Where does a basketball player find the perfect shot? In a gym? A high-tech sports science and medical lab? On a paddleboard on the ocean? In marriage? Mind? Body? In a system that accentuates three-point shooting?
For Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver, the best three-pointer shooter in the NBA, it is all of those places and more.
He began searching for the perfect stroke.
"I started breaking down every single little detail of this simple stroke and tried to make it perfect. Get one perfect stroke and try to do it again. And just got lost in trying to perfect the stroke," he said. "I focused on one detail and after 100 strokes, that didn't feel like a detail anymore. That felt natural.
"There was a smaller detail after that. I found a new detail and then a new detail and then a new detail. Eventually I was stroking, and eventually I wasn't that tired.
"That exercise of finding that stroke was revolutionary to me in shooting. You take the same concept of the stroke and do it with your shot."
He set a record last season for most consecutive games with a made three-pointer at 127 and is flourishing with the Hawks, a key reason why the Eastern Conference leaders were running on a 19-game winning streak and stand at 40-8 entering Monday's game against New Orleans.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Korver the best shooter in the league. He leads the league in three-point shooting percentage (53.7%) and is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to shoot at least 50% from the field, 50% on three-pointers and 90% on free throws.
Korver loves shooting, and he loves talking shooting.
"To be a great shooter, to be a consistent shooter, which is what constitutes a great shooter — the goal is to make your shot exactly the same every single time," he said.
He has made three-pointers seem easier than they are. "If you shoot it with all the leverage you have in your mechanics — using your legs and your technique — there's a way to make a three-point shot feel like it's not as far," he said.
This season is as close as Korver has felt to taking the same shot every time. "This is the best I've ever shot, for sure," he said. "There's a lot of reasons for it. As you get older, you should just become a better shooter. You've shot more shots."
Korver has a 20-point checklist that helps him determine how sound his shot is. "It's things I've identified that are keys to my shot," Korver said.
- Wide stance.
- Exaggerated legs.
- Drop through heels.
- Engage core.
- Slight bend at waist.
- Up strong.
- Elbow straight.
- One hand.
- Fingers spread.
- Slight pause.
- Elbow up.
- Land forward.
- See the top of the rim.
- Ball on fingertips.
- Strong shot.
- Shoulders forward and relaxed.
- Ball and arm risen straight.
- Hold the follow through.
- Keep the release point high.
- On turns, square shoulders.
A lifetime of basketball and the pursuit of the perfect shot have made Korver one of the most accurate three-point shooters in NBA history. He's No. 6 on the all-time three-point shooting percentage list, and it's easy to imagine Korver shooting 1,000 shots a day. Not the case.
"I don't ever shoot a ton of shots at once because I want to shoot them game-like," Korver said. "You can't shoot 500 shots at the exact speed and exact intensity that you're going to in a game.
"Very rarely will I shoot more than 150 shots at once."
He has four opportunities to feel good about his shot on gameday: during the morning shoot-around, after the morning shoot-around, during his pregame routine and during warmups just before tip-off.
"That helps me more than shooting a ton of shots at once and trying to find this rhythm that everyone talks about," Korver said. "I want to seek perfection. Four times during that day, that's what I'm trying to do."
His high-energy pregame routine is worth watching and if you have a ticket to a Hawks game — home or away — you can watch it. He begins his routine about 50 minutes before game time with player development coaches passing, defending and setting screens.
Korver takes shots from several spots on the court, including several spots around the three-point arc. The routine is tailored to the Hawks' offense, and Korver has to make a certain number of shots before he can move to the next spot.
Most players won't leave the floor on a miss. Korver isn't most guys.
He can't leave the court without making 10 consecutive free throws and three consecutive three-pointers from the top of the arc. One miss and he starts over.
"Ten in a row, three in a row," Korver said. "I've done that for a while. If I make all of my shots, I can have it done in less than 10 minutes — eight or nine minutes if I miss two, three, four shots."
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