The Sixers' Shooter Tutor How Buzz Braman Went From Selling Cars To Coaching Stars

Posted: May 08, 1991

Square up.

Bend your knees.

Follow through.

If that's all there was to the art of shooting a basketball, Buzz Braman says he would still be selling cars.

Braman, though, has spent the last two seasons selling his theories and principles to the 76ers, as their shooting instructor.

"Everybody you talk to about shooting says basically the same things - square up, bend your knees, follow through - and those are all good points," Braman said during a break in the NBA second-round playoff series between the Sixers and Chicago.

"I say, if that's all there is, why is it so difficult for a lot of players? Why do guys struggle?

"My teaching is based on two basic things: Make the ball go straight, and be able to judge distance.

"My method - if someone is willing to listen, then is willing to change - makes the ball go straight. And I can give someone a way to judge distance better.

"Drop an apple off a tree, it falls. That's not a theory, it's a fact. Do what I teach, you'll shoot the ball straight, you'll judge distance better. To me, that's not a theory, either. It's also a fact."

Braman, 36, charts shots, examines techniques, works one-on-one. This season, that has included keeping a careful watch on Ron Anderson's jump- shooting stroke, adjusting small details for Hersey Hawkins and Rickey Green, solving a foul-shooting deficiency for Armon Gilliam.

Not all the Sixers have bought into the program, and Braman is careful not to overstep his bounds. The ones who have, though, are buying critical input

from a former car salesman, from a guy who, by happenstance, is the nephew of Eagles owner Norman Braman.

But Green's rate of success on spot-up jumpers - Monday night's 1-for-5 effort in a 112-100 loss notwithstanding - has climbed. Hawkins's consistency

from the perimeter has improved, Anderson's range has expanded, Gilliam's foul shooting percentage has risen.

Braman leaves the strategy and nuances of the game to coach Jim Lynam and assistant Fred Carter. But he pursues his own specialty passionately.

"There's no question that he has helped me," Anderson said before the team took yesterday off, down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Bulls, which continues Friday night at the Spectrum.

"If I have any say-so, he stays with us. He's worked with me during the season, during the offseason. During periods when I don't shoot well, he puts together videotapes, shows me the flaws.

"I know a lot of guys don't want anyone messing with their shot, but, to me, it's not a matter of that. It's a way to help. The things he tells me, I find myself thinking about them during games, to be sure I do what I should be doing, then eventually I don't think about them at all, I just do them."

Funny, Braman spent two years trying to get people to listen at all. He built a resume, made a couple of appearances on TBS, says he spent "$90,000 of my own money flying all over the country, trying to meet the right people, getting doors slammed in my face."

Those trips eventually included a demonstration at rookie camp for then- Sixers coach Matt Guokas in 1987-88, a visit to the NBA's predraft camp in Chicago and a meeting with then-Sixers general manager John Nash.

"One thing I can do is shoot, to show my principles work," Braman said. ''That day at Villanova, at rookie camp, I hit 246 of 250 shots, all from behind the college three-point line. When I left there, I felt armed, because I finally had been able to show someone what I could do."

Still, whatever impression he made on the Sixers at that point unlocked no doors. But a clipping from a Washington-area newspaper did. In it, Maryland coach Bob Wade complained about his team's poor shooting.

"Brian Williams (now leaving Arizona to enter the NBA draft as an underclassman) was playing at Maryland, Bob Wade was coaching," Braman said.

"They had lost three straight games on poor foul shooting. Wade said he was ready to try anything. I thought it might as well have been a want ad. I jumped on a plane.

"I introduced myself, Wade agreed to let me work with Williams, who was shooting 42 percent from the line in 15 games. He shot 86 percent the last 16 games. Wade let me work with the rest of the team, the team percentage went up 13 points. I got a plug on TV from Billy Packer."

What he also got was a chance to perform on cable television, and that performance, he said, created a groundswell of interest.

"I went from nothing to a job with the Sixers," he said. "I'll always thank Jimmy (Lynam) for listening, (Sixers owner) Harold Katz for taking a chance."

That was the way Hawkins approached it, too, when Braman first arrived.

"I was skeptical," Hawkins said. "I'm a shooter, I wondered what he could show me that I hadn't already seen. The first time we talked, he just said, 'Keep an open mind.'

"I can remember times when I'd miss shots, wonder why. Now, when I miss a few, I know why."

Green is 36 and in his 13th season, but found himself willing to listen.

"Before Buzz, I had never been with a team that had a shooting instructor," Green said. "When I do what he tells me, especially on my follow-through, the shots drop the majority of the time. I figure you can never be too old to learn."

How did Braman get involved in this? Why?

"I played at Silver Spring (Md.) High, went to East Carolina," he said.

"When I finished college, I went into the car business in Florida with my uncle. At first, I played ball every day, was a gym rat. Then I learned that the car business is serious stuff, that I needed to make money. I didn't touch a ball for almost 8 1/2 years.

"Eventually, I managed to buy into an agency, get an equity position. But life is full of ironies, and less than a year after that, I ruptured a disk in my back playing tennis. I can remember being in the hospital, having a brainstorm. I said I had this theory, something I believed in, something I knew I could teach."

It was more a dream than an ambition, but it developed into a mission.

"When I got out of the hospital," he said, "I went to see my uncle, told him I was getting out of the car business, told him what I intended to do. I think he wanted to call Bellevue.

"The day I left there, I had no job."

He does now, in the heat of the NBA playoffs.

"I'm in my own little world," Braman said. "I see numbers nobody else sees, I see a world of small accomplishments.

"I know my subject, I can teach it, I know my way works. Each time I work with a guy on our team, each time his numbers go up, I consider each one a victory."

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