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Thursday, May 12, 2011
The art of Dirk's one-legged leanaway

By Tim MacMahon

DALLAS – The most drastic change to Dirk Nowitzki’s offensive game during the second half of his career has been the addition of a one-of-a-kind go-to move to his arsenal.

You won’t see anybody else shoot the one-legged leanaway on a regular basis. And you certainly won’t see coaches teaching the fundamentally flawed shot that Dirk knocks down much more often than not.

Nobody taught the shot to Nowitzki. It’s just something he developed naturally while trying to find ways to score when he gets the ball in post-up situations.

Nowitzki’s sessions with longtime mentor Holger Geschwindner have always included all sorts of crazy shots, such as left-handed midrange bank shots. They also do a bunch of odd-looking drills designed to improve Dirk's balance. But the one-legged leanaway isn’t something that was cooked up in Holger’s lab.

“It’s not really something I practiced a lot, especially out of the post,” said Nowitzki, who also occasionally goes one-legged leanaway off the dribble, sort of a reverse runner. “We do shoot some runners with Holger off one leg, but never really the one-leg stepback. That’s just something that developed in games and helps me get a little separation to get the shot off.”

It’s one of the most unique go-to moves in NBA history. It probably ranks behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famed sky hook – “the best in the game ever because it’s so hard,” Dirk said – as the most unblockable shots in basketball history. How can a defender possibly get a hand on a ball hoisted by a 7-footer who has a bent knee in the way and is leaning away?

Having said all that, Nowitzki knows it’s not a textbook move.

“Sometimes I think about it and don’t want to shoot it, because it is a soft shot, especially when guys are still close and can walk up under me,” Nowitzki said. “Then it’s not a good shot. Really, it’s all about when I can see if [the defender] is really leaning hard. Can I get a little separation and get it off? If not, then it’s probably not a good shot.”

If so, it’s usually money.