Most things in basketball start with a story, so why should this be any different. It was the summer of 1999 and I was working Snow Valley Basketball Camp in Santa Barbara,CA. I'm going to write about Snow Valley in a future post, but a long story short it is the best teaching camp that I've ever been at.
The schedule started at 6AM and ran until 10PM. At the end of the camp day coaches would meet up in a coach's room to watch film. The only film that I ever watched was of X's and O's to pick up a new play, but this film was different. Mike Mohler, a junior college coach from California brought one of those old TV's that was connected to a VCR at camp. He ran the film session and most of the film had Michael Jordan on it. At first I thought that it was just going to be a highlight film on his dunks which most people would do, but this one was much different.
The film was a breakdown on Michael's jab step and his ability to create space. It pinpointed the fact that he would always keep the ball on his left hip and jab with his right. At the time I only taught how to jab and keep the ball on the right side. Mike ran the session and explained everything. He jabbed with his right making the defender back up to respect the jab, but the defenders in the NBA were long armed and could still swipe at the ball this allowed him not only to protect the ball but also to open up the drive to the left as well. My eyes opened up to a whole knew way of teaching the game. That session lasted until 1AM and it was one of the most important film sessions in my coaching life. If you see the picture above, this is the best photo that I could find that had Michael in triple threat with the ball on his left hip.
From that session I learned to respect Michael for not only a great athlete, but also his systematic approach for creating space. The jab was just the start of it. The ball on the left hip made a lot of sense to me and is something that I teach every wing that I work with to this very day. But also his footwork of pulling up for a jumpshot. When he would pull up going right the last foot to hit the ground was always his right. Going left the last foot to hit the ground was always his left. Up to that point I never thought it mattered, but from watching him do it over and over consistently I found out that it did.
Ever since that night I've tried to get every clip of footwork from Jordan that I could get my hands on. Watching him play with a dominant pivot foot. Meaning he always freed his right foot up to create offense. Very rarely can you find footage of Michael not driving off of his right foot or jabbing with it. Footwork to me at that time didn't make a lot of sense, I did drills with the players that I worked with , but almost just going through the motions. But after watching hours of film on Jordan being systematic with it, footwork seemed to make sense to me. Back then we didn't have YouTube or things like Synergy. I had to go tot he store and purchase DVD sets on Classic Chicago Bulls games as well as The Ultimate Jordan DVD collection. From there I made edits on him and ever since that is what I based my teaching of footwork on.
For four years I got the opportunity to work Michael's camp in Santa Barbara,CA. I would always try to ask him questions about his game whenever there was an opportunity to do so. He was really insightful on the little nuances about how he set his defender up as well as the little tricks of the trade. When he would play against the college councilors at night I would always focus in not only on the game, but when he would stop the scrimmages and teach the college kids his craft. I have a different view and opinion about his game ever since those film sessions in Santa Barbara. Sometimes you think great players have this natural ability to be great, but then once you get a chance to study them and interact with their process you come to find out like anything else it is something that is worked on and there is a plan behind it.
Since it is illegal to make a Michael Jordan edit to play for you, I thought I would grab some YouTube videos produced by others. I want you to notice the ball positioning on Michael's jabs and how he protects the ball on his left hip. I also want you to focus on how he doesn't have "Moves" but reads off of his jab. If the defender goes back he pulls up, as he jabs and pulls his foot back the defender comes forward and then Michael drives. He plays off of his defender. Something that needs to be taught more instead of "moves" that are predetermined in a player's head. Here are a few videos that I pulled, some are short and some are long.
In this Clip it is a short 1 clip on his jab. He sets his defender up with the jab, as the defender reacts by going back and to the right Michael doesn't use a fake to waste time/space as he just puts the ball down to the left and uses right/left footwork
This is one of my favorite Jab Step breakdowns that I view on YouTube. It is Michael himself breaking down the jab and all of the options on it. Notice, again the ball is on the left hip and he is always protecting the ball. I'm not sure if it is something that was taught to him or something he did naturally, but it is pretty cool to listen to the best that ever did it teach his craft.
This is a very similar clip to CLIP #1.The difference here is that he is on the move going away from the basket. On the catch notice how he opens up aggressively creating a natural jab. The defender reacts to the jab by leaning to his left. Once he leans and takes the righty drive away from Jordan it is a simple read to then drive and pull up going left. Some other simple things to notice here is how Low Michael gets as well as his pivot foot stays down until he dribbles the ball. Perfect footwork.