There's a reason why Jason Kidd and other ballplayers like him are considered the professionals. They're the ones who are supposed to be the experts at nailing the crucial jump shot as the buzzer winds own. Yet as it turns out, there's a new market for shooting coaches for NBA players.
Yes, NBA players are hiring trainers to help them with the most fundamental element of their livelihood. And the coaches are charging them thousands for the hourlong sessions in how to perfect their forms and avoid unnecessary mistakes.
The shooting coaches are earning six-figure salaries, which is comparable to what other assistant coaches make. The trend could be interpreted as the workplace equivalent of, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, having NBA players "employing an expert to tie their shoes."
But some of the most seasoned pros are sounding a note of approval.
"These guys are breaking down film of your shot, seeing it on tape," said Kidd, who currently plays for the New York Knicks. "When you have a guy who knows your shot and sees your tendencies and can say, 'Hey, you're dropping your left hand -- that's why you're not making them' -- that's valuable."
Kidd, a 10-time NBA All-Star, is currently in his 15th season in the league, and has experienced an extended NBA run in part because of a newfound ability to succeed as a long-range shooter from behind the three-point line. Ever since the 2008-09 season, Kidd has consistently been able to lift his success rate for scoring three-pointers to above 40 percent. Previously, he was never really able to surpass the clip.
Bob Thate, his coach back then, was not above employing creative strategies to help Kidd. One tactic he used, according to a report by NBA.com, was to ask Kidd to remember the phrase, "lock it up," from the hit movie, "Wedding Crashers." The idea was to make sure that Kidd kept his elbow straight when he finished his jump shot.
In terms of making sure he had the proper follow-through on his jump shot, "I didn't have that concept down early in my career," Kidd said.
Not everyone is so convinced of the need for shooting coaches in basketball. Veteran coach Bob Hill put it bluntly to the Journal. "I can teach all that stuff myself," he said.
Yet in professional basketball, the trend of shooting coaches working one-on-one with players dates back to at least 1989, when Philadelphia 76ers owner Harold Katz brought on Buzz Braman to work with his players after he helped the owner land 17 consecutive free throws. "Hire this man," he said at the time. Braman, like many shooting coaches, never played a day in the NBA, gaining his expertise, instead, while earning a living at jobs such as selling cars.
The rise of personal shooting coaches is perhaps an inevitable outgrowth of the boom in career coaching. There are now life coaches, career coaches and executive coaches -- people in all fields are using coaches. The coaching industry is widely recognized to have been invented by the early 20th century entrepreneur Frank Parsons, who in 1908 opened the Vocational Bureau of Boston, which aimed to help all people recognize their special abilities so that they might find their true vocation.
Within the sports field, the personal coach has been credited with much professional success. Perhaps most famously was when tennis star Andre Agassi teamed up with Brad Gilbert in the mid-1990s. Gilbert helped the one-time wild boy of tennis to focus -- and go on to win seven grand slam championships late in his career.
Gilbert laid out his gritty on-the-court philosophy in his popular 1994 book, entitled, "Winning Ugly."
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