The first basketball skill I ever had was shooting.
I don’t even know how I developed this “skill” (for that time period, it still needed quotation marks, as I hadn’t put much dedicated time into it, honestly). I do remember, however, how I developed the confidence in my ability to fire away from the outside.
We were playing our usual lunchtime halfcourt pickup game at Masterman, my middle school in Philadelphia. We were all seventh graders. Of the ten people on the court playing, I was probably the ninth or tenth-best player participating. I hardly ever scored in these games. Most of the time, I didn’t even get the ball. On this day, and on one particular play, though, the ball found me — wide open — on the right wing.
I was so open, you might have thought I’d snuck onto the court and tricked someone into accidentally passing me the ball. I was usually too nervous (and not-good) to even try taking a shot, but dammit, in this moment I was soooo open, I had to shoot it. I did what I’d always seen Reggie Miller, my favorite player at the time, do.
Rise up. Release.
Like, perfect. Nothing but net.
Now remember, these are seventh graders. Usually on any missed shot by one of the lesser players — people like me — there would be snide comments.
He can’t shoot!
That shit is OFF!!
Leave him open all day!
But, I’d made it. Nothing but net, at that.
Everyone was quiet. They were all looking at me for a moment. Someone on my team spoke a word or two of encouragement. Good shot.
Someone called out the updated score; the game continued as usual. But that one shot — the first jumpshot I remember ever making in any game — made a strong impression on these impressionable middle schoolers.
From that day on, through middle school graduation, I was known as shooter.
When I caught the ball in the corner for the next year and a half, everyone expected me to shoot it, and make it. All just because I’d made, literally, one shot.
My confidence and reputation as a shooter started there, and lasted for a long time.
In the first game for the first organized team I ever played on, the 14-and-under team at my neighborhood recreation center, I scored five points: I made the game-sealing three-pointer, followed by two free throws the ice the game when the other team started intentionally fouling.
One day in practice for that same team, I passed up an open three-pointer after I’d missed a few in a row. Coach Steve stopped practice and offered some advice.
You’re a shooter, Dre. Every open shot is a good shot for you. I don’t miss. That’s your mindset, OK? I don’t miss.
I took that mentality far. But there were changes on the horizon.
Continued in Part 2 tomorrow…
Learn more about how I built my confidence — one and off the court — and the concrete practices that made it permanent in my new book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. It’s coming February 22. Preorder it here and get all these free bonuses.