Herb Magee isn’t exactly sure how or when he got tagged with the famed “Shot Doctor” moniker. It stemmed from his work with Bob Kennedy and The Hoop Group some 50 years ago and his Midas touch on shooters levitated into Philadelphia folklore.
Magee would rather people just call him Herb Magee instead of Shot Doctor but legends don’t get a choice. The 79-year-old was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 for his work as the head coach at Thomas Jefferson University. He ranks second all-time in college coaching wins (1,123), right behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (1,170).
Magee also runs camps and clinics as a side hustle, anything to keep him active in the Philly hoops scene. He knows everyone. And he’s lent his shooting expertise to guys like Jameer Nelson, Tim McCormick, Evan Turner, Malik Rose, and even Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley. Former Sixers coach Brett Brown used to invite Magee down to check out practices and give feedback on certain players.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited those trips this year, Magee keeps an eye on the team from afar and hopes to meet new head coach Doc Rivers when things calm down. The Shot Doctor already has a prescription ready for Ben Simmons.
“Looking at his shot, the structure of it … you can see his left elbow is out,” Magee said of Simmons. “When he goes to shoot it, it’s almost like he shoots it a little bit across his body. I think that’s his biggest problem.”
And Magee has a few ideas on how Simmons could fix his wayward shot.
“The way to fix that would be to re-arrange his grip on the ball, which would get his elbow to go under the ball,” Magee said. “The problem is, it’s like the golf swing, you hit the golf ball a thousand times one way, and then someone shows you you’re doing it wrong. Now you gotta take the club back this way or do something like this and so on and so forth. Well, you better be willing to go out and hit another 10,000 balls in order to correct what you’ve been doing wrong with a thousand balls.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Shooters Need Right Technique, Proper Psyche
Let’s clear something up: Magee has never spoken to Simmons. Ever. He has no official position with the Sixers’ organization and their paths have never crossed. However, Magee has observed Simmons’ shot on television and the shooting guru has plenty of free advice for the 24-year-old point guard.
“The way to improve your shot is, first of all, you must admit that you need to improve. That’s the first one,” Magee said. “Number two, the person who is going to improve you has to know what they’re doing or else it’ll make it worse. And number three, practice. And when I say practice I literally mean practice hour after hour.”
“Shooting is something that develops in your head and it comes from your practice and your technique,” Magee continued. “If you think you’re a great shooter then you probably are. You can’t fool yourself. It’s not one of those things where you say, ‘Yeah, I’m a great shooter’ and you stick your chest out. Then the game starts and you start shooting bricks.”
No, the all-time great shooters are born with an inherent killer instinct. That, and most of them live in the gym. Kobe Bryant was known to make 2,000 shots per day. Make, not take. Steph Curry has a similar routine instilled in him by his famous NBA dad, Dell Curry, who was an assassin from deep. But it’s not enough to do it over and over again. You have to do it the right way.
“I don’t think you can teach anybody to be as good as Steph Curry,” said Magee who called Steph Curry the best shooter he’s ever seen. “But if the person being taught has legitimate hand-eye coordination then I think that person can become a very, very, very good shooter. This is the stuff that we try to do with our players at our school. Show them the right way to do it. Show them what they’re doing incorrectly and then it’s on them to fix it.”
So where does Simmons fall into this equation? He needs to mentally prioritize shooting.
“You have to have the right technique and the proper psyche,” Magee said. “It has to be in your psyche to improve as a shooter and it has not captured him yet. Because a guy who refuses to take any threes in a game when your coach tells you to, there’s got to be something wrong.”
Sixers Shooting Their Way to NBA Championship
The Sixers have raced out to the best record in the Eastern Conference largely due to their long-range shooting. They are tied for 13th in the league in three-point percentage (37%) while ranking ninth in field-goal percentage (48%).
The biggest difference-makers in that department have been professional snipers Seth Curry (43.6%) and Danny Green (40.1%), according to Magee. The Sixers also added three-point specialist George Hill (38.6%) at the trade deadline.
“They have better shooters this year than they did in previous years,” Magee said, adding Shake Milton (30.6%) to that list. “Guys that can shoot are going to help you.”
It’s not rocket science but it helps to inform why this year feels different in Philly. Sixers center Dwight Howard openly talked about wanting to win a title earlier this week, then team president Daryl Morey put them in the championship conversation. There’s a good chance they do it with Simmons taking less than 20 treys for the year. (He’s at nine total attempts through 37 games).
“When you watch the Sixers play now, Ben Simmons scores because he’s Ben Simmons,” Magee said. “He’s bigger and stronger than a lot of guys so he can get to the rim, and lay the ball up, and shoot that little right or left-handed skyhook.”
The Sixers just need to get their MVP back healthy. Joel Embiid is shooting 42.2% from three-point land and 85.9% from the free-throw line. Insane for a 7-footer.
“What separates Embiid is the fact that he’s such a good shooter,” Magee said. “So how do you guard him? I like the Sixers team but I think they have to stay healthy. Or healthier anyway.”