Kevin Martin's Shot Might Not Be Pretty, But It's Effective
Corey Brewer doesn’t mince words when describing Kevin Martin’s jump shooting motion. There are no modifiers or superlatives involved. No “sweet” or “smooth.” We’re not talking about Ken Griffey, Jr.’s batting stroke. Brewer uses words like “ugly” and “disgusting.”
But then he pauses: “That thing is ugly—it goes in, though,” Brewer said. “Why change it if it’s going in?”
That, in a nutshell, is why Martin is a 10-year NBA veteran who, through a decade in the league and nearly a decade more of high school and college ball he never re-created his shooting stroke. It was too effective. Coach Rick Adelman, who coached Martin in Sacramento and Houston before teaming up in Minnesota, said the same thing earlier this year: When a shot works, you don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
Still, it’s one of the few shots in the NBA that varies so far from the norm that it raises eyebrows. Shawn Marion is another, and even Joakim Noah’s free-throw motion draws attention. But unlike baseball, where batting stances over time have been as textbook as Griffey and Joe Mauer or as unorthodox as Ichiro Suzuki or Kevin Youkilis, NBA shooters typically stay inside the box.
Martin is the exception to the rule.
K-Mart's Shooting Form
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“Over the past 6-7 years, coaches kind of just let it go,” Martin said. “It’s just about repetition on a daily basis. Just sticking with your craft.”
That’s exactly it. Martin is a tireless worker when it comes to putting up shots. You often can see him getting out onto the floor early on gameday to get repetitions in, and he’ll work with assistant coach Terry Porter or others to keep shooting after practices.
The numbers speak for themselves. He’s averaging 19.4 points per game this year and is a career 17.9 points per game scorer. He’s shooting 39.0 percent from 3-point range this year—his second best average since 2008-09, and he’s also hitting 89.5 percent from the free-throw line.
He’s been tireless like that throughout his career. Last season, while with the Thunder, coach Scott Brooks said his work ethic shined through and was a major catalyst for ensuring his unorthodox shot kept going in at a high rate. He shot a career-best 42.6 percent from 3 last year.
“It’s a year-round job—it’s a life-long work,” Brooks said. “These guys have put in [time], they’ve been playing since they were 10-12 years old. The shot, it goes in, it goes in at a high clip. And you don’t’ know how it does and how he does it, but it goes in. He works, he works on it. He’s a great pro.”
So where does it come from? Martin said it’s a motion that comes from playing against older kids when he was younger. He couldn’t go inside against taller opponents when he was a kid, so he stayed out around the perimeter. Because he was smaller, he needed to put a little extra muscle into his shot.
Years went by, nothing changed.
“It’s kind of far, so shooting 3s at age 7 or 8 you’re not going to shoot a picture-perfect motion as a little kid,” Martin said. “It just kind of stuck with me.”
Now, he tries to use it to his advantage.
When he holds the ball, he either holds in front, angled or to the side. Hardly a possession is the same. That helps keep defenders guessing what he might do next. Will he spot up or drive?
Over time, he’s learned which angle he needs to get to the rim and which one helps him get his shot up quicker. The key is while the motion in the middle of his shot process might change, the footwork at the beginning and the follow-through at the end are always the same.
Those are two incredibly important parts of any shot. He has them, and he also has the balance to withstand contact if it does happen during his motion. That leads to a lot of free-throw attempts.
“It’s crazy how he draws contact and gets foul calls, and that shot goes in,” rookie Shabazz Muhammad said. “Sometimes people say if the shot doesn’t look good, it’s not going to [go in]. But his shot goes in. He’s a really good scorer. I try to learn from him myself. That’s what I want to be in this league—I want to be a really, really good scorer. That’s the one thing I’ve learned from him the most. He’s been mentoring me and stuff like that. I think it’s a great opportunity that he’s here.”
The irony of it all is that while Martin’s shot motion might be unorthodox and “ugly,” the ball’s trajectory and spin are pristine.
Forward Chase Budinger, Martin’s teammate in Minnesota and Houston, can’t help but marvel at the finished product once it leaves K-Mart’s fingertips.
“When you look at it closely, though, the best thing about it is the spin of the ball is perfect,” Budinger said. “The way it comes off the hands, off his fingertips, and it has a perfect spin. It’s pretty impressive when you really slow it down and look closely at his shot.”
When it comes down to it, the bottom line in this league is production. Martin might have an unorthodox shot, but it’s effective.
“The end of the shot is what matters,” Martin said. “Where your form ends up, and I kind of use it in my favor. You don’t know if I’m going to attack or shoot.”