In every single NBA basketball game I notice –wide eyed, with hands on top of my head– an incredible finish at the rim.  Sometimes from a guard, sometimes a post, sometimes a wing, but they’re always different and they’re always fun to watch.  This sparked a question, of which I’m not entirely sure the answer: How do the best finishers in the NBA learn to score at the rim the way they do?

Do they work on these acrobatic moves in practice?  Some likely do, more often than not they don’t.  Do they simply let their athleticism take over when heading to the basket and figure it out in the air? Some it would appear so… The best explanation I can surmise, is these professional athletes have played in so many basketball games growing up, through high school, AAU, college, and in the pros, that over time they have learned to finish at the rim in game-like settings, in these unique ways (one of those 10,000 hours things…).

What we do know is basketball fans cannot deny there’s something special about watching a player who can finish at the rim in all manners of ways, and with either hand: dunks, scoops, reverses, floaters, lay-ups, euro-steps, at half speed or at full speed, jumping outward, jumping up, jumping sideways…   It’s that special ability to hang, pump, and somehow in the midst of so much movement, calm everything down and put the ball in the bucket.  As if these athletes, while in the air, take the deepest of breaths, relax every muscle in their body, and softly set the ball on the back board or through the rim, always looking easy amidst the constant chaos of defenders protecting the rim.

Take a look at some of the best from today’s game (and the legends) and see if you can answer these questions yourself:

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