Commentary

Best mechanics in sports

To be an elite athlete, one needs skill, discipline and a little bit of luck

Updated: June 16, 2011, 1:15 PM ET
By Amy Parlapiano | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the June 27, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine. Click each athlete's name for an exclusive video, and see photos from Carlos Serrao's shoots for The Mag here.

BEST JUMP SHOT: Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors

"What makes my shot stand out is my balance -- and my quick release. The feet are the foundation of a good jumper; if you're not square and balanced, your shot's not going to be the way you practiced. In the NBA, the size and speed are different from in college, so I had to work on consistency in my shot, and that was just a matter of repetition. I try for perfect elbow alignment, to keep the ball over my head where I can see the rim, and make sure I follow through completely. So far, in my two years in the league, that's paid off."

BEST KICK SERVE: Sam Stosurs, WTA Tennis Player

"Girls find it hard to return the kick serve because it gets topspin, and most players are looking for a slice. I've been using it since I was 12, and the speed helps me pull opponents out of position. The key is, I turn my torso a little bit more to the left and toss the ball behind me. My racket motion is low to high and left to right. I've seen pictures and footage of my backswing high over my head. Honestly, I don't know how I've gotten it to that position even once in my life. It just sort of happens."

BEST SWING: Carlos Gonzalez, Leftfielder, Colorado Rockies

"The most important parts of my swing are my extension and my ability to stay through the strike zone every time. I stay back and let the pitch get deep and try to use the whole field. A couple of years ago, I reinvented my swing. I changed my grip -- I used to hold the bat in the palm of my top hand, and I now grab it with my fingers. Second, I introduced a leg kick to my swing, which I never had before, and that really helped me with my timing and my power. Thankfully, you see the results."

BEST ROUTES: Roddy White, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons

"The tough DBs, guys like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha, try to mess up my timing and reroute me. But I'm a two-time state wrestling champ, so there's no pushing me around. My favorite route is the deep in, because it's pretty much unguardable. The secret is my explosion off the snap. I run as fast as I can for 15 yards, then plant and roll downfield into open spaces to gain as much ground as possible. It's not like a comeback route, when you break and the ball is already in the air. To prepare, I do a lot of cone drills, running five yards from cone to cone and then breaking down low at each cone, knees over feet, shoulders over knees. It feels like you're sitting in a chair."

BEST SNAP SHOT: Mike Cammalleri, left wing, Montreal Canadiens

"Defenders try to throw off your timing, so the ability to gather your shot and release it immediately is essential to an effective snap shot. You have the puck on your stick, and you lean your body weight over your stick and snap it. The hard part is balancing the quickness of release with the patience to give the shot accuracy. I want to be deceptive, with my body saying, I'm shooting to this side of the ice, and then I snap the wrists quick and get the puck to redirect. That element of surprise is huge."