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A motion offense is a category of offensive scheme used in basketball. Motion offenses use player movement, often as a strategy to exploit the quickness of the offensive team or to neutralize a size advantage of the defense.
Motion offenses are different from continuity offenses in that they follow no fixed repeating pattern. Instead, a motion offense is free-flowing and relatively unrestricted, though following a set of rules. Some examples of basic rules that are commonly used are:
- Pass and screen away: Players pass to one side of the court and seek to screen for players on the opposite side of the court. The hope is to create spacing and driving lanes to the basket.
- Back screen: Players in the key seek to screen players on the wing and open them up for basket cuts.
- Flare screen: Player without the ball on the perimeter seeks to set a screen (usually near the elbow area of the lane) for another player without the ball at the top of the key area.
The origin of the motion offense has been disputed, sometimes attributed to Henry Iba, the former head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys men's basketball team, and sometimes to coaches of the New York Renaissance, an all-African American team who played during the 1920s and 30s.
Henry Iba's version
Henry Iba's teams were methodical, ball-controlling units who featured weaving patterns and low-scoring games. A major contributor to the motion offense run at OSU was through the methodical mind of Bloomer Sullivan, Henry Iba's assistant early on who implemented his own version of the motion offense at Southeastern Oklahoma State College for 31 years.
Bob Knight's version
Another prominent head coach who was influential in the development of the motion offense is Bob Knight. Knight enjoyed great success for over 40 years as the head coach of the United States Military Academy, Indiana University, and Texas Tech University, recording 902 total victories. Knight's motion offense didn't truly come to fruition until his time at Indiana. Prior to that, as head coach of Army, he ran a "reverse action" offense. This offense involved reversing the ball from one side of the floor to the other, and screening along with it. According to Knight, it was a "West Coast offense" that Pete Newell used during his coaching career. After watching the Princeton offense for years while still at West Point, Knight went to the Olympic trials in 1972 to learn about the passing game. With Newell's help, he was able to further develop his offense.
Bob Knight's motion offense emphasized post players setting screens and perimeter players passing the ball until a teammate becomes open for an uncontested lay-up or jump shot. Players are also required to be unselfish and disciplined and must be effective in setting and using screens to get open. Plus, instead of relying on set plays, Knight's offense is designed to react according to the defense. As he continued developing his offense, he instituted different cuts and would put his players in different scenarios. During his time at Indiana University, the Hoosiers won 3 NCAA Championships; in 1976, 1981, and 1987. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.
The motion offense is not used by the vast majority of high school, college, and professional basketball teams. It is hard to teach, so many coaches shy away from it. However, many basketball teams have continued to use the offense to great success on all levels of the game, including most notably, Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors, Chris Beard’s Texas Tech Red Raiders, and Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers
- Walker, Jeff. "Knight Developed Motion Offense Through Research, And He's Always Adapting". Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2016.