Lonzo Ball (G, Lakers): The New Shot and Subconscious Compensation

Last week, Lonzo unleashed his new and improved shot and had a great shooting night. Leaving his horizontal sling-shot form behind, he took the more mainstream vertical shot with elbow just to the side of the head. While the analysts seem to be impressed, I have some skepticism. Does this new shot complete his game on the way to becoming the next Jason Kidd? Or will this tweak in his game cause him to be sidelined in the foreseeable future?

To understand why players develop certain habits, let me give you an anecdote on the power of subconscious compensation. In graduate school, I seemed to find myself always sitting on the left side of the room. At the time, I was dealing with left sided neck pain that increased with head turning to the left. Besides blaming it on the long hours sitting in a chair and stress in school, I knew there was something more to my problem and my seemingly consistent draw to the left side of the room. It turns out my subconsicious was at work. Sitting on the left side of the room kept me mainly to right head turns and almost eliminated the left head turns which flared up the neck pain.

Watching game tape and videos Lonzo posted, I was able to find an asymmetry with tightness in his right shoulder and trunk. This tightness makes it difficult for Lonzo to externally rotate his right shoulder especially with shoulder elevation (or in his case keep a neutral rotation of his shoulder as he goes up for his shot). Lonzo being an expert in subconscious compensation, tailored his shot to avoid a problematic shoulder instead of dealing with it head on.  His old shot let him stay into deep internal rotation by shifting the point of release way to the left. For the most part, it was successful. He became the Lakers number two pick in the draft and looks like the top pick the way he plays. 

When making a drastic change to an activity, the best advice is to do it gradually. When wearing new orthotics, making a postural correction or switching to different type of shoe (e.g. going from 12mm heel running shoe to 0mm), gradual is the way to go avoid strain and injury. When changing a basketball form, especially if that form was used to avoid a specific problem, making the change without improving the underlying dysfunction can lead to a right shoulder problem for Lonzo or even worse. His body can adapt to his new form by compensating somewhere else in the body. Watching his new shot, he continues to avoid certain shoulder angles by releasing lower and earlier. This might buy him time, but unless his underlying  mechanical faults are addressed, we might see Lonzo on the inactive list more frequently than all star games.


The Injury Analyst is a blog dedicated to not only explaining injuries that have occurred, but predicting and highlighting future injury risks for professional athletes. You can email us at info@jamsportsandspine.com


Note: I have not seen the subject of this article personally in clinic, rather all views and opinions of the author have been made based off of video footage of the athlete. This article is not meant as a diagnosis or a treatment plan.