Kyle Korver: In The Zone

For most of his career, Kyle Korver was recognized as a skilled 3-point shooter and bench scorer at best. In 2010, Korver joined the Chicago Bulls as a key part of their “Bench Mob,” shooting 41.5% from 3-point range, hitting 43.4% of his field goals, and averaging 8.3 points per game, but as an aging sharp-shooter with little defensive impact, Korver recognized the need for his game to evolve.

So Kyle joined the Peak Performance Project (P3), an advanced sports performance conditioning center in Santa Barbara, CA. While at P3, Dr. Marcus Elliott and his team conducted a complete biomechanical analysis on Kyle. The point is to identify foci for development of his physical performance. They also conducted a Versus NeuroPerformance Assessment (NPA) on Kyle to do the same for his mental performance.

Kyle Korver's Versus NeuroPerformance Assessment
Kyle Korver’s NeuroPerformance Assessment

Kyle’s physical analysis identified inconsistencies in his knee, back, and elbow, inconsistencies that were hindering him on court. P3 developed an individualized program to rehabilitate his form based on that analysis. This data driven approach has yielded remarkable results for so many athletes at P3, which is why they take the same approach with the brain.

Kyle’s NPA in 2011 indicates he was strong in his ability to focus, as seen in his Focus Capacity Score (7.1), but had difficulty sustaining this focus, demonstrated by his Focus Endurance Score (3.6). His Impulse Control Score (7.8) and response times are also impressive. The fastest a human brain can process visual stimuli is about 300 milliseconds (ms). Usually the closer the response times are to that mark, the more errors are seen. Kyle had an average just above 300 ms in all segments of the Continuous Performance Task (or CPT; a portion of the NPA), and only made only two errors for the entire task, both of which occurred during the most demanding part of the task.

This has obvious benefit in basketball.

But there are times off court when rest and recovery are paramount to the next solid performance. Like many professional athletes, Kyle struggled with “turning his brain off.” His brain remained active at rest, illustrated by the lower Activation Baseline Score (3.1).

“I wasn’t able to fully relax, I was always engaged on some level…What I found with Versus was that the more you’re able to relax and stay engaged the better you are, the more power you have, and the clearer you think,” says Korver.

“What I found with Versus was that the more you’re able to relax and stay engaged the better you are, the more power you have, and the clearer you think.”

– Kyle Korver

An overactive mind may hinder performance through things like overly repetitive thoughts, an inability to let go of mistakes, working yourself to exhaustion or difficulty with sleep. The Activation Baseline Score relates to the Max Activation Score, which is how much more activated he became during the task portion of the assessment. Even though his brain was overactive at rest he was still able to engage pretty well, which is seen in his Max Activation Score (6.4). Keeping such a high level of activity constantly can lead to mental exhaustion, which explains his lower Focus Endurance Score. Because of these results, Kyle was prescribed a stress recovery performance protocol to better manage his high brain activity. Kyle learned to better manage his mental energy and fully engage only when necessary. This helped him recover from stress, optimize his limited downtime, and create a relaxed and focused state during tasks.

Today, Kyle has found his zone as the lynch pin in the Atlanta Hawks’ madhouse offense. Korver’s averages have increased to 47.2 3P%, 47.5 FG%, and 12.0 PPG in ’13/’14 and after fifteen games in ’14/’15, he is trending toward a career best, and record setting, 55.3 3P%, 50.9 FG%, and 12.9 PPG. The thirty-three year old is improving at a pace expected from players a decade younger, not twelve-year veterans. Now, Kyle is joined by young guns like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James in the debate for best shooter in the league, and he credits Versus as a tool to rise above other players.

“This is what’s next. If you can [be] good at this, it just gives you an advantage over everybody else.”