On True Hoop, Henry Abbott discusses the chapter of Chris Ballard’s The Art of a Beautiful Game that covers Steve Nash and his propensity for unconventional finishes.
For Nash, the difficulty began when he was a 10th grader. He’d sprained his left ankle and, gym rat that he was, never let it properly heal. As a result, he found it increasingly difficult to leap off his left foot; whereas he’d been able to dunk off his left leg before, he no longer could. Thus every drive became an adventure. “It really made it much harder to finish with my right hand,” he says. “I’d make most of them, of course, but I had to really concentrate.” As a result, Nash became, as he puts is, “basically lefthanded around the basket.”
As it turns out, his lack of rehabilitation of his ankle turned into a positive for Nash, as he is unpredictable with the shots that he takes, and therefore keeps bigger and longer defenders off-balance.
However, not all players are so lucky. Just as Nash’s lack of rehab inhibited his ability to jump off his left leg, many players ignore their rehab when they sprain an ankle and they do not realize the consequences. I have trained players whose inability to shoot free throws consistently stemmed from a two-year old ankle injury.
If you sprain an ankle or incur another similar injury, your rehab does not stop when you feel good enough to play again. Your rehab is complete when you regain optimal mobility and strength and return to your previous performance level (for instance, dunking off his left leg in Nash’s example). The goal is not just to return to action, but to return the body to its pre-injury levels.