic King thrived in the post, torching and torture defenders with just this simple play. His strength and footwork helped him to establish position before his high-release jumper was unfurled, making him a scoring champion and one of the most feared scorers in NBA history.


Backdoor cuts: This is one of the simplest plays in basketball, yet often underutilized. When timed perfectly, it gives you the easiest of shots – an open layup. Although the dearth of zone defenses in the NBA makes the backdoor cut less straightforward, it is still possible to cut to the basket when your defender is denying the ball hard or when there is a momentary lapse, as shown by the cerebral instincts of Gordon Hayward and Marco Bellinelli. 


UCLA offense: A perfect pairing with the backdoor cut is the high post offense. The mobile and versatile bigs of today should thrive in such an offense. Beyond simply scoring the ball, they have the opportunity to facilitate the offense, a role usually reserved for the guards. A big man who can shoot the ball from the perimeter draws his opposing big out as well, creating space in the middle for cuts and smart passes.