Sports Science vs Brain Science of Basketball: Where’s the Shot Come From

Sports Science vs Brain Science of Basketball

Where does the Shot Come From?

Stephen Dolle
  Newport Beach, CA

Sports Science of the Basketball Court
Sports Science of the Basketball Court

I am a neuroscientist and basketball fanatic and spent the last seven years trying to understand “where” the basketball shot comes from. Is it from the body? Is it from the mind? Is it from some place outside of this world? The answers are a mix of science,  mindfulness, faith & belief, mythology, and perhaps even shamanism. Sports science and brain science, in my opinion, does not fully explain what we see in some sports and in basketball. Perhaps there are outside influences such as from God, myths surrounding the basketball court, the spirit of Shamans? It is my work with drumming, athletics, healing, and brain science that led me to explore the “unseen influences” in basketball.

For fun, I’ve included some of my own mythology on super-human abilities made possible by the geometric shapes of the modern basketball court, and speculation that the court may have been designed by “celestial powers.” Well, it’s fun to consider!

Basketball is unique in that it encompases both sophisticated sport kinesthetics, and team brain science, which then allows the total effort to be greater than the sum of the individual contributions by players. This opens up incredible possibilities in teambuilding, leadership, personal growth, trance heightened (super brain) states, and team performances. So, where does the shot come from?

The four levels of brain wave states are shown in this illustration
The four levels of brain wave states are shown in this illustration

In a few words, it comes from the rhythmic progression (and memory) of the proper movements in your successful shot, and from belief and connectness to your higher power. As basketball is a team sport, it also requires each player to connect with each other at the highest levels, termed brain-wave entrainment (or BWE). BWE is the brain to brain telepathic connection we experience that allows anticipation of passes & plays from team-mates, and your feelings and thoughts during play. It is a group effect that influences each player’s belief in their higher power, critical during shooting and winning.

It is in these regards that I believe my work with drumming, the neurosciences, and rhythm & movement, can help basketball teams win. Group drumming is a form of group hypnosis that changes mindsets, connectedness, and one’s belief about a group such as a basketball team. Basketball parallels drumming in many ways thru its timing, coordination, anticipation, and syncopation. It is a great combination for winning!

Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications
Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications

Basketball is played today all over the world, and for a variety of reasons. In this blog, examine the mechanisms that lead to successful basketball play, some epic performances by top athletes, and attempt to explain it and provide methods that can be adopted by players and teams. In basketball, we seem many seemingly impossible shots. We see this in all sports. But it just seems more prevalent in basketball. Why is that?

Early Mayan Basketball
Early Mayan Basketball
Early Mayan music and drumming
Early Mayan music and drumming

In this blog, I also  discuss playing basketball for health & fitness (as I do), and combining drumming with basketball – that can improve ball handling, shooting, timing of movement, and on-court communications. I also recommend basketball drills (and drumming) for short and long term management of concussion, brain injury, and neurological disorders.

Health & Science Topics covered in this Blog

1. Sports Science of Basketball

2. Brain Science of Basketball

3. Mindfulness of Basketball

4. Drumming with Basketball

5. Basketball for Health & Fitness

6. Mythology in Basketball

7. My Journey into Drumming & Basketball after Brain Injury

8. Use of Drumming & Basketball in the Treatment of Concussion

9. Sports Science Analysis: Who will win the 2015 NBA Finals

Stephen Dolle Drum Circle Facilitation
Stephen Dolle Drum Circle Facilitation

I became a neuroscientist following a brain injury in 1992. It led to my research with cognition, music therapy, balance & movement, and drumming or drum circles. By 2008, I had begun to apply my methods to basketball, initially with just balance & movement. But by 2010, this evolved into mindfulness and my search for “where” the shot comes from. My neuroscience study now spans learning, cognition, sensory processing disorders, movement & balance, mindfulness, brain wave entrainment (BWE), and shamanism. I’ve also been involved with medical devices, mHealth technology, and assistive technology.

In consideration of the 2015 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, I wrote up my sports & brain science analysis of who I think will win the series. This analysis appears further down towards the end of this page.

Clevand Cavaliers home court
Clevand Cavaliers home court
Golden State Warriors basketball home court
Golden State Warriors basketball home court


Basketball was first introduced in 1891 by James Naismith, a physical education instructor for the YMCA. But the game and basketball court have evolved considerably since its early inception. The ball today measures 9.55 inches in diameter (WNBA 9.23 inches), while the basket measures 18 inches in diameter. At times, the basket appears quite large enough to accommodate the ball. While at other times, the hoop just seems far too small. There are quite a few measurements that govern the different sections of the court. There likely isn’t another sport and playing court with as many sections with separate rules governing each.

There is considerable sports science in basketball as the sport has been around for over 100 years. Below, is a list of the brain & sports science skills involved in basketball.

Sports Science Basketball Drills
Sports Science Basketball Drills

The Sports Science & Brain Science of Basketball includes

1) proprioception of movement, dribbling, passing, shooting, rhythmic progressions
2) shooting the ball, ball angles, trajectory
3) tactile senses handling the ball, and movement of the body
4) spatial awareness of oneself, and others on the court
5) physical strength, conditioning, and endurance of play (kinesiology)
6) on-court (mostly non-verbal) communications
7) team rhythm and brain wave entrainment (BWE)
8) defending of shots, strategy, interpreting intent of opponents
9) mentally execution of plays, improvising adjustments
10) mental mistakes, mus0cues, personal fouls
11) team and player analytics
12) design of the basketball court


Sports Science of the Basketball Court

Basketball Court Diagram
Basketball Court Diagram
NBA Basketball Court Dimensions
NBA Basketball Court Dimensions

Basketball has undergone numerous changes since 1891, and today holds few similarities to the original game. The Swish and BRAD slide below identifies the optimal sports science shooting arcs, while the adjacent slide reveals analytics of shooting by court section for the Miami Heat’s 2012 playoff run.

Miami Heat's 2012 floor shooting analytics
Miami Heat’s 2012 floor shooting analytics

Basketball 3pt Angles Swish Brad

Basketball’s 2014-15 season sensation and league MVP, Stephen Curry, is getting all kinds of sports science coverage now for his 3 point shooting style. Not only does he utilize a high shooting arc, but he has a very quick release. He has already broken 3-point shooting records this post-season, with at least 4 games still to play. He is being described as the best pure shooter the game has ever seen, and I am particularly interested in his mindfulness and related brain science disciplines. These methods will help in further development of skills and health applications for basketball, and in my work with drumming for basketball. The sport science slides below depict Stephen Curry’s shooting technique.

Basketball Stephen Curry Shot
Basketball Stephen Curry Shot

This last sports science slide is on the bank shot and best shooting angles, as if you didn’t already know. Hit the correct spot on the back board, and the ball gets deflected into the basket.

Basketball Sports Science Pro Shot

In 2013, Muthu Alagappan, a medical school student at Stanford, got the sports world’s attention when he came up with analytics to help in preparing a roster that optimizes offense and defense on the court. Some of his concepts I think appeared in the movie, Money Ball. Alagappan thinks we need new definitions he calls, “Revealing Basketball’s 10 Hidden Positions.”

Muthu Alagappan’s 10 Basketball Positions

1.Jump Shooting Ball-handler (Stephen Curry) Handles the ball while being a focal point of the offense through deadly jump shooting.
2.Two-way All-star (Kobe Bryant) Elite offensive and defensive player, who can dominate the game on both ends of the court.
3.Inside Outside Scorer (Chandler Parsons) Avoids the mid-range but scores often in the paint and from the three-point line.
4.Mid-range Big-man (Al Jefferson) Skilled rebounder and paint defender who also has midrange jump shooting ability.
5.Defensive Ball-handler (Kyle Lowry) Ballhandler that applies defensive pressure and looks to get his teammates involved on offense.
6.3-Point Ball-handler (Klay Thompson) Ballhandler who features an offensive arsenal highlighted by 3-point shooting.
7.3-Point Specialist (Shane Battier) Role player who’s offensive role is almost solely to shoot 3-pointers.
8.Low-usage Ball-handler (Courtney Lee) Ball-handler who can fit in to various roles on a team but lacks a clear identity.
9.Paint Protector (Larry Sanders) Menacing interior defender that protects the rim and deters opponents from driving to the basket.
10.Scoring Rebounders (Tim Duncan) Big man who serves as a team’s primary scorer and also rebounds with consistency.

Muthu Alagappan has become a consultant to a couple of NBA teams with his methods, which I find well founded in science and mathematics. His conclusions are supported by game analytics, as are the declining analytics of players attempting successful 2nd and 3rd consecutive 3-point shots.

The Physical Science of Dribbling, Moving, and Shooting the Basketball

Drumming for Basketball.ball drills1
Drumming for Basketball.ball drills1

The handling, dribbling, passing, and shooting of the basketball integrates tactile skill of the hands and fingers with kinesiology of skills training, with proprioception of physical memory and recall of the shot (and related court movements).

Tactile skill is the sensation of touching the ball with your hands and fingers, and integrating this with the spatial awareness of your feet and body. This sensation also helps with balance and coordination, as we use our fingers and hands in body movements, i.e. hand/finger movements sprinters use as they run, wrestlers during a takedowns. Tactile sensation during movement is also important as we age, and after a neurological events (as happened to me) affecting one’s balance or movement.

Drumming and the Brain.diagram

I intuitively developed new methods in tactile movement following my 1992 brain injury. In 2004, when I became involved in hand drumming, these tactile methods evolved to include “rhythmic” movement. My hand and finger movements significantly help my short term memory, balance, and initiation of movement. I feel these methods can not only be applied to basketball, but also to aid balance, cognition, and movement in everyday life.

Basketball Tactile Sensation
Basketball Tactile Sensation

Kinesiology is more a macro science of movement and spans physiological, psychological, and mechanical mechanisms. It encompasses physical and psychological training, on court body mechanics for optimal movement, and techniques to help avoid injury and keep players conditioned.

Proprioception is more the micro science of movement, defined as the sense of relative position of different parts of your body during movement, and spans memory/recall of specific body movements such as dribbling, sprinting, passing, and shooting. It is also referred to as “muscle memory,” as it defines the network of sensors in our joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments which remember specific task movements. It allows a player to dribble, pass, and shoot with considerable accuracy. Proprioceptive movement also involves key portions of the brain as the slides indicate.

Brain Illustration.Biological Psychology

Keen tactile skill, kinesiology, and proprioception no doubt play and integral part in a player’s skillset and success on the basketball court. I am particularly intrigued by the skillsets and shooting capabilities of finesse players like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, pictured below. Each has majestic type shooting mechanics and have scored over 50 points in a game.

Basketball Stephen Curry
Basketball Stephen Curry
Basketball Kevin Durant
Basketball Kevin Durant

Sports Science vs Mythology: Where does the Shot come from?

There are no doubt scientific factors responsible for players having super-skills on the basketball court. I hope that Stephen Curry & LeBron James can help us answer some of these questions in this 2015 NBA Finals. But, what I am referring to, is beyond sports science. Beyond what we can fully prove. It is the unseen influences in the human condition that is so prevalent sports, and especially so in basketball. It can be viewed in terms of psychology, mindfulness, faith & belief, shamanism, trance states, or perhaps the celestial design of the modern basketball court. Let’s start with the design of the court.

The arc of the 3-point line, where much of the play takes place, appears to resemble the curvature of the earth. The basket is situated at the base of the arc, much like either the sun or the core of the earth. As players move about on the court, they seek to know their orientation to the basket, much as we seek to orient ourselves to the sun and core of the earth. The players’ knowing of their orientation allows them to make accurate shots in the basket. The current field goal shooting space inside the arc was traditionally where the game was played. But in more recent years, it has been expanded beyond the arc in 3-point shooting.

This space beyond the arc is where players yearning to become celestial gods dare to shoot. The space inside the paint is where mythical players look to defy earthly gravity. This court design seems to invite individuals with unique skillsets to try and master these spaces. Many try. But only a select few succeed. The game and court seem perfect! If you look at the geometric shapes on the court, you can see how they mirror the shapes of our planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields. And this gives rise to mythology in basketball and speculation that there is a link between the court and the super-skills of players. Note the shapes of the images in the earth’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

Sun Earths Magnetic Field
Sun Earths Magnetic Field
Earth Lagrangian Gravitational Lines
Earth Lagrangian Gravitational Lines

As a scientist, drummer, and multi-sport athlete, I can attest to something occurring in the brain during your mental preparation, and into your rhythmic progression of the athletic maneuver. I think it closely resembles mindfulness visualization. Coach Phil Jackson wrote extensively on mindfulness. As a scientist, I can say that athlete super-skills would likely occur either as faith and belief based hypnosis, trance states, or shamanism. Super-skills have been scientifically confirmed thru study of “trance heightened states” on fMRI brain scans of individuals. I suspect this would also occur in athletes.

Proprioception and Rhythmic Progression of the Basketball Shot

Illustration on the proprioceptive mechanisms involved in exercise and movement.
Illustration on the proprioceptive mechanisms involved in exercise and movement.

We’ve discussed sports science, shooting angles & trajectories, tactile skill, kinesiology,  and mythology. But where really does the shot come from?

During shooting, you have your own unique rhythmic progression that allows you to store & recall your shot – albeit through proprioception. During a game, there are also opponents pushing and bumping into you, and it disrupts timing and a good “look” of the shot. But it is the exceptional shooter who can alter the mechanics of the progression and shot, and fit it into the tighter spaces created by the defense.

It is your body’s proprioception that allows you to execute these movements with very limited conscious thought, part of your “somatic” nervous system, where movements of your arms, legs, and body can be pre-programmed to rhythmic cues. Rhythmic movement also aids our memory in doing every day tasks like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and driving your car, which are integrated into your broader tactile awareness and complex movements.

Rhythmic progressions are become a pivotal part of all sports play, plus are found in repetitive activities like drumming, hammering, and most skill trades. I found hand drumming to be uniquely helpful with tactile perception of the hands and fingers, and it can be applied to basketball and activities in everyday life. In addition, rhythmic sports like basketball invoke team brain wave entrainment, or BWE, the same principles found in drumming, or drum circles.

Four major Brain Wave States of the Brain
Four major Brain Wave States of the Brain

BWE is a mirroring of “brain waves” between members of a group in a heightened and connected similar activity. Brain waves normally occur in five (5) frequency ranges: delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma, as measured by EEG instruments and brain wave sensors available for mobile devices. BWE determines in part how we learn in a classroom, and how we communicate and influence one another in life. BWE is also involved in why women who live or work together tend to synchronize their menstrual periods to the same times. For more on BWE, see my blog on use of “drum circles” in the workplace.

Drum Circles boost BWE & Productivity in the Workplace

Drum circles aid productivity and stress reduction for employees at this area Orange County firm.
Drum circles aid productivity and stress reduction for employees at this area Orange County firm.

BWE methods help with “brain wave” control in movement, timing, attentiveness, communication skill, and stress reduction. The methods actually date back thousands of years. But only more recently, have they been understood. Below, Charles & Kenny do a little drumming during their TNT coverage of basketball.

Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O'Neal do a little drumming in the workplace on TNT Basketball
Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal do a little drumming in the workplace on TNT Basketball


The Role of Mindfulness in Basketball

Your Basketball Spirit Guide may help more than you know during Shooting
Your Basketball Spirit Guide may help more than you know during Shooting

I find basketball to have many similarities to gymnastics in that the trick or shot is actually done in your head, before you execute the shot. This requires that you visualize, believe, and execute a specific rhythmic pattern to carry out this vision. And the more positive you are about the shot, the higher your accuracy. The above photo caught the sun’s morning rays in a precise covering of the ball, suggesting the role of spirit and belief in the basketball shot. These prospects further drive fans to the game to watch players try and achieve out of this world performances.

In his book about mindfulness in basketball under the title, “Sacred Hoops,” Coach Phil Jackson says these methods were largely responsible for his success as a coach.

During the 1970s and 1980s, I was particularly engaged and changed by a number of books on the mind and philosophy. At 30 and at 6’2”, I became involved in gymnastics so I could explore visualization and mindfulness. These principles are pivotal in basketball and sports play according to the great players.

This IS where the basketball shot comes from…. BELIEVING! Remember the Disney movie, “Peter Pan?” How did he fly? Happy Thoughts! But, he had to first BELIEVE.

The science of BELIEVING is that you must first KNOW. And KNOWING — comes from DOING! So you must practice the fundamentals to learn your craft, albeit flying, gymnastics, or basketball. Do these things, and somewhere along the way, you will come to KNOW and to SEE what you need in order to BELIEVE.

On the subject of believing, I share this powerful blog on my many years of experience in healing, mindfulness, and preventing injury.

Healing thru Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

Stephen Dolle speaking on drumming and rhythm at Wright State University
Stephen Dolle speaking on drumming and rhythm at Wright State University

I suspect this is how Stephen Curry and other top shooters achieve high skill brain states. In addition, it requires a vision and BELIEVING, as seen in players like LeBron James in leading other players to greatness. It is a philosophy, a practice, and way of life.

In my personal experiences in shooting on the court, I’ve found a “communion” of sorts in following my higher power’s “direction” in selecting the spots & mechanics for each shot. Even for a very difficult shot. When you follow that “direction,” something magical happens. It’s as though there are “forces” that govern which shots allow the ball to pass thru the basket. You must be in communion. Might it be tied to astrology? I can’t say.

Astrology Chart
Astrology Chart

Exceptional players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Stephen Curry have evolved into mythical figures. Bryant as the Black Mamba. James as the Chosen One. Curry as the Golden Boy. I can only speculate on their brain, spiritual, and physical mechanisms on the court.

Mythology.Air Jordan

Mythology.Kobe Bryant The Black Mamba Wings

Another mindfulness practice I am intrigued by is how some athletes are able to compartmentalize pain from injury, and not let it be a distraction during play. This is counter to what we know of pain and its impact on mental focus and performance.

I have personally had instances of “spontaneous healing,” where all signs and complaints with an injury or illness have immediately disappeared. The photo below is from one of my brain shunt surgeries, where I used mindfulness to help in my outcomes and to manage pain.


Stephen Dolle invented his DiaCeph Test following his 1996 FDA petition that was then used to direct this 1998 shunt surgery
Stephen Dolle invented his DiaCeph Test following his 1996 FDA petition that was then used to direct this 1998 shunt surgery

In 1988, Isiah Thomas had his best quarter of basketball ever when he shot 14/15 (or something near that) in a game against the Lakers, with a sprained and swollen ankle that hobbled him on the court. It requires mental focus to make difficult shots. Pain would normally be a significant distraction in shooting accuracy. Just look around the NBA and other sports on why players are out. But Thomas played his best basketball ever on one foot. It’s unfounded in sports. How was he able to do this? Mindfulness/hypnosis? Spirituality? Shamanism? Trance heightened states?

We each choose our own discipline(s) to try and attain excellence in basketball and in life. Some of us are blessed with “genetic predispositions” which allow us to excel. Most must learn these. I regularly see the emergence of genetic predispositions in my drum circles. No doubt it occurs in other therapies as well. Below, I am interviewed and discuss how a drum circle is used to bring change to your life.

Dolle Communications Web Site Information on Drum Circles

Drum Circles in the Workplace Blog

What is a Drum Circle? Stephen Dolle explains on Circle of Insight TV Show
What is a Drum Circle? Stephen Dolle explains on Circle of Insight TV Show

My Brain Science Efforts: From Hydrocephalus to Basketball

My 23-year journey from my 1992 brain injury has become a personal journey and mission. Many of the re-learning, balance, and movement methods I’ve used have come to me “intuitively.” In my initial neuropsych testing in 1993, the UCLA neuropsychologist was amazed at how in just 6 months I had created compensatory strategies to help address my challenges – without any therapy. In the years that I followed, my methods grew to include cognition and memory, integral in the 1997 design of my DiaCeph Test app for hydrocephalus, and methods in balance and movement. In 2004, drumming began to enable new intuitive, or shaman, type skills where I added rhythmic cues to movement and cognitive actions. Then, armed with new neuroscience research, I began to explore methods and insights into BWE, or brain wave entrainment, and human behavior.

Animal Spirits at Drum Circle
Animal Spirits at Drum Circle

Within a few years of my brain injury, unbeknownst to me, I began using finger movements and would tap on myself and on things around me, throughout the day as I moved about and initiated ordinary tasks. I initially did this while driving to help concentrate while at busy intersections. Then eventually I was doing this throughout the day to cue everyday task and movements, without consciously being aware of it. I would do it when I got dressed, put on trousers. I do it at the counter in the kitchen, while brushing my teeth, and as I prepared to drive off in my car. I would do it all day long. The cues allow me to think and move about much easier.

On the basketball court, I use these cues to direct my step, dribble, turn, and shoot to deliberate patterns. These “cues” allow me to move about and shoot more effortlessly. Off the court, I have some balance problems and am often in a lot of pain, and am dependent on my hand and finger cues. When I play hand percussion in drum circles, I often play Afro-Cuban rhythms I’ve never studied. I play what comes to me, a lot like the cues.

In everyday life, I utilize hand-finger movements to boost mental focus & cognition. It may seem a bit like gang signs found in hip hop music. But, I don’t follow hip hop. I have no idea where they came from, other than my brain’s compensatory adaptation. And even more unusual, the other day I found myself wanting to howl along with several dogs who were howling to nearby sirens at the super market. No doubt, this arose out of an increased sensitivity to things around me and wanting to be in BWE with the dogs.

The brain science of many of my compensatory methods can be found in scientific papers. Since 2008, I’ve also been using fasting and following calorie restriction methods on eating – to boost health, energy, and mental focus. Today, I also write about Nootropics vitamins for the brain.

My experiences might seem a bit like Ron Howard’s 1980s anti-aging movie, “Cocoon?” But this is real. Mindfulness, shamanism, and trance heightened states enable the brain to function at significantly higher levels. And it’s confirmed on fMRI brain imaging. It’s gifted me to write about and put on very innovative drumming events & workshops.

Today I shoot baskets for the body/brain fitness buzz, and it helps my balance, coordination, cognition, stress levels, and mental outlook.

Basketball’s health & fitness benefits are well known for children, teens, adults, and seniors. In addition, it can provide therapeutic benefits to persons with brain, spinal cord, and movement disorders.

From my experiences on the court and in drumming, I’ve created a program of basketball drills and a program for drumming. There is a synergy between basketball and drumming, as both involve rhythm, movement, syncopation, and brain wave entrainment (BWE). These photos demonstrate drumming’s benefits in tactile perception, rhythm, coordination, and team brain wave entrainment.

Hand Drumming helps Tactile Senses of Hands
Hand Drumming helps Tactile Senses of Hands
Drumming with Children aids Movement and Coordination
Drumming with Children aids Movement and Coordination

Drumming for play at game

My Personal Basketball for Health & Fitness Methods

I’ve got more than seven (7) years of experience in basketball for health and fitness. Below, I share my shooting preparation, and drills and shooting on the court.

Stephen Free Throw
In order to be physically ready to shoot, I do a series of floor and rubber band stretches and mindfulness visualizations for 10-25 minutes. This helps to clear your head and prepare you physically for the demands you’ll be faced with in dribbling, moving, and shooting. It also helps get you “tuned into” your high power for direction on the court.

On the court, I begin with left and right hand, between the legs, behind the back, and closed space dribbling. I make sure my footwork matches anything I do with the ball.

Next, I do dribbling with shots from left to right under the basket. This helps address any stiffness or dizziness. And some days I require more turning and dribbling drills warm-up. I continue shooting under the basket, as I shift between right & left handed shooting. I am left handed. But, I will do as many or more shots under the basket with my right hand.

Next, are my bank shots, where I gradually move to further distances around the court. By this time, I am usually beginning to “feel” the shot and come off the ground a little as I shoot. I allow my body’s momentum to lift me off the ground. I rarely do jump shots as it reduces my shot accuracy.

Once I am fully warmed up, I move to field goals, where I enjoy moving about the court, shooting what my shots and rebounds give me. I listen to my body and to the basketball gods in deciding what my next shot & drills will be.

By now, I’m 20-25 minutes into my workout, and begin free throws, which as anyone knows, can become contentious and mentally challenging. I would like to do some training in psychology of free throws as I can struggle at the line. I know it is usually something on my mind that is interfering. So this often becomes free throw therapy! I mean, we all need some outside help!

Depending on how this goes will determine whether I do layups, or 3-point shots next. Both of these have become a little more difficult over the last year or two (I am now age 60). Still, I follow what my body gives me. Often times with 3-point shots, I’ll do shots inside the arc to warm up my shoulders for the further distances. Since free throws and 3-point shots can be contentious, I sometimes use really different techniques (and two handed) and shots to just stimulate my body and balance. When I can, I’ll let out a shout or two in frustration (which I think is very helpful). But I’m courteous to nearby neighbors.

On layups, I do standard, reverse, and under handed styles. I do as much as my body and mindfulness allows. I used to be able to sprint/dribble back to my house. But not in the past couple of years.

I’ve developed methods that allow me to become successful at being my own psychotherapist & physiotherapist on the basketball court. I listen to my body and mind, and pay close attention to my shots and mechanics on the court.

The brain and sensory system during cognition.
The brain and sensory system during cognition.

I find that opposite hand shooting helps to balance and calm me on the court. Scientifically, it means you’ve engaged both hemispheres of your brain in shooting. I always leave with a better buzz when I’ve done amply opposite hand and free throws. This becomes a lot about poise and balance. I suspect these drills and methods lends itself to some trance heightened state brain activity. But I’m only supposing.

I have on a number of occasions added hand drumming before, and after, shooting. Twice I was able to add some basketball to drum workshops I held, with excellent feedback. I am very interested in doing more drumming with basketball workshops.

Drumming with Basketball: Some Background

Drum rhythms define a very precise pattern and are remarkably similar to an athlete’s movement on the basketball court. If you play or shoot baskets for fun or fitness, you will experience rhythmic progressions in your shooting, passing, and dribbling. This can put you into an altered state of consciousness, or Nirvana of sorts. You might even enter a trance state. The main difference is with drumming, that you can enter into these mind states without being an expert drummer or musician. Trance states and rhythmic patterns are indigenous to us all. You need only find the right discipline. The children below put on a drum circle during half-time at a Bay area basketball game.

Basketball Half Time Kids Drum Circle

In basketball, passing, shooting, and on-court communications largely occur due to syncopation and brain wave entrainment. To aid syncopation, drums have been used in military training and battlefield maneuvers for hundreds of years. Drumming has a long history with African shamans. In some parts of Africa, drums are brought and played next to the basketball court. For these reasons, drumming is a great training tool in basketball.

Drumming and shamanism are very rooted in African culture, where mindfulness and trance heightened states are rooted more in Western civilization. They may be one and the same brain mechanism – arising from different cultures. These disciplines no doubt hold tremendous insight into future human development.

Drumming is an unusually good fit to basketball because of team play, rhythmic movements & beats, and brain wave entrainment or BWE. Drum beats and BWE can help synchronize plays and on-court communications in basketball. It can help in heightened awareness of ball movement and connectedness on the court.

Drumming and Basketball Methods

Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications
Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications

Drumming with basketball can be adapted both to health & fitness, and team play.

Health and Fitness

Split a group into (5) parts consisting of: sitting down hand drumming, standing shakers & bells, standing sound shapes, on court ball handling & shooting, standing playing (tapping) on your body. These play parts are about movement and syncopation. Playing and shooting is about moving every part of your body in a coordinated rhythm. Within several minutes, a group rhythm evolve and synchronize between all the parts of the group, and there will become a magical synergy that will aid both those playing instruments, and those with the basketballs.

Team Play

1. Warm up with the above drumming for basketball fitness program

2. Next, 5 players take an instrument and spread out on the court in their respective positions as follows:

-center/power forwards on bass and large djembes

-shooting guards on mid-size djembes

-point guard on either shaker or bell

3. The objective is to communicate and synchronize sound and movement, and take turns leading by position. Each of the instruments offers a unique role in leading a drum circle, as does player roles/skillsets in basketball.

4. The role of the bench is to support the drum circle via misc small percussion, clapping, and vocal calls and chants from the sidelines, where the bench is given opportunity to lead the drum circle both from the bench, and once they enter the game, since their role in syncopation has already been established.

5. Lastly, the role of the basketball drum circle is to continue to play even when you fall out of rhythm, as your commitment to keep playing so as to re-establish your rhythm, is synonymous with staying on your game plan even when you’ve fallen behind and out of rhythm, because eventually you will re-connect. The drum circle and basketball play circle are both very similar and teaches players about team building, trust, believing, and staying together. And sometimes, you need to let it all go, to get your MOJO back!

Drumming & Basketball after Concussion (esp Football)

Drumming and basketball can be used in the treatment of concussion symptoms, and for long term management of concussion symptoms and neurological disorders. Athletes are advised to take it easy and not engage in substantial physical or sensory stimulation activity. Light physical rhythmic moving and shooting basketball meets the post concussion protocol criteria. Adding drumming to basketball helps players relax, and improves spatial awareness, physical coordination, and cognitive skill. The benefits are optimized when shooting or drumming outdoors in a park setting.

I’ve done some research with sensory processing disorder, or SPD, and with difficulty in cognition following brain injury and hydrocephalus. The spectrum of symptoms seen following concussion includes: sensitivity to lights, sounds, and scents (termed SPD dysfunction), migraine, problems with balance, awareness & disorientation, and irritability, which can trigger behavioral outbursts and irrational conduct. The symptoms can render an individual with challenges in cognitive accessibility in terms of reading and understanding written (user) instructions, web sites, mobile devices, and with sound intollerance in public places, and television and radio broadcasts (esp commercials).  

I am developing a web site of information onCognitive Accessibility.”

For those suffering from migraine, I found a weather app helpful in monitoring weather related “triggers,” and wrote about it in this popular March 2015 blog.

Weather App helps Manage Barometric Pressure Related Migraine Headache

I also have authored an in-depth blog on drumming for football. If you’re interested in drumming for post concussion, or management of concussion along side NFL & NBA concussion protocols, please contact me directly.

My Sports Science Analysis of the 2015 NBA Finals

The 2015 NBA Finals offer a unique opportunity to analyze sports science and brain science of two basketball teams. I discuss the major differences between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

NBA's Stephen Curry has been labeled The Golden Boy
NBA’s Stephen Curry is The Golden Boy

The Golden State Warriors are a rhythm & tempo team whose success relies on passing and movement to establish a fast up tempo BWE. As they do this, they become more synchronized than any team in the league. Their smaller guards, especially Stephen Curry, allow them to move quickly to perimeter positions, where they are very effective 3 point shooters. This up tempo BWE entrainment also allows them to steal a lot of passes. BWE states enable players to be more dialed in and this helps in passing and shooting, and in steals and rebounds. Their fast tempo and synchronization frustrates opponents, who get out of their game, positive believe, and synchronization. Golden’s States quick guards and power forwards give them good control of the perimeter. But their primary center, Bogut, can be a liability on offense. Their up tempo game, along with a deep bench of quality of players, makes them a powerful opponent.

NBA Basketball's LeBron James The Chosen One
NBA Basketball’s LeBron James The Chosen One

The Cleveland Cavaliers strength, by contrast, lies in their physical dominance of guards LeBron James, Shumpert, and Smith. They can be a good 3-point shooting team too. They are still trying to find their sync and BWE as a team, and were hurt when Love went down, as it threw off their scheme with role players – much as it would if a key piece or two of a drum circle left. They have also been playing without Irving for part of these series, which required further adjustments. Depite all this, Cleveland regrouped through the exceptional leadership and physical dominance of LeBron James. But will it be enough to defeat Golden State? I don’t think so. Not unless LeBron can pull another layer of shamanism or trance heighten states out of his arsenal. And James is capable of this.

Cleveland can be very dominant on defense. But their larger guards could also be a disadvantage up against Golden State’s faster offense. Cleveland can get into as good an offensive groove and BWE as any team in the league, and be difficult for Golden State to stop. They’ve done this in the last two series in spurts. If they can sustain this push and sync – then look out. I don’t think Golden State can contain Cleveland in one on one matchups. By contrast, Golden State has had more time with their personnel. Cleveland has only had part of a season. Cleveland would have to play at 110% for 5+ games, whereas, Golden State could play 100% for a couple, and cruise at 90%.

Who wins this series will be determined by which team can sustain their team BWE and style of dominance the best, and of course, also least affected by injuries. Golden State has the advantage with a deeper bench.

Because of the above, I give 65:35 odds to Golden State prior to Game 1.


Going into Game 3 in Cleveland, my how things have changed. The teams split the games in Oakland. But Cleveland outplayed & out hustled the Warriors in both games. With the Cavalier’s new found “faith” and team BWE led by LeBron James going into Game 3, the team has raised their level of play over the Golden State Warriors.

As I said in my sports & brain science analysis, the Warriors are an up tempo BWE team led by Stephen Curry. If Curry can’t get going, the Warriors will never get into rhythm. Unfortunately, neither Thompson nor Green can set the BWE for an entire game.

LeBron has lead his team thru the adversity of missing 2 of their best all star team mates. He is no doubt utilizing some type of Shamanism or trance states in these games. At home, he is even more connected tonight. His BWE & vision is driving his team. Curry, by contrast, has become “disengaged.”

Where does the basketball shot come from? Believing! Knowing!


Post Game 4 Thoughts:

The series took on new life last night as Steve Kerr inserted a small line up. I think Curry was told to come out shooting 3s & FGs even if he was missing, which he did. Cleveland was playing a big line up that worked in the opening minutes, but quickly changes once Golden State spread out and began shooting. It wasn’t long before these FGs began going in, which forced Clevelands bigger line-up to the perimeter – and they couldn’t keep up.

For Golden State in terms of tempo & BWE, the biggest change was in having Andre Iguodala start & take over the offense. It wasn’t long before Golden State responded to his up tempo presence and leadership, and took all the pressure for this off Curry (who had been caving with the pressure).

Cleveland began to tire by the end of the 1st Q, and their FGs & 3s were suffering as both James and Deli began cramping up. James’ crashing into the stands and suffering cuts to his head didn’t help either, and seem to become a distraction. The Cavaliers failed to utilize their bench sufficiently.

So I think that’s where this series stands. Cleveland must find a way to use their bench as Golden State stays small. Kerr will look for continued BWE leadship from Iguodala, a new team formula. Cleveland is yet to adapt to Iguodala’s (unexpected) veteran BWE leadership. Golden State responded well to him. So it’s Cleveland and James’ turn to counter. James must once again reinvent himself for these next two road games. I suspect they will grab one so that Game 7 comes back to Cleveland. This series rests on veteran BWE leadership and a supporting cast to match.

Where does the basketball shot come from? Trusting. Believing!


Post Game 5 Thoughts/Game 6 Preview:

Game 5 was either team’s game, despite Golden State going in with some momentum and new strategy. James established his dominence early, and JR Smith set the tempo with 3 pointers. For Golden State, it was Curry got off to a good start, and their bench contributed early on. Both teams went small.

With James playing guard, power forward, and some center, he (and his team) ran out of gas in the 4th Q, and Golden State ran away with it in the final minutes. Projecting these two styles of play and performance going into Game 6 in Cleveland, it’s still anyone’s series, though there’s a clear pattern of Cleveland tiring in the 2nd half.

My projections for Games 6 & 7 give the typical edge to the home team. But I think the bigger factor could be “strategy.” Each team has been able to exert dominance with their style of play. Cleveland has been able to contain Golden State with slower tempo and half court play, where Golden State’s best strategy has been to wear Cleveland down. Now it is up to coach Blatt to formulate an answer, such as inserting a rested Mozgov in the 4th Q, slow down the game, and control rebounding.

Stephen Curry has improved over the last two games in getting shots off very quickly with defenders all over him. This will be a big determinent for games 6 & 7. While he is making shots, I’m not convinced Curry has found his way in leading amid the storm of defense that Cleveland can apply. I look for Cleveland to go a little bigger in Game 6 and slow the game down, as it will force Curry into tighter spaces to shoot. Also, Curry was able to open up the floor and paint when Cleveland went small, giving him better looks at 3s. I look for Cleveland to win Game 6 and for a Game 7 back in Oakland. Who will win Game 7 would then be determined by best strategy & adjustments, and whether Cleveland has the stamina to finish the game.

How was Peter Pan able to fly? Happy Thoughts!

Post Game 6/Golden State Finals Championship Thoughts.

It was a great series. But it was obvious from the opening minutes tonight, that the Cleveland Cavaliers were gassed mentally and physically from being short in personnel. And it was obvious in the early turnovers that they weren’t connected and thinking well as a group. Still, they maintained composure. But it wasn’t enough, as Golden State got into a team rhythm, established a team brain wave entrainment (BWE), and never looked back throughout the entire game.

BWE is the wonder of neuroscience that allows a group to excel beyond the sum of its individual parts. Some even enter into “trance heightened states,” affording them incredible vision and super-skill that can drive the team to overcome significant odds, solve great problems, and attain remarkable accomplishments. In this series, Andre Iguodala & Stephen Curry had done this for Golden State.

Hats off to the Golden State Warriors as the 2015 NBA Champions.

Best wishes to the Warrior’s organization.

I can be reached in Newport Beach, California via my contact information below. CLICK & SAVE my JPEG card for future reference.

Stephen Dolle
Newport Beach, CA
Tel. (msg) (949) 642-4592

Contact Stephen Dolle
Contact Stephen Dolle




References used for this article

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NBAHoops online: nice historical information

Court dimensions for various levels

Templates for creating a basketball court

Free Basketball Court PowerPoint Template

Basketball’s hidden positions get an update

Basketball’s ‘Hidden’ Positions Get an Update

John Brenkus and the Sport Science team examine Stephen Curry’s sweet stroke.

Stephen Curry’s shooting form on YouTube

Wall Street Journal: the Science of Stephen Curry’s Sweet Shooting

Stephen Curry Highlights | Warriors vs Grizzlies | Game 6 | May 15, 2015

Kevin Durant Scores a Career-High 54 Points in Jan. 2014

NBA shooting secrets to improve your jump shot – The Hop

TNT Basketball Broadcasters do Drumming during Halftime Show

Jesus, Basketball and the Homeless – Soupmobile Dallas, Texas

Science calculate the perfect basketball shot (article)

Neuroscience: NBA edition – predicting a HOT hand

Mental Rehearsal & Visualization (mindfulness)

Coach Phil Jackson – Sacred Hoops

Full feature basketball skills training facility in Orange County, CA

Basketball shooting Lab in New Jersey

Harlem Globetrotters

Mother Tongue Monologues