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How to: Watch Basketball


NBA

More than just putting the ball in the bucket


At first glance, the premise of this article seems absurdly simple. How difficult can it be to watch such a simple, accessible game? However, most young players are aware that they should study basketball matches to improve their own game yet have little clue how to go about doing so. How do we maximize what we learn from game film?


Don’t follow the ball: This is the most elementary mistake that casual fans make. Although on-ball action is undoubtedly exciting, much of the game’s intricacies are in the off-ball actions. We all know Stephen Curry or LeBron James are hard to guard once they get the ball, but it is how their teams work to get the ball to them in a favorable position that is the real art of the game. For a game or at least one quarter, try to follow a smart player instead of the ball.


Pay attention to defense: Similarly to watching off-ball action, understanding defense requires you to watch the entire floor. The one-on-one isolation match-up at the top of the key may be mesmerizing, but a good defensive team can mitigate this threat by actively switching or by trapping early. Once again, off-ball defense is worth paying more attention to.


Watch live games: Sometimes the camera tends to follow the ball as well, while some camera angles simply do not capture the entire play. Watching games ‘live’ at an arena allows us to see more of the game. If you are lucky enough to get a close-up view, you can even study the movements, footwork and body language of the players, giving you an insight into what works and what doesn’t.


Watch all levels of basketball: If you are unable to catch an NBA game up close, fret not! You can learn a lot from watching different levels of basketball. The above-the-rim nature of the NBA is undoubtedly captivating. For those of us who are new to the game or who can barely slap boards however, it may be as beneficial to study basketball games at lower levels of play, where we may be able to pick up a useful move or two.