By: Rob Botts
The fade away jumper. One of the most deadly weapons in the offensive repertoire of a professional basketball player. This same shot that makes high school basketball coaches pull their collective hairs out, makes an NBA sideline roamer smile. Fundamentally, there are a bunch of things wrong with the fade away shot. You are off-balance. You are falling away from your target. Most of the time you don’t even follow through properly. Otherwise known to basketball insiders or playground dwellers as “pulling the string.” It also leaves you in the worst possible offensive rebounding position as well. Lose. Lose. Lose. Except for the result. Win. Win. Win. Rebounding position, balance and fundamentals are a moot point when the shot goes in.
And that shot, in the form of the fade away jumper, has never fallen more into the positive column, than by the hands of one Michael Jeffery Jordan. He had the greatest fade away jumper of all time. It most likely isn’t a shock that the greatest player of all time to most, has the greatest fade away jumper of all time. Jordan could take the top or near the top spot of any “Best” category having to with a round leather ball going through an iron rim. Many players have copied his move to staggering results. Players such as Tracy McGrady, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and Mr. Lebron James to name a few. But, “The Swoosh” owned it over anyone else in the history of the game.
The reason Jordan tops those serial fade away dudes previously mentioned, and many others, is because of just how effective he was with it and how he used it in so many varying positions on the floor and moments during games. First quarter or fourth quarter. Crunch time or garbage time. It just didn’t matter. When you do something better than anybody else, you’re usually pretty confident enough to use that particular advantage no matter what the circumstances are. And Michael did. Over and over and over and over again.
Even though Jordan transitioned to the post in his later years, he had always used the fade away as a young pup as well. In his early running with the Bulls, he used the fade away on that rare occasion when his normal, viking like attack of the rim had been temporarily cut off in the middle. Michael would down shift and go left or right and use the fade away jumper. It was more of a visceral, instinct over mental calculation that was on display by the baby Bull that he would use when he had to. The fade away, back then, mostly came from improvisation, because his incredible athletic ability would leave him the option that many other players just didn’t have.
The middle stretch of his career was highlighted by many intentional fade ways from all over the court. He would use his more sophisticated court sense to unleash the shot whenever he felt like it. At that point in his career, it wasn’t his first option but is was up there as he would come down the floor, survey the defensive landscape and then shoot. Whether it was released from the baseline, middle of the floor, top of the key or either elbow, it was “bottoms” every time.
By the time number 23 had reached his last couple years with Chicago, and into his short tenure with the Washington Wizards, the fade away was deadlier than ever. It became his number one option when jaunting down the court. Sometimes Jordan wouldn’t even take a dribble. The G.O.A.T. would just catch the ball and immediately go to triple threat position. Michael would then start using a series of jab steps and spins all without lifting his pivot foot. He would lean in and then lean back for a few seconds. Then he would throw a couple of head and shoulder fakes at the defender. Finally, once he had you off-balance, he would release that sweet fade away from the top of the key or the wing. When he was feeling merciful and wanted to give somebody a quick death, he would go right into the post and shoot the fade away as soon as he got his hands on the ball.
The mechanics of Michael Jordan’s fade away shot were supremely important to it’s success. Jordan would elevate backwards and keep the ball very high up over his head. It was never behind his head, just above it. This is an important fact, because the ball didn’t have to travel further backward taking up more time and it was released at a high point of his fade. He also would use his lower body and legs in particular to block the defender from getting the room they needed to go for the block. It was a foul or it was a bucket. Or a very, very rare missed shot attempt. Jordan would also use the baseline to keep the defender off of his fade away as well.
But you know what was the most important part of Michael Jeffrey Jordan’s fade away? The result. He would MAKE the shot. A LOT. Almost every time he shot it. It was automatic. It was lethal. It was, the greatest fade away jumper of all time.
(Featured image courtesy of Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated)