Consider the impact of the passing game in team sports. The teams that pass the best score the most points, and that usually means that they win the most games. Passing effectively and unselfishly can be the decisive factor in many games across many sports.
Take pro football. For some time, the passing game has reigned supreme. In days gone by, the run set up the pass. Now, the pass sets up the run. The most successful teams possess a quarterback who can complete passes with regularity. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers showcases what a strong passer can do for a team: win lots of games including the Super Bowl.
At the 2010 World Cup, Spain dominated play with their short passing game to claim the men’s title. Other teams had no answer for their quick passing, possession style of play. In hockey, passing is so important that the sport’s scorekeepers can recognize more than one player for an assist. The assist that leads to the assist — the “Gretzky Pass” in some quarters — counts as an assist in a player’s stats. Don’t think passing isn’t important in other sports.
Like these other team sports, passing is basketball is critical. One extra pass can mean the difference between a wide open 2-foot shot vs. a 12-foot pressured shot. I loved the response the Ricky Rubio gave when asked what was his favorite play in basketball. Rubio’s response was the assist because it made 2 people happy: the passer and the shooter.
Michael Jordan was a phenomenal player for some time, but he didn’t win an NBA championship until he realized that he’d have to pass more and depend on his teammates to win games. Some of the best teams in the NBA history possessed players who were phenomenal passers. The Celtics’ Bob Cousy and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson immediately come to mind. You don’t even have to look very far back to last season’s Dallas Mavericks who won the NBA championship with an unselfish team style of play.
At any level in basketball, if you want your team to play at its best, work on your players’ passing. It starts with an attitude, but also incorporates court vision and tactical know-how. At younger ages, court vision can be a challenge especially as players are just beginning to learn how to dribble. For a coach, it takes patience and lots of repetition. But, when one of your players finds an open player under the basket for an easy lay-up, you’ll know the work was worth it.
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