Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can Kobe Shoot Without Using his Index Finger?

The 2010 NBA playoffs are about to begin and the defending champion Lakers look to be a couple of players short of a repeat. The main problem for the Lakers is Kobe Bryant and his dip in shooting form. His shooting has always been his most dangerous weapon and it is not firing now.

Over the last 5 games Kobe has attempted 109 field goals and made only 43 of them averaging just over 39% when his season average is around 45.6%. Kobe suffered, along with other injuries, an avulsion fracture to his right index finger earlier this season. In most games he has managed to continue to shoot reasonably well with this broken finger as can be seen by his season average field goal percentage, but something has changed recently.

Can we blame his finger for his loss in shooting form? Unfortunately we were unable to obtain any video of Kobe that focused on the hand and how he may have changed his grip or the mechanics of his shooting to account for the pain or the cast/bandage on his finger.

But lets take a look at this slow motion video of a basketball free throw and particularly of the hand and fingers at the point of release.

Here is a close up of the hand at point of release. Notice that this recreational player shoots the ball off the fingers of his shooting hand as he should. Our player does not follow through with his wrist correctly, but our focus is on his fingers. We can see that the ball comes off his fingers and that the index finger imparts the last bit of spin and push to the ball. This is expected as the index finger can execute tasks with more control than any of your other fingers, just think which finger you use on your iPhone or iPad to navigate around.

Back to Kobe. It is pretty obvious from the video that the index finger plays an important role in shooting the basketball. But Kobe has had this injury for a while and although it dented his shooting average for a few games in January, it seems to have only recently started affecting him again.

In order to continue to shoot well after the injury in December 2009, Kobe most likely studied his shot on video and made adjustments to the way he executed the final phase of the shot (the ball release). With a cast on the index finger he made and adjustment to keep this finger off the ball and out of the way when shooting and used his middle and ring finger to create the backspin and final push for the shot. He definitely seemed to work it out but he never looked exceptionally fluid with his shooting technique, even when he made the shots.

In the last 5 games something has changed. It is possible that Kobe's finger has healed sufficiently and he is no longer using a splint. The basic wrapping may allow him to use the index finger during shooting once again. The problem may be that the finger is not entirely healed, otherwise it would probably be out of the wrapping altogether. Kobe may be trying to go back to his normal shooting mechanics or simply trying to once again tweak his mechanics to accommodate the new condition of playing with his index finger taped. Either way he will need to find some mechanics that will make him an effective  shooter through the play offs as the Lakers will most likely need him to succeed again.

The use of video analysis can assist any athlete in making the necessary adjustments to improve or change mechanics when needed. Of course we do not suggest that you continue to play and change your mechanics if you are injured. Unless you are payed to play, it is better to analyze video and practice to perform correct mechanics that will improve your game and also prevent injury.

1 comment:

Dennis Ho said...

Between the last game of the OKC series and the first game of the Utah series, Kobe has scored 63 points, made three of six 3-pointers, and hit 12 of 14 free throws. Looks like he's made any and all proper adjustments to his shooting technique. As a Laker-hater, I'm pretty disappointed; as a basketball enthusiast, I'm very impressed...

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