Kyle Korver vs. Perfection

Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today Sports (

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.

But let’s start on the Pacific Ocean two summers ago.

Korver participated in his first misogi, the grueling practice of pushing oneself beyond boundaries in unfamiliar territories. His quest: paddleboard about 25 miles from theChannel Islands to Santa Barbara, Calif.

An inexperienced paddleboarder, Korver said he fell 45 seconds into the voyage. His toes bled, and after 90 minutes, he was miserable.

“But eventually,” he said, “you hit a point where, ‘We’re not going to turn around. We’re not going to stop. How do we do this?’ ”

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.”

“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.

  1. Wide stance.
  2. Exaggerated legs.
  3. Drop through heels.
  4. Engage core.
  5. Slight bend at waist.
  6. Up strong.
  7. Elbow straight.
  8. One hand.
  9. Fingers spread.
  10. Slight pause.
  11. Elbow up.
  12. Land forward.
  13. See the top of the rim.
  14. Ball on fingertips.
  15. Strong shot.
  16. Shoulders forward and relaxed.
  17. Ball and arm risen straight.
  18. Hold the follow through.
  19. Keep the release point high.
  20. On turns, square shoulders.

“I’m not going to check every single one of them every time,” Korver said. “There’s a certain point, a certain feel I’m trying to get to every day. Some things, you do more naturally. Some things, I have to think about them. As I’m shooting, I have this list in the back of my head, and I know I’m not doing one or two of them. Once I feel I get all 20 of them clicking, then I’m going to have natural rhythm in my shot.”

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