How to Play Basketball Like Michael Jordan

By Jeff Gordon

Michael Jordan was one of the most complete basketball players in history. He played on the wing, but he could handle the ball like a point guard and rebound like a power forward. Jordan was best known for his acrobatic drives to the basket, but he was also an excellent mid- and long-range shooter. Unlike some elite scorers, he played lock-down defense and expended a lot of energy at that end of the court. To play basketball like Jordan, you must become a highly-skilled, well-rounded player with fierce competitiveness.

Building the Jordan Mindset

Jordan was one of the greatest competitors in any sport, ever. His personal drive kept him moving forward after he was cut from his high school team and it propelled him to the pinnacle of professional basketball. He hated to lose. Each failure pushed him toward greater success. "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career," Jordan said during his career. "I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." This is the mindset you need to play like Jordan.

Building the Jordan Body

As a young player Michael Jordan didn't use plyometric or box-jumping exercises to build his leaping ability. He just had natural spring and he jumped a lot. He had a 40-inch vertical leap in his prime and could take off at the free throw line and throw down tomahawk dunks. If you lack that natural ability, you will need to work away from the court to gain more elevation. Once Jordan reached the NBA, he improved his overall athleticism by working with personal trainer Tim Grover. To emulate his workout routine, use core muscle exercises like the anterior reach on one leg, squats on unstable object, walkouts on hands, medicine ball sit-ups, push-ups on a physioball and 6-inch leg raises.

Driving Like Jordan

Jordan could rise, float, duck down and rise up again while soaring through traffic. Such ability is hard to match, but you can maximize your own driving ability. Learn to dribble and shoot equally well with both hands through constant practice. Develop a strong cross-over dribble to create driving room. Practice double-clutch shots by taking off for a lay-up, starting up with your shot, pulling the the ball down, then going back up for the release. Practice switching hands after take-off, as Jordan did to get his shot around defenders. Practice finger-roll shots that allow you to extend past a defender.

Jump Shooting Like Jordan

Jordan didn't make his living with long-range perimeter shooting, but he developed enough range to keep defenses honest and set up the rest of his game. After you develop a consistent 20- to 25-foot jumper, work on your pull-up jumper off the dribble from various spots on the court. Take one dribble to the right, rise up and shoot. Take one dribble to left, rise up and shoot. Take a jab step right, rise up and shoot. Combine various jab steps and dribbles, 10 repetitions at time to start building a Jordan-like mid-range game.

Back-to-the-Basket Scoring.

Jordan also developed a mid-range post game, learning to catch the ball with his back to the basket and score off of various pivot moves. Start your training by practicing quick fade-away jumpers on the baseline and in the lane. Build greater elevation and hang time as you go, pausing on your shots so you can wait out defenders. Add the dribbling component, backing down with a couple of bounces before rising up to shoot your turnaround shot.

Playing Jordan Defense

Jordan prided himself on shutting down opponents. He worked at directing players to their weak hand, keeping his feet shoulder-width apart and staying on the balls of his feet. He liked to hold one hand high to thwart passes and shots and his other hand low, with his palm up, to come up underneath to swat the ball loose. "If he can shoot, I'm going to make him drive," Jordan said in an instructional video. "If he can't shoot, well, I'm going to back off make sure he doesn't drive."

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