Basketball Tips From Michael Jordan: Offense, Defense, And More

Introduction

I came across a very interesting set of videos of Michael Jordan. In the videos, he was sharing basketball tips and demonstrating his favorite signature moves. These were likely shot after his final retirement in the early 2000s. The videos are free to watch. You can find them here.

TLDW (too long, didn’t watch)? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Read on to learn valuable lessons from one of the best basketball players of all time.

Basketball Offense Tips

An offensive player always has the advantage. This is Michael Jordan’s philosophy. The defensive player can only guess where an offensive player will go and what he will do. 

To be a good offensive player, you must train yourself to execute any move from both left and right. This will increase your options and shooting opportunities. You will be able to throw the defense off guard easily.

If you can only perform a move on one side e.g. your left hand and foot, then the defense can exploit that weakness and force you to the other side. This can cost you a turnover.

I fully agree with this. I think this is the most important advice in the entire video.

Triple Threat

The Triple Threat is Michael Jordan’s favorite offensive move in the early years of his career. A player with possession of the ball can choose to shoot, pass or drive to the basket.

Michael enhances his triple threat moves with a few techniques.

He uses the jab step to attack and get the defense to react. He then plans his next move depending on the action taken by the defense. He follows this up with a crossover dribble in the opposite direction so he can get an opening.

He likes to throw the defense off guard when shooting by using a fake. Once the defense is out of their defensive stance, it becomes easy for him to take the shot.

Here are Michael Jordan’s triple threat offense tips:

  • Pivot on the same foot when changing direction after a jab step. You could get caught for travelling if you use your other foot to pivot.
  • Protect the ball when dribbling. Use your leg or arm to shield the ball. If you do this well then the defense will need to hit your leg or arm to get to the ball. This will lead to a foul in most situations.
  • Swing the ball low and hold it firmly when you are changing direction. This minimizes the opportunities for a steal.
  • Practice executing the jab step and crossover dribble from both left and right. Make sure that you are equally good from both sides so the defense cannot limit your options.

Fadeaway Jump Shot

The fadeaway jump shot became Michael’s favorite move in the later part of his career. He practiced and developed his fadeaway jump shot to give himself an option when he was double teamed by the defense. He became so good at it that defenders found it hard to stop him.

According to Michael, this is the most difficult shot to make other than the free throw. It helps to create space between yourself and the defense.

It is a very good tactic if you master it. Even the late Kobe Bryant agrees.

Here are Michael’s top tips to  mastering the fadeaway:

  • Square your shoulders when taking a shot to have a good aim at the basket.
  • Throw the defense off balance by using the windshield wiper to create space. Not to be confused with the windshield wiper dribbling drill, Michael’s version of the windshield wiper is faking a move to go one way then coming back the other way to shoot the fadeaway.
  • When doing the windshield wiper and preparing to shoot, place the ball high to protect it. This will prevent the shorter and quicker defensive players from taking it away from you during that split second.
  • Practice makes perfect. The fadeaway will require you to make the shot while moving away from the basket. This is opposite of the basketball fundamentals so you need a lot of practice.
  • Train  your legs and wrists. You need a lot of power from your legs and strong wrists to push off the ground and put force into your shot.
  • Again, make sure you can do the move both from left and right so the defense will not find a weakness.

Free Throws

For Michael, free throws are one of the most difficult shots. There is a lot of pressure to make the shot. Not to mention the crowds which could be very distracting.

Here are Michael’s top tips for perfecting your free throw:

  • You should make yourself comfortable. Put yourself in the game situation during practice so you get used to the pressure and chanting of the crowds.
  • Michael likes to do his rituals before making his shot. You can do the same to make yourself comfortable then aim for the basket.
  • Have a lot of mental focus, confidence, and think positive thoughts.
  • Practice with eyes closed to test your confidence.
  • Basketball on the fingertips and not on the palm to have more control
  • Get the correct backspin. While lying down, shoot straight up. Position your hand to catch the ball about a foot above your nose. You are doing it right if the ball lands consistently in this spot everytime.
  • Get your balance right, be firm on your feet.
  • Finish on your toes for better energy release.

Screens

Michael advises offensive players to keep the defense moving even if you do not have the ball. Remember that the offense always has the advantage. It will be more difficult for the defense to keep up with your progress and stop your offensive plays.

Screens are a great offensive tool to free up a teammate for the shot. 

As an offensive player moving around the court without the basketball, you should know how to take advantage of a screen created by your teammate.

His top tips for using screens in basketball:

  • Look out for your teammate holding the ball and the other teammate who is setting up the screen.
  • Run behind your teammate setting up the screen. Square yourself up and be ready to take a shot after receiving the ball.
  • If the defense doesn’t come after you, take the pass, pivot and shoot.
  • If the defense comes after you, take a step back, take the pass, square up, balance and take the shot.
  • If you can’t take the shot, fall back to the triple threat – pass or get an opening to drive using the jab step, crossover, or a fake.

Passing

In this lesson, Michael talks about the different passes in basketball and shares his own small tips on how to make the most of them.

  • Chest pass – target the chest of your team mate. Hands should be flicking out when you make the pass to get the correct backspin. The correct backspin improves the accuracy of your pass.
  • Bounce pass – pass the ball 2/3rds of the way to your team mate. Don’t pass it too high otherwise it will be difficult for the receiver to catch it.
  • Overhead pass – extend your arm up to get it over the defense.
  • Lob pass – a good one to use if the defensive player is fronting the offensive player.
  • If you have the ball and the defense is preventing you from passing, you can step around your defender to pass the ball to your teammate.
  • As an offensive player receiving the ball, you should give the passer a target by positioning your hands to where you’ll catch the ball.

Basketball Defense Tips

Michael Jordan (MJ) views defensive awards as more prestigious than offensive awards. Playing good defense is harder. Not many can successfully stop an offensive player from doing what they want to do.

As a defensive player, you should limit the offensive player’s options. Understand the offensive player’s strengths and weaknesses. Prevent them from doing what they are good at and make them take a move that they are not comfortable with.

Stance

Michael’s tips for an optimal defensive stance: 

  • Feet should be shoulder width apart
  • Right foot forward (or left if this is your preferred foot) 
  • Stand on the ball of your feet for easier movement and balance.
  • One hand should be mirroring the direction of the basketball. This will make you ready to block shots or passes. MJ prefers to use his right hand if he’s got his right foot forward.
  • Place the other hand low, palm facing up. This hand will try to get the ball off the offensive player’s hands with upward motions. 
  • Do not use downward motions with your palm facing down to get the ball off the offensive player’s hands. This will result in a foul.
Basketball Tips from Michael Jordan. Basketball Tips and Drills. Be Like Mike. How to Improve Basketball Skills. Michael Jordan vs Kobe Bryant. Bulls vs Lakers.
Alexandra Walt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Defensive Vision 

Michael’s pro tip: Head straight and steady. Use your peripheral vision to keep your man and the ball in your line of sight.

Defensive vision plays a role in teamwork. Every member of the defensive team must have their eye on the ball and their man using their peripheral vision. 

When the ball is one pass away from your man, position yourself to make that pass difficult using your hands and stance.

Being On A String

Michael’s final tip to achieving defensive greatness is learning to work with your teammates. This is called being on a string.

All guys in a defensive team should be moving together. The team has one goal which is to stop a shot from being made.

If your man is two passes away, adjust your line of sight and position as the ball moves around. Maintain a view of both the ball and your man using your peripheral vision. As the ball moves, defensive players should react accordingly. 

Other Useful Tips / Q&A

The last few videos focus on what Michael has done to become the player that he is as well as his advice to players who are aspiring to enter the NBA or WNBA. 

I found this section to be really interesting as it also reveals a side of MJ that I did not know about previously. 

Dealing With Nervousness

Does MJ ever get scared before a game? He is usually nervous before a game but once it starts, he falls back into what he has practiced and it becomes routine. He is confident of his skills and is never scared to do things on the basketball court.

Jumping Higher

When Michael was a kid, he would ride his bicycle a lot and practice jumping and dunking. Exercising the muscles needed for jumping can somehow improve your ability to jump. This however, is not a guarantee that you will be the highest jumper.

Shooting

Michael was motivated to work and practice on his shooting when defenders started to force him to take shots when he was driving to the basket. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about offensive players taking what the defensive players give you. I would explain this by, if they are forcing you to take the shot, make good on the shot.

Tip For Getting To The NBA Or WNBA

Getting to these prestigious leagues takes a lot of hard work. You should focus and work on the weak points in your game. Be a complete basketball player. Be someone who is versatile. Someone who can play defense and offense very well.

Likewise, to become a better basketball player you must improve on your weaknesses so they become strengths. Don’t forget to keep working on your strengths so they don’t become weaknesses.

Mental Preparation

Before any tournament, MJ likes to relax, joke around, and listen to music. It helps him take his  mind off the game. 

During the game, he focuses on his athletic skills and teamwork. He challenges himself to overcome his weaknesses both physically and mentally.

Does he think that other players are afraid of him? 

He believes that other players respect his talents. He exerted efforts to do many things well so his opponents cannot force him to do something that he doesn’t want to do or a move that he can’t do well on the court.

Conditioning And Nutrition

This is very important for anyone participating in any athletic event. It can vary from person to person.

Michael works out daily. Sometimes he works out with weights, sometimes just aerobic exercises without weights. He always includes stretching as part of conditioning and pre-workout. He runs a lot to improve stamina.

For nutrition, MJ eats three good meals a day. 

For breakfast, he eats pancakes and cereal. After that he goes to practice. He has another meal after practice and a meal in the evening.

On game days, he eats his favorite meal which is steak and potatoes. It gives him the energy to play the game and have a good recovery afterwards.

He also reminded the viewers about the importance of having a lot of rest. 

I was most intrigued by what he eats back when he was active in basketball. I was under the impression that he had a very controlled diet. Perhaps things were different back in the 1990s when he was at his peak.

Summary

I enjoyed watching these videos not only for the basketball tips and techniques. I also appreciated the details that Michael shared about his physical and mental conditioning. There were some surprising revelations which I did  not expect. 

The most important takeaway from all this is that anyone who is aspiring to be a great basketball player must keep practicing and continuously improve on their weaknesses.

It is a fantastic privilege to get advice from someone who is regarded as one of the best players of all time.

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