History of Shooting and the Feet

THE HISTORY OF SQUARING THE FEET

Dear Shooting Fans,

I have always wondered where the notion of “squaring the feet” to the basket actually came from when shooting a basketball.

If you followed my shooting system over the years you will remember that I don’t believe in squaring the feet to the basket. I just don’t think it makes any sense at all.

The best shooters square their shooting shoulder and hip to the basket. In other words, they turn their feet. This is not a new technique, however. It’s been around for many decades.

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine, Ryan Marks made a comment to me that made perfect sense. Ryan, the head coach at St Francis University in Illinois, said, “I just figured out where the notion of square your feet to the basket came from. It started with the two handed set shot.” As soon as he said that to me, a light bulb in my head went on.

THE TWO HANDED SET SHOT

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I am a basketball historian. I’m not just a shooting geek, but a basketball geek. I want to know everything about this game especially the past. When I look at old video tapes of how they played the game in the 30’s and 40’s, I am truly amazed at the difference in the skill level between then and now. There is no game that has changed more than basketball and there is no basketball skill that has changed more than shooting.

The two handed set shot was the shot that was taught in the 1930’s and 40’s. Coaches in that era believed if one hand went one way and the other hand went the other way, the ball would stay straight. We now know that this was a flawed technique, but at one time coaches believed this was the ONLY way to shoot a perimeter shot. And of course the only way to shoot this was to square your feet to the basket (I call it ten toes to the rim).

The first player to shoot with a one handed motion was All-American Hank Lusetti at Stanford. If you look at Lusetti in the picture he is to the right. His teammate in the picture is posing with a two handed set shot. Notice his feet squared. Lusetti has his feet turned slightly. Why? Because shooting one handed forces the lower body to turn with the upper body.

THE JUMP SHOT

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In the early 40’s, Kenny Sailors led Wyoming to a NCAA title and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Sailors was also the first player to use the one handed jump shot. If you look at the picture you will clearly see that Sailors turned his feet and squared his shooting shoulder and hip to the basket.

At first coaches were very hard headed regarding the jump shot. They wanted their players to stay with the simpler two handed shot. Over time, more players and coaches adapted to the one handed jump shot and went away from the two handed set shot. The last player in the NBA to use the two handed set shot was Dolph Schayes who retired in 1964.

While coaches started to teach the one handed shot, they continued to teach squaring the feet to the basket. This teaching method continues to this day. I would estimate that 95% of all youth and high school coaches teach their players to square their feet when shooting despite the best professional and college shooters today “turn” their feet.

THE UNDER HANDED FREETHROW & MORE

During the 1930’s and 40’s the underhand freethrow was predominately taught. A player basically had the option of shooting freethrows with the two handed set shot or the under handed technique (you might know it as the “granny” shot). In both instances, a player needed to square the feet to be a consistent shooter.

Of course no one shoots underhanded anymore (only one player in college basketball–Rick Barry’s son) and the two handed shot has been absent from the game for well over 50 years. So why do we teach to square the feet on a daily basis?

When you are squared to the basket, you are off target 4-5 inches. Coaches love to exclaim, “Keep your elbow in!!!” Do you know why your players have their elbow out? Because they are squared to the basket. Have your players square their shoulder and hip and you will see their shot becomes straighter and you will never have to worry about the elbow coming out again

 

WRAP UP

A friend of mine was talking on the phone to Kevin Durant’s trainer recently. Kevin just happened to be next to him at the time. My friend said, “Please put him on. I have a question to ask him.” When Durant answered my friend asked him, “Do you square your feet when you shoot?”

Durant responded, “Why would I square my feet? It makes no sense.”

Kevin Durant is not just a great scorer (he has led the NBA in scoring three of the past 4 seasons), but he is an incredible shooter. Last season he had one of the greatest shooting seasons in NBA history. He also understands his shot very well.

I hope this article makes every coach out there to think again about squaring the feet to the basket. We coach thousands upon thousands of players ever year in “the turn” and we hear back from the players the same phrase, “This feels so much better.” Isn’t being comfortable important in shooting? I believe it is.