Some of us are bad at it. Some of us are good at it. But what we all are, as basketball players, are actors and actresses. Sometimes we act like we are an intimidating person so that we can get the mental edge over a player. We act like we’re going to shoot the ball so that we can actually penetrate to the basket. We pretend like we’re not paying attention so that the defense can throw a long pass; then we intercept it. We put on shows for the audiences such as celebratory dances and gestures. Heck, we even act like we have food in the palm of our hands, and we stir it up. We even act like we’re eating this imaginary food… all because we’re trying to show the audience that we just “cooked” our opponents or that our opponents just got “served.” We are actors and actresses. Some of us are bad at it, but there are some who deserve a Hollywood Star.
If you’re not intentionally trying to act or “sell” your every move on the court, you are not reaching your potential. You are not producing as efficiently as possible. You are, in fact, making it harder for you to execute.
Let’s take a look at a shot fake. When I teach players how to do a shot fake, I tell them to shoot when I pass them the ball. Moments before they release the ball, I yell STOP! (Most of the time they stop before the ball actually leaves their hands.) Then I say, “Now that’s a good shot fake.” Here’s the point, if when you pretend to shoot the ball doesn’t look the same as when you actually shoot the ball, that’s not a good shot fake. If your shot isn’t super quick, then why is your shot fake so quick? That’s bad acting.
Let’s take a look at taking a charge on defense. The only way that a referee will call a charging violation is if the defense falls. If it is, in fact a charging violation, but the defense remains on their feet, the referee will not call it. So you must act like the impact of the offensive players has caused distress on your body and your positioning and fall to the ground.
Acting is everywhere on the court, and it’s not until players realize this that they’ll be able to effectively play basketball. If you want to go right, you act like you’re going left first. If you’re running and want to continue on your path, you act like you’re stopping by hesitating… or even act like you’re changing directions with an in-and-out move then proceed on the same path. You might be active and jumpy like you’re quick enough to steal the ball if it’s passed to the player you’re guarding. You do that knowing you’re not quick enough to intercept the pass nor in position to deflect the ball. But you act like you are, so the offense has to go to another option or turns the ball over.
I have players that I have taught to not look aggressive; to not look like a threat; to stand straight up when they’re in help side defense (Consult your coach before trying this on your own). That might sound silly. However, the defense registers your posture and mannerisms without even realizing it. There are subliminal messages we give off that, if used correctly, can benefit our performances greatly. Here’s my favorite: When you want to go to the basket without making an actual move, look in the opposite direction of the basket as if you’re paying attention to something else. You might be looking to pass the ball. You might even (with your opposite hand) point to the floor in the opposite direction of where you want to go. That registers to the defense that you want your teammate to set a screen for you. The moment that the threat of going to the basket is taken off the table, that’s when you go! But your acting has to be on point.
When you study the game of basketball, it’s important to learn what needs to be done. Sometimes we practice the wrong things. So first, let’s figure out what skill sets are mandatory. After we know what, we must then know how we can effectively execute those things. And here’s a hint; acting is involved.
This is the sport that you love. The court is your stage. The curtains open when the jump ball goes in the air. Lights! Camera! ACTion!
“I like this concept, although I refer to it as playing head games with your opponent. When I’m getting up and down with our [players] in practice, defensively I might close out really hard with high hands then back off and split the difference between my player and the post. Then I’ll stunt at the person with the ball and back off a bit. This gets them hesitating, and he who hesitates is lost. It’s like defensively you have to appear to be bigger or in more places than you really are. There are so many analogies: baiting people, smoke and mirrors, acting, playing head games, chess, etc. Either way deception is at the heart of it.” — NCAA Div 1 Coach