Hooping with Hopla! (My time with Dave Hopla, World’s Greatest Basketball Shooter)

by Kenny Eller on April 21, 2011

Me and Dave Hopla!

With pizza slices the size of my head and two large bowls of Italian wedding soup in front of us, the greatest basketball shooter in the World sat across from me in a small Italian restaurant located in Naples, Florida, looked at me with his intense sky blue colored eyes and said…

“If you want to be the greatest shooter in the world it’s simple.  You’ve got to do two things.  First, you’ve got to shoot with correct form.  Then you have to shoot the ball correctly more times than anyone else in the world.”

In full ShamWow mode, trying to soak up every bit of knowledge, I nodded my head in agreement and took another bite of pizza.

It sounded so simple.

We were almost three hours in to our meeting and to this point the man sporting Jordan gear from head to toe had made everything seem so simple.  I suppose I should have expected as much, as he is without debate the very best at what he does.

Only one person can have other people, NBA people, refer to them as the best shooter in the universe and that man is Dave Hopla.

What Future NBA Hall of Famers Say:

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

“I never miss an opportunity to work with Dave.  He’s the best in the business.”

Ray Allen, Boston Celtics

“Dave has not only helped my shooting, but he improved my overall game.  He has given me the confidence in all phases of my game.”

The Stats to Prove It (Dave Hopla’s Personal Records):

  • 1234 free throws in a row.
  • 211 high school 3-pointers in a row.
  • 181 college 3-pointers in a row.
  • 78 NBA 3-pointers in a row.

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The Man That Makes Over 98% Of His Shots!

 

Dave Hopla with Michael Jordan

For Hopla who played college ball in Nebraska before playing professional basketball overseas and in the CBA, he wasn’t always the greatest shooter.  It’s something that he has worked on for the better part of his life.

Encouraged at the age of 16 by a coach, while at a basketball camp, Dave began tracking every shot he took.

Now 53 years old, he can flip through one of 58 notebooks and tell you the percentage of every free throw, off the dribble jumper, college three pointer, NBA three pointer, etc. that he took on any given day over the last 37 years!

That kind of shooting prowess led him to start Dave Hopla Shooting Clinics in 1987, where he goes around and teaches his mastery of shooting all over the world as a shooting instructor and motivational speaker.

It also landed him an assistant coaching job with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and then Washington Wizards from 2005-2009.

Want Stats?

In 2004 he made 98.89% of his shots!  In 2005 he shot a blistering 98.20%, making 35,332 of 35,979 shots!

During the summer of 2007 he attended 31 camps where he shot 99.19% (11,093 of 11,183)!!  A further breakdown will show you that Dave was 260 for 281 from the 3-point line for a percentage of 92.52% and on three occasions he was perfect from the field (263 of 263 on 6/25 at the University of Maryland, 339 of 339 on 7/28 at the CT Starters camp and 272 of 272 on 8/2 at UCLA) during his lecture.

Oh yeah, I forgot, he gives his motivational speech WHILE HE IS SHOOTING!!!!!

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How I Got To Meet The Master

While down in Miami a couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet from the NBA that said, “When you’re training in the offseason, do you keep a log of how many shots you make?  Why you should.”  Lounging on the bed in the hotel room at the time, I clicked the link, read the title “The Man Who Doesn’t Miss Shots”, perked up and read thoroughly.  Within 30 seconds my jaw was scraping the floor.  My mind was telling me this couldn’t possibly be true.

“Could someone be this great?” I asked myself, still filled with doubt.

I’ve always considered myself and my brother (159 free throws in a row) really good shooters (I now think of myself as a great shooter in the making…more on this later), so to read that someone hardly ever misses seemed a bit far fetched.  To read that someone could give a speech and shoot AND make every single shot, seemed undoable!

I know basketball.  It’s what I’ve done more than anything else in my life and anyone who’s every played with me will tell you that I can shoot the ball.

I went into a trance and began searching for every single thing I could find on Dave Hopla.  I had to know more.

After reading several articles and watching a couple of videos I was amazed.  It was like someone had just proven to me that Santa Claus is REAL!

I went to Dave’s website and sent him an email on April 6th, explaining my goal here at mevsMJ.com and my wish to work with him.  Pleasantly to my surprise, he responded right back.  Within a couple of hours we were on the phone discussing when we could meet.  He just happened to be coming down to Florida seven days later and said that he would give me a call when he got in and make some time for me then.

I was so excited!  So thankful for such a blessing!  This was BIG!

I called my brother and told him of Hopla and his shooting percentages, to which he responded, “No way! What’s he tracking lay-ups!”

I understood his lack of belief.  I had felt the same way before I read numerous NBA players singing his praise.  Before I saw him make 17 consecutive NBA three pointers in 60 seconds (video below).

It did truly seem like some sort of tall tale from back when we were kids, yet it wasn’t.

A week later, like clockwork, Dave Hopla called and asked if I could make it down to Naples on Friday, the 15th.  A quick check of my calendar and I enthusiastically said, “YES!”

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I arrived at the compound (the friend’s property he and his family were staying at was truly amazing) around 8:45am, about 15 minutes early, only to find Dave waiting at the gate, notepad in hand.

I parked my car down Pistol Pete Lane (seriously, how cool is that!) got out, thanked Dave again for meeting with me, and the lessons began.

We entered the gym and he placed his notepad down, to which I asked, “Is that where you track all of your shots?”

Dave Hopla with one of 58 notebooks that he tracks he shots in!

He confirmed that it was one of many and asked me for any date.  I gave him May 25th, to which he said with a smile, “That’s your birthday right.”

A little surprised, I said yes and he explained that birthdays are what most people give.

He quickly flipped through the notebook until he got to May 25th 2010.  There on a page of notebook paper were diagrams detailing where he shot on the court and a lot of numbers.  On that day in May, Dave made 295 of 314 shots for a percentage of 93.94%…an off day for him.

He then grabbed a basketball and took me through his form shooting routine that he does before every workout.  It consists of starting with one hand (shooting hand) a few feet from the basket and making five shots before moving back a couple feet and making five more and so on.  Dave’s last five shots come from the NBA three-point mark.  He then adds the support hand and goes through the same routine.

The key in the above is adding the principles below:

  • Toes to Target: make sure your toes are pointing to the basket.
  • Feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Form the letter L with your shooting arm.
  • Wrinkle the wrist: the skin on your wrist should wrinkle up when you cock it.
  • Bend and extend your legs.
  • Make sure your elbow is above your eyebrow.
  • Hand to the hoop.
  • Freeze the follow-through.

With eyes that couldn’t believe what they were seeing, I watched Dave make shot after shot with one hand, most of them nothing but net, while he was talking to me.  He then continued the same shooting dominance adding his support hand.  It was mind boggling to me.

The Mind of the Greatest Shooter

As you may know, I’m working to make 100 free throws in a row before 10/21/2011.  Thus far I’m up to 34 makes in a row and one of the things I was most interested in with Dave was the mental aspect of being able to stay focused and calm while trying to stay perfect.

I explained to him that when I get close to whatever my current high is, I can feel the weight of every shot increase.  I have to calm my breathing down, etc.

He said that he just thinks about each individual shot, whether it’s the first one or the 500th in a row.  He told me to not think about the next one, because you won’t get to the next one if you don’t make the current shot.

He then told me to step to the line and, “let’s see what you’ve got.”

Shooting Free Throws In Front Of The Best

I stepped to the line, took a couple of dribbles and made my first three free throws.  I really wasn’t that nervous because I know I can shoot the ball.  Still, there was definitely the feeling of I BETTER MAKE THESE going through me.

I missed my fourth and Dave went into correction mode.

He asked me, “How do you know where to line up at the free throw line?”

I didn’t really know.  I just lined up and shot.

He then stepped to the line and showed me the Tac, which is at the center of every free throw line and explained that he lines up there so that he knows he’s in the same spot each and every time.

He then asked, “What do you look at when you shoot the ball?”

Now I know that many people either look at the front or back of the rim when they shoot, but I honestly have never really focused on either.  So I told him the truth, that I didn’t really know what I looked at, I just shot the ball.

It was the right answer, kind of!

He said if you focus on the front of the rim, you’re focusing on being short on your shot and if you focus on the back of the rim you’re focusing on being long on your shot.  He told me to focus on the center of the basket because that’s where I wanted the ball to go.

He then showed me where he places his shooting hand on the ball.  He explained that there are several center points on an NBA basketball, one of them being the valve.  So every time he’s shooting free throws the valve is between the index and middle finger of his shooting hand.  This ensures that his hands are properly aligned each and every shot.

I stepped back to the line, “Toe, Tac, Target, Find the valve” and began firing away, getting encouragement and reminders to freeze my follow through, along the way.

After a couple of hours and numerous shooting lessons and stories we headed to lunch, where we discussed my journey to play Michael Jordan and the progress thus far, as well as his experience working with many NBA greats.

It was as if I had known Dave Hopla for years.

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Shooting Contest (Me vs. Hopla!)

We came back from lunch and I wanted to get a picture with him before I set off back home, so he asked his wife if she would take a picture of us back at the court.  She said of course and while she was completing what she was doing, we went back to the gym to shoot around.

Actually we had a shooting contest! 😀

Dave picked five spots on the court from 15-17 feet (the same five the NBA uses for the 3-point contest) and instructed that in order to move from the first spot to the next, you’d have to make five shots in a row.  The first to complete this, make the 25 shots, would win.

He said I could go first.

Now keep in mind, we had just come back from an hour and a half lunch and had done no stretching or warming up whatsoever!

I took my first shot and it clanked off the rim.  Not good.  After seeing Dave shoot in person, I knew I wouldn’t get many chances.

Luckily for me, he missed his first shot too!

With relief, I stepped up and attempted to capitalize, but missed my second shot as well.

Game Over.

Dave stepped up and made 25 in a row!  One shot right after the other, in rapid succession.  I was passing the ball to him and laughing at the same time, it was unreal!

Who does that with no warm up shots?  Dave Hopla does.

Not thoroughly beaten enough, I asked for more.  So Dave said ok, we’ll do the same five spots from three-point land (I of course still had to make the 25 15-17 footers before I got to the 3-pt line).

He took the ball and missed his first three pointer.

I made two or three in a row from spot number one and then he caught fire.  He finished me off with 20 consecutive makes from three point range.  I was still stuck at spot numero uno.

Dave’s wife came in about that time and took our picture.  I told her that I almost had him beat, to which she kinda of gave me a very polite YEAH RIGHT look…haha! :-)

Still in awe, he asked me if I wanted to do another contest.  I of course said yes!

This time we would shot from the same ten spots, but in order to move to the next you had to swish the shot, nothing but net.  If the ball even grazed the rim, you lost possession of the ball.

I again started first and quickly found myself down five shots.

Then it happened.  I dialed it in and got on a roll.

I made 6 shots in a row, all swishes, nothing but net, including four three pointers!  I was getting perfect passes and being cheered on and encouraged by Dave Hopla, the very best in the world!!

It was so surreal!

In the end I lost that one too, but I had a blast!

I said my goodbyes and with a “I can’t believe that just happened” feeling running throughout me, I got in my car and headed home so incredibly thankful.

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So Much More Than The Best Shooter In The World

Dave Hopla is far more than the best shooter in the World.  In the five or so hours we spent together, not only did he give me a clinic in shooting, he left me with many life lessons.  Lessons that I will apply to my daily living.  Lessons that will impact all of those around me.  For that, I am truly thankful.

I’ve been saying for a couple of months that life truly is amazing if you allow it to be.  Meeting Dave Hopla is an example of just that.  An email led to a phone call, which led to a meeting, which led to a friendship.

The amount of time and kindness shown to me on his VACATION blew me away.  That amount of generosity and selflessness truly makes me want to be a better human.

He is without doubt one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met.

Thank you Mr. Dave Hopla!

Tracking My Shots!

 

Tracking my shots, just like Dave Hopla!

The next morning, now back at home, I got into the local gym around 8:30am and tracked every single shot.

453 makes out of 600 shots (not a planned number) for a percentage of 75.5%. (click here to see breakdown of shots)

While my numbers are far from Hopla-esque, I found much joy in the experience.

I could hear Dave rooting me on.  “Toe, Tac, Target!”, “Never hit the front of the rim, give the shot a chance!”, “Way to shoot the ball!”

When he teaches, the impact that’s made is called the Hopla Effect.

The Hopla effect was definitely made on me and that’s bad news for my upcoming opponents! (Are you reading this MJ? ;-))

The Great One Checking In

Over the past week Dave has checked in with me a couple of times through text or phone call to hear about my progress.  I told him that I am tracking every shot and that people are looking at me funny, but that they just don’t understand.

He offered another lesson:

“In order to be great, you have to be different.  Otherwise you will be average or good at best.  Keep charting shots.”

Greatness, here I come!!

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Dave Setting Records and Teaching! (Videos):

Dave Setting the Record for Most NBA 3 Pointers made from the corner in 1 minute with one ball and one passer:

Dave Breaking the World Record for most Free Throws with one ball and one passer in 1 minute (25 makes in a row):

Dave Hopla Free Throw Instruction:

[If you’re reading this via email or RSS feed the videos may not show up.  Click here to view.]

Some Of My Favorite Hopla-isms

During our time together Dave said many things that stuck with me.  These are a few of my favorites!

“No one remembers pretty good, so be great!”

“Anyone can make shots. I want swishes!”

“You hear everyone saying that took this many shots.  Who cares about shots?  I care about makes!”

“I don’t call them rebounders, I call them passers.  Rebounder refers to you missing.  I plan on making every shot!”

More on Dave Hopla

If you’d like more information on Dave Hopla, you can check out his website, www.DaveHopla.com.  You can also follow Dave on Twitter.

iHopla Coming Soon!!

Dave is in the process of bringing everything he’s done for the last 37 years and turning that into an iPhone application called iHopla.  He hopes to have it available to everyone looking to be GREAT very soon!

I’ve seen how it’s going to look and I can’t wait!!

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Connect:  Twitter (@KennyEller) and mevsMJ.com Facebook Fan Page.

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If you’re new to the site, I set out in August 2010 to get a game of 1-on-1 vs. my childhood hero Michael Jordan.  This site is about that journey…through every valley, to every mountain top of triumph! 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane Turk April 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

Wow Kenny, what an awesome experience! I can’t wait for you to pass along some your new knowledge to your old high school friend here. 75% man, that is really good, keep firing away! Hope to play some ball with you soon, let me know.

Reply

Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Thanks Shane! Of course I’ll pass along what I learned! 😀

Yeah, maybe we can begin playing again next week?? Let me know!

Reply

dani April 21, 2011 at 8:23 am

Coolest post friend!!!! What an incredible experience… I truly believe you WILL play mj, but this journey alone is pretty rad! :) And 453 of 600?!?! That’s crazy good!
How is p90x?? I’m looking forward to hearing the results! A friend of mine is starting Insanity (which I guess is the cardio version of p90x) I might try that… Not really into the whole yoga thing either.
Praying in your dream. :)

Reply

Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Thanks so much Dani! I really appreciate the continued support and encouragement!

P90X is going well. 12 days in…only 78 more to go. Piece of cake…or something healthier! 😉

Thanks again!

Reply

Terri Montgomery April 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Hey Kenny, that was “Supa Dupa Awesome!” How cool is that? I always love reading your articles, they have so much personality :) I’m cheering for you all the way!

Reply

Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Thank you for the support Terri! Means more than you know!!

This was such a cool experience for me. Dave made me feel so welcome and was so open, wanting to help me as much as possible. Very “supa dupa awesome” :)

Thanks too for the kind words on my writing! So nice of you to say!

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Peter McCoy April 22, 2011 at 7:21 am

Hi Kenny,
I’ve just come across your site and think it’s a great idea. I’m in Belfast, Northern Ireland and many years ago Dave Hopla played in our National League. Unfortunately he was a guard for our biggest rivals and I had the job of trying to stop him. I never did and still have nightmares about him regularly stealing the ball from me! Good luck in your quest and I’ll keep an eye on how you’re doing.

Reply

Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 22, 2011 at 8:20 am

What a great story Peter! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

I really appreciate the support and encouragement! Thank you so much!

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Kellie Kowalski April 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Dave Hopla sounds awesome. Not just for the wicked cool shooting skills, but just for being such a great person. It’s so cool that he took the time to practice with you!

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Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Yeah he really is! It was an amazing time for sure! Very, very thankful.

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Jim Kerkvliet April 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great article Kenny. Dave seems like an awesome individual with his willingness to share and help others. Aside from the fact that meeting Dave and working out with him was an awesome experience, it seems just as awesome that the experience resulted from another occasion, while you were hanging around Miami. It seems like a God thing. You just happened to be checking things out while you were there. There were other expectations in making the Miami trip, but another great experience resulted out of that trip. The Jordan camp that was scheduled for August is no longer an option now, but many other worthy experiences have been placed in your path.

Reply

Kenny Eller Kenny Eller April 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Thanks Jim! This is without a doubt a God thing. As you know, this journey is a lot of hard work and dedication, but at the foundation of it all is faith. This is much bigger than me, no doubt. I can get pretty emotional about it all when I just sit back and reflect. I’ve been blessed to do things I would have only dreamed of doing before I began this in August and I give God all of the credit.

Through this journey I have been amazed at the kindness of people, yourself included. The willingness to not only help, but go above and beyond has been a masterclass in how I want to be with others. It’s inspiring.

I’ve not only learned from some of the best thus far, I’ve gained what I truly believe will be lifelong friends. The value of that has no price tag.

Anything really is possible if your focus is in the right place. I am thankful, humbled and excited to see what He has coming next on my journey to play Michael Jordan.

ps: You have got to see Dave shoot in person! It is unreal!

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