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Love for the game: Being short and loving it

Allen Iverson: Heart resized to fit image

Being five foot nine inches tall is pretty good for playing basketball. Luckily I’m 5’9. Even in Asia level basketball, where the tallest are a shade below 7 ft, a 5’9 dude can dominate.

Also, playing basketball casually, if you are above 6 ft, you are usually the tallest player on the court, even in the west. I’ve known of tall guys bemoaning the fact that they are forced to play the role of a big man in a league with smaller guys when they’d better enjoy playing on the ball.

I’m not counting defense, where you need to be tall to effectively guard a tall player, grab rebounds, man the paint and contest shots. The focus here is on offense only.

I’m well aware that height is an advantage in basketball. This is just to show that short players can also have huge impact in basketball.

Here are some points in favour of short guys:

Dribbling

No arguments here. Every time a player dribbles the ball in any direction, he is committed to that direction until the ball bounces high enough for him to regain control and change his direction. The taller the guy, the longer it takes for the ball to bounce back up to a controllable height.

‘A tall guy can cover more ground in one stride than two steps of a small guy’

True. So when shorty starts to move to his right the tall guy moves his left leg to move along with him and block him off. The moment he plants his feet, shorty switches direction and blows by the left side. (By the way, you don’t have to wait for him to plant his feet. Make a move while taking it for granted that he has bit on the fake). See, if 2 of your steps are equal to 1 of your defender’s steps, you have an insane advantage over him as you can feint and change directions before he even completes 1 of his steps.

Here are some 70+ instances of Iverson laying waste to ankles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTauyv6uLZw

Taller guys have it easier getting their shots off

Yeah they do. They can shoot over short guys. But consider, the shooting motion starts at the waist; the baller brings the ball up all the way above his head and releases it. Now, a tall player will take longer to bring the ball up, as compared to a shorter one who can have a much quicker shooting motion, by much I mean a fraction of a second which can make the difference between a successful shot attempt and a blocked shot.

When I started playing matches regularly, I got into the mindset of getting as close to the rim as possible to get a high percentage shot. It was a painful time, as the opposing teams would just back off me and I’d usually over dribble and get into a tough spot.

A lot changed when I read the following quote by Allen Iverson:

“My game is all about getting my man to back off me so I can get a shot off”.

Around this time, I got to play a lot of half court basketball, so there were a lot of opportunities for me to try this style. And I was completely blown away. All I needed was a small sliver of daylight to get a shot off, and most of my shots were high arcing fadeaways so it was easy to avid the block. I was making more than I missed. And once the defense started to respect my jumper, they played me tighter making it easier for me to get to the rim. And having the defense focus on me left my teammates open a lot of times leading to easy baskets. All of this because of taking shots which would not be considered conventionally high percentage.

The point being
- Being small, you’d best develop an accurate jumper from distance and trust to it.
- Big players play a safer game, shooting high percentage shots, rebounding, and clogging the paint. Small players have to play larger than their size, play with more risk and do what they do best and not try to do it all by themselves.

Bear in mind most of the advantages of being short only give you a second’s worth of opening. To use it you can’t make a move and wait to see if the defender has bought it. Take it for granted that every move has given you a moment’s worth of room to lead up to the next move.

Taller guys can take it inside more easily.

Granted, they can back their man down with ease. But when it comes to layups:
A layup is taken with maximum two steps, and a half, with the half accounting for the step in which the dribble is terminated. Now the tall ones will cover more ground while taking a layup. Good for them. But this works both ways, as one of their steps can bring them all the way into the paint and two steps brings them right near the rim thus making their paths somewhat predictable and easier to block off.

The short ones are more agile so they have more options to alter their layup, and the tall guy guarding them will have a hard time stopping it. Because he won’t know when to commit and time his jump. After the first step? Second? Try to block the direction his man is facing? All the while being focused on avoiding contact, which gets harder with your size.

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Now look at the options available to the guy making the layup.
A layup does not have to be an underarm scoop from near the rim. You can release a layup with a
- jumper
- hop away to change direction and fadeaway
- hook shot while using your body to keep the defender away from the ball.
- Lay it off the backboard – this can really change the shot angle, and make it tougher for the defender to block the shot.

- The angle with which you approach the rim and the angle at which you get the shot off don’t have to be the same. The defender focuses on blocking off the direct path to the rim. If and once you get the shot off, according to his perspective; you, he and the basket are in a straight line. So you can aim at the basket straight, or from left or right to avoid the block.

The trick is getting the defender to commit. Big guys have longer movements of their limbs, so once you can get them to move in any direction you can quickly change your direction and get a shot off before they can react.

Here are some layups from Iverson:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or_yZ364AGY

Passing

Again, the long limbs argument. The more you project a pass with you body movements, the better chance the opposing team has to anticipate where the ball is going and react to it. Also, a bounce pass by a short player is really hard to intercept.

Steals

When your opponents bounce the ball at your height, it’s easy to knock it loose. Also you can play the passing lanes more effectively as when an opponent throws a pass, he considers your height and throws it above your reach, usually they don’t account for your hops so you can jump and intercept the ball.

Lower center of gravity

I play with a guy who is smaller than 5”2. He is the hardest player I’ve had to play against. If he gets on step on me, I know he is beyond my reach. It’s hard to steal the ball from him when he dribbles so low. So I have to back off him a bit protecting the drive. When I do that, he has a mean jumper and he rarely misses. So I usually pick my poison with him, giving him one or the other opening.

Being so close to the ground lets him blow by his man at the smallest of openings. Messi and Maradona had the same advantage in football.

In short, don’t sell yourself short if you are short, you can still short out opponents on the court.

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