Exclusive: Rick Barry discusses Heat title, LeBron's game and how Ektio shoes can solve the #1 injury in the NBA

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NBA legend Rick Barry talks with Hot Hot Hoops about his entrepreneurial endeavor that aims to eradicate ankle sprains as well as his take on the 2013 NBA Finals, LeBron James' work ethic and a certain Ray Allen 3-pointer...

Tell us a little bit about the Ektio product line and what it can do for your feet. Can this shoe really help prevent ankle injuries?

Well, this is actually the most technologically advanced shoe ever to be available to a player. This is true for basketball shoes, there's never been patented technology that actually can say that they can help prevent ankle sprains. The independent research that's been done on it, the testing, the response from the players that are wearing the shoes have just been overwhelmingly positive. I know that this is a shoe that I would be wearing, I tested it out myself and I said, 'Wow, this works really well.'

My youngest son, when he was in high school, he wore the shoes and it probably helped prevent him from breaking his ankles. It's the most prevalent injury in the game today, the sprained ankle, and yet there's nothing out there other than this Ektio shoe and the two models that they have that can actually help prevent that. So I don't understand why somebody like a Nike or adidas or one of the shoe companies doesn't come along and doesn't just buy the rights from (Ektio founder) Dr. Barry Katz and have the best shoe that's ever been out in the marketplace. I'm sure that anybody that's serious about the game...why would you wear anything else than a shoe that can help prevent the most prevalent injury that takes place in the game today? It makes no sense not to. So I'm a big believer.

Why don't other shoe manufacturers do more to protect the feet? Is it all performance based and flashy technology?

It's usually just about the style and then they come up with the things, like the Air and the other stuff that's there like the typical cushioning but does it help prevent an injury? No, it doesn't help prevent the most prevalent injury that exists today in the game which is the ankle sprain. 95 players last year in the NBA sprained their ankles and for certain teams that could be critical. Look at my old team, the Golden State Warriors, look at how detrimental it was for them when Stephen Curry turned his ankle against the San Antonio Spurs...during the playoffs. That was a major, major factor for them. He's had chronic problems with his ankles and this is a perfect shoe that he should be wearing to help prevent that. That's the whole thing for me, is that I'm always up for something that helps to either improve your skills or to prevent injuries.

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How have basketball players responded to this new product? What's the feedback been like out in the real world?

Forty percent of the players who were wearing the shoe wrote in and said they felt that it was helping them with their shot because they felt they had a much more secure base to work from so it's really interesting. The reviews have been off the charts.

You'd think that all these advancements made in training and conditioning that this is something that would have been properly addressed a long time ago?

It's really surprising to me that nobody has really come up with anything to really prevent this. Obviously, you've got ankle taping, braces and things of that nature but nothing has ever been patented and there's never been this kind of technology before and it's really surprising that someone really didn't dedicate themselves to this years ago because this is an injury that's existed ever since the game was invented.

What are your general thoughts on the Miami Heat championship and the 2013 NBA Finals?

They were very fortunate to win the championship. They had a great season, had that incredible run with all those consecutive victories which I don't care where you're playing or who you're playing against, that's still a great accomplishment. They were fortunate enough to be able to repeat as champions which is a very difficult thing to do. They got a little help from San Antonio and from an official who swallowed his whistle on Ray Allen's travel on the 3-point shot that tied the game in Game 6. Otherwise the Spurs would have been the champions and nobody talks much about that. But that's a part of what happens in the game and you have to credit them for responding as they did and being able to come away with a victory.

I think that next year they'll probably be a tougher team and if Greg Oden can give them 10-15 minutes a game at crucial times, that's going to be a big factor for them, it really could be. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens. I just saw LeBron James a week and a half or so ago, I was at Dwyane Wade's fantasy basketball camp and he showed up over there. Dwyane is coming around with his injury, he's feeling better, and LeBron is working hard and trying to continue to improve on his game. Which is admirable and that's the way it should be, you should never be satisfied with how well you play regardless if you're a great player like LeBron. You always want to get better and he does want to get better and that's commendable and that's good news for the Miami Heat franchise and their fans.

LeBron regressed a bit this past season when it comes to his FT shooting and he keeps working on his free throw form over the years, to the point where he tried to emulate Ray Allen's technique a bit last season. What's more important, refining his technique or start trying something different with a fresh start?

Refining. He has a flaw in his technique from what I've watched. He doesn't have a fluid motion. He's in perfect position when he starts out - bent at the knees, bent at the waist, and then he straightens out and comes up, there's always a hesitation and then the arms go up. He really needs to make it one fluid motion where there's no pauses, nothing whatsoever. It's just got to be more fluid and then he just has to have a routine and do the same thing every time he shoots it at practice or in a game. You repeat that and you do it the same way. That way your focus is on your routine, which you can practice tens of thousands of times, and you get confidence in your ability to do that.

He's got to be an 80% free throw shooter and he's got to get to the mentality that he wants to get fouled when he drives. As big and strong as he is, he's probably going to convert a high percentage of shots when he gets fouled and they grab at him because he's so athletic and he's going to have a chance at a lot of three-point plays. He's going to just be a better player if he has that mentality. If that happens, then there's big trouble.

Then he also can improve on some other areas (such as) utilizing screens a little more effectively, and learning that when he faces up to his man he uses his first dribble only as a productive dribble and have the ball in his hands. Because as great of a passer and as great of court vision that he has, it's going to give him the opportunity to get to his teammates that are open. But if you start your dribble and all of a sudden your guy makes a great back-cut to the basket, how do you get him the ball? You can't because it's not even in your hands.

What about being more consistent with his outside shot? What have you noticed about his improvement over the years?

It's just repetition and the fact that he has his elbow in, which I made a big deal about it a number of years ago, that's improved his shooting form dramatically and it's one of the reasons why he had the kind of year he had. Go look at film of him from 3 or 4 years ago, look at his elbow and look at it from last season. You'll notice a dramatic difference. He was never going to be a good shooter, a consistent shooter, with his elbow out. He's become a more consistent shooter and he needs to keep working on that and make sure that's good.

There's stuff that he could do off the dribble, as great as he is, there's nuances that I've learned over the years that if he was taught those things - I've extended that courtesy to him and I told him I'd be happy to show him some of the things I've learned, we'll see if I hear from him. I'd be happy to convey that to him and try to take his game to a whole different level. That's the scary part about it, the guy is already unbelievable as it is and the scary part is that he can be even better.

You just mentioned that you think Ray Allen travelled on that corner 3 at the end of Game 6...

There's no question about it, just watch the replay that they showed from the overhead camera. He catches the ball with one foot down, steps back, brings the foot that he had down back to shoot the ball. That's traveling, you can't move your pivot foot without dribbling.

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Do you think the ref saw that and chose not to interfere with such an important moment of a championship game or did it happen so quickly Allen's shuffle to that spot looked legit?

It happened so quickly that the official just saw Ray doing it and he was looking down probably just to see if he got behind the three-point arc. It was a great shot, but they didn't call it so it doesn't matter. They got away with it, so lucky them.

Can you explain how a player like Shane Battier can go through an extended shooting slump like he had during the playoffs? What advice do you have for a player to get through that?

It's probably just a little minor thing that somebody has to look at their shot and see. I remember one time I was having one, I asked (teammate) Jeff Mullins - he was a great shooter - and I said, 'Jeff, watch me. See what I'm doing wrong. I can't figure it out.' And what it was, I was actually waiting a little bit too long to release the ball and I was releasing it as I was starting to come down. So I had motion in my shot instead of shooting it at the peak of my jump shot where there is no motion whatsoever. You should have no motion when the ball comes off your hands. Sometimes players are shooting it early on the way up or a little late on the way down, I happened to be shooting it on the way down and I corrected the problem. But you really need to have somebody look at the shot, analyze it and try to find out if you're doing some little thing that could be throwing it off.

It's just like anything else, sometimes you get in a groove and everything is working properly but people go through (slumps) but you can't let it get you down. You just have to believe in it and fight your way through it and you can't stop shooting. If you have a good, open shot your teammates are expecting you to shoot it.

So much is made of talent and athleticism but do you think young players today are getting coached and drilled enough on the fundamentals of the game?

No, they're not. They're not being drilled enough in the fundamentals and that's the biggest problem of the game today. They're not being taught the fundamentals properly. They have all this amazing athleticism and great, natural talent but they have no idea how to utilize it properly because they don't have a good foundation to build on. As great as some of these players are, they'd be even greater if they knew what the hell to do with all the talent that they have. That's the problem that exists today. The first person to get his hands on a kid to teach them the game is maybe the most critical person he could ever have. I was lucky that it was my dad who was a semi-pro player and a coach who drilled the fundamentals into me so he gave me the foundation to build on. Fortunately, I was blessed with some athletic ability and natural talent and I was able to maximize my potential.

AAU basketball compounds it, there's so many AAU teams that really don't get a chance to get together and don't practice the fundamentals as much as they should. It's all about athleticism and just playing games and that's not the best thing for these athletes.

For more information on Ektio, check out their website at Ektio.com to learn more and to order online.

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