One Motion vs Two Motion Jump Shot

I’d like to talk about the difference between a one motion and a two motion jump shot and clear the air on this topic once and for all.

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One Motion vs Two Motions: The Great Debate

I want to talk about this because I’ve seen a lot of videos and discussions on this topic and yet, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on what separates a one motion jump shot from a two motion jump shot. 

People don’t seem to agree on any one defintion. One person will say “Player X” is a one motion shooter and another person will say that the SAME PLAYER is a two motion shooter… and the conversation will just devolve into nonsense.

The worst part about all of this is that young players end up getting bad advice from people on the internet, and so-called trainers, and take it to heart. These players think they should avoid certain ways of shooting and end up focused on the wrong aspects of their jump shots. And at the end of the day, all these players manage to do is slow their own development and limit their offensive options.

Game Plan

All that being said, with this article, I want to go over some common definitions for one motion and two motion jump shots and show how these definitions are inconsistent or straight up nonsensical. If you get to the end, I’ll talk about how I think YOU should think about these terms and how I feel my way of thinking will help you improve YOUR game today.

So lets get started…

Distinct Motions

The most basic definition is that one motion shooters have only a single motion in their jump shots while two motion shooters have two. This sounds reasonable until you stop and look at how users of this definition actually identify distinct motions. It usually goes something like this:

One Motion Jump Shots:

  • Set Point is in front of the face or forehead
  • The ball goes “straight up” and releases in a smooth motion

Two Motion Jump Shots:

  • Set Point is above their head
  • The ball travels backwards (first motion) before it releases (second motion)

In other words, a shooter with a high set point must bring the ball backwards to reach his set point before releasing the ball, creating two motions, while a shooter with a low set point can just move the ball through their set point and to their release in one fluid motion.

This sounds reasonable, right? Players labeled as two motion shooters usually have high Set Points. However, it’s ridiculous to say that only players with high set points bring the ball back before it goes forward.

Almost every single player does this to some degree.

Physically, you must bring the ball backward in order to get it anywhere near your head, unless your set point is way out from your body, or your elbows are flared out really wide.

Backward Motion – Stephen Curry

Take a look at this clip of Stephen Curry shooting around. We pause the clip at the start of his shot and once the ball reaches his Set Point to make it clear how the ball changes position.

Steph is known as a one motion shooter because of his low Set Point and smooth looking shot.

However, we can see the ball starts out away from his body but once the ball reaches his set point, it has obviously moved backwards as well, in order to get to his forehead.

Backward Motion – Kobe Bryant

Compare that with this clip of Kobe Bryant, who would be considered a two motion shooter by this definition, and you can see basically the same thing.

He begins his shot with the ball well away from his body and then he brings it back to reach his Set Point.

I think it’s pretty fair to say that as far as distinct motions go, both types of shooters have pretty much the same two motions. Bring the ball to the Set Point, and then release the shot.

That brings me to the next most common definition I see...

Release Timing

This is a very common way to classify shooters. It has to do with both jumping height and when the shooter releases the ball during their jump. This definition is most often broken down in the following way:

One Motion Jump Shots:

  • Don’t jump high when they shoot
  • Release the ball early in their jump
  • Don’t pause with the ball at their set point

Two Motion Jump Shots:

  • Jump high in the air on their shot
  • Release the ball at the top of their jump
  • Hold the ball at the Set Point for a period of time

Two players who generally exemplify this definition are Steph Curry, for the one motion, and Russel Westbrook, for two motion.

The problem that I have with this definition is that players use different release timings for different situations.

Varying Release Timing – Kevin Durant

For example, lets look at footage here of Kevin Durant shooting after curling off a down screen.

KD clearly holds the ball at his set point while on his way up. And we may not have the best angle in this shot but we can tell he gets fairly high in the air to get the angle over the defender.

Compare that shot to this one.

This time we see Durant getting just slightly off the ground on his release. We can also see, particularly in the final angle, that their is clearly no pause at his set point in his release.

Early Release Timing – Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant gets labeled a two motion shooter more than most. We’ll look at a one of his shots as another example.

Just like the last example with Kevin Durant, in this shot, we can see that Kobe releases the ball without pausing at his Set Point and doesn’t jump very high either. Here, we might be tempted to label him as having a one motion jump shot.

Late Release Timing – Damian Lillard

To really hammer in my point, lets look at one more example. This time with Damian Lillard, who has possibly the most commonly used example of a one motion jump shot after Stephen Curry.

This is the most famous shot of his career, and yet we see both traits of a two motion jump shot. He’s extremely high off the ground and has a very clear delay in his release until he’s very near the top of his jump.

The point I’m trying to make here is that, while yes, we can describe individual shots based on their release timing and jump height, we can’t really label players based on that alone. Most good shooters and scorers vary their release timing and jump height based on the situation. It gives them more flexibility and control so they can adapt to the defense they’re facing.

What’s the Point?

So those were the typical definitions I see for one motion and two motion jump shot forms. There are definitions out there that I didn’t cover. But all of the ones I’ve seen can be disproved in the same ways.

I’m not trying to say that talking about these aspects of jump shot form is useless. It’s important for players to be able to assess the different aspects of jump shot form and consider what will help them in their game.

I am saying that despite some players almost never varying these aspects of their jump shot form, there is no reason to create an entirely new classification, such as one motion vs two motion.

Doing so is like classifying players that shoot a lot of fadeaways separately from players who don’t. We don’t consider the fadeaway to be an entirely separate jump shot form. Why should we consider different release timings or set point locations separate forms either.

Classification, Mechanic or Situational Choice?

Set Point should be considered a shot mechanic. Just like foot width, guide hand placement, hip alignment, wrist snap, or any other. Release timing should be considered a situational choice. Just like footwork, fading, or the decision to shoot in the first place.

As a player reading this, don’t limit yourself to thinking you only have the option of one release timing or jump height. And if you’re considering changing your Set Point, make sure you know why your making that change and why it will help your game. If you want to be a better shooter or scorer, you must do your own research and make up your own mind to determine what’s best for you.

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