Former NBA player Hakeem Olajuwon is an expert at the low post, and he has spent much of his retired life passing on his wisdom to some of the biggest stars in the game, including LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and many others. The latest to seek training from Olajuwon is Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors, who, despite an nearly-elite skillset, can still stand to learn a thing or two from the master. Here are four drills designed to get you moving like The Dream himself, or close to it.
Pivots: 10 times each direction and foot
Pivots are part and parcel to Olajuwon’s famous “Dream Shake.” Jeremy Lin worked with The Dream on the technique, which is used to manipulate defenders mentally and physically, create much-needed space when you’re playing with your back to the basket, or put yourself into triple threat position. A simple but effective pivot drill will help you practice all four basic moves—that is, front and back pivots using either your right or left foot. Ten times for each foot and direction combination, start on the baseline and approach the free throw line with a dribble. Jump stop into the ideal pivot position: knees bent, centre of gravity low and back straight. While protecting the ball, perform your pivot without allowing your body to rise out of position, then dribble back to your starting point. Again, it’s simple yet effective.
Spin to shoot: 20 times
With his background playing soccer, Olajuwon has developed a smooth flow. One of his signature moves is using spins to create space in the low post and improve looks at the basket.
To practice shooting from a spin, start out in the wing in triple threat position with your knees bent, shoulders squared and ball secured. Take two dribbles toward the basket, and spin back the direction opposite your dribbling hand. When you’re spinning, make sure to take big steps to create space—remember, your goal here is to put distance between you and your defender, not just to confuse them. After completing the spin, take a shot. Repeat this drill successfully 20 times.
Jab step footwork: 20 times
This footwork technique is used to trick defenders into thinking you’re about to blow past them by taking a false step. When Olajuwon worked with LeBron James, their workout heavily featured jab step footwork in two common combinations that involve either a fake or a shooting situation. To practice both moves in one drill, set two cones up, one on the charity strip and another in the low post. Heading for the basket, approach the first cone at a dribble, jab step one direction and head the other way. Continue to the second cone. When you hit it, jab step the other direction, pass the cone and shoot. Complete this drill successfully 20 times, alternating directions with each repetition.
Cone jump stops: 20 times
Olajuwon employs jump stops to plant his feet before executing a move, setting himself up for a shot from under the post and covering extra ground on a single dribble. The added advantage is that by landing with both feet at once, you have a choice of pivot foot and can more easily take advantage of some newly-created space. To practice a jump stop (the right way), set a cone up about eight feet away from the basket in the low post. From the top of the key, drive to the basket with one long, controlled dribble and jump off one of your feet over the cone—jump with two, and you’ll net a traveling violation. Land with both your feet at the same time—again, there are violations tied to stutter steps—ensuring you’re ready to shoot or pass, and take the shot. You’ll quickly realize you can cover a lot more distance with fewer dribbles before taking a shot.