How Chris “Lethal Shooter” Matthews Helps the NBA’s Top Players Get Better

Matthews counts Anthony Davis, Michael B. Jordan and Drake among his clients

June 29, 2023 6:52 am
Chris Matthews holds a basketball.
Chris Matthews can make buckets with the best of them.
Red Bull

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Denver teammates Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. combined to score 27 points as the Nuggets were able to eke out a 94-89 win over the resilient Miami Heat to capture the championship. In the game’s final 24 seconds, Caldwell-Pope made a pair of clutch free throws to stake Denver to a three-point lead and pulled down the final rebound of the game after Miami’s Kyle Lowry missed a three-pointer.

For Washington, D.C. native Chris Matthews, known as “Lethal Shooter” on social media, Denver’s win was “a dream come true” — even though he won’t get a championship ring or a bonus in his bank account. One of the most sought-after shooting coaches in basketball with a client list that includes Las Vegas Aces forward Candace Parker, L.A. Lakers forward Anthony Davis, actor Michael B. Jordan and rapper Drake, Matthews worked with both Caldwell-Pope and Porter Jr. this season and helped both players shoot better than 40% from behind the three-point arc as they helped deliver the first championship in Nuggets history.

A scholarship athlete who broke collegiate shooting records at Washington State and St. Bonaventure University before turning pro and suiting up for teams in Canada, Russia, China, Mexico, Brazil and France for seven years, the 38-year-old turned to teaching in 2016 after injuries took their toll on his body. The subject of a new Red Bull documentary Life & Basketball: The Rise of Lethal Shooter, Matthews has trained players from almost every NBA team and many of the WNBA’s top players in his teaching career. What’s his secret to shooting success? We asked…

This interview has been edited for context

InsideHook: What is it like for you to watch your clients play?

Chris Matthews: I want to see my clients win and make their shots. If you invest in someone, you want them to win. So if they’re losing, I’m hurt. I feel what they feel. That’s how badly I want them to win. When other people reach their greatness, it makes me feel great, but I can’t really go to any of the games because I get anxious. I love to watch on TV so I can act crazy in my house. I can’t sit there and watch in person. I’ll lose my mind.

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IH: What do you do when you see your clients struggling with their shots?

CM: Let’s use Michael Porter Jr. as an example. When the Nuggets came to play the Lakers here in L.A. during the playoffs, I trained with him until about 11 o’clock at night in that playoff series. I went to Philly and did the same thing with Jaylen Brown when he was having a rough spell for the Celtics. If one of my clients calls me, I’ll do whatever it takes to help them take their game to the next level if my schedule’s open. To be the best, you have to fail sometimes. Even Steph Curry has a bad shooting day sometimes. It’s my job to watch film and study it, but it’s also my job to come in to give my clients the confidence that’s needed. My life is still devoted to them if they’re doing good or bad.

IH: If a client’s shot isn’t falling, can you diagnose what’s wrong just from watching?

CM: Absolutely. I can literally take a picture in my head and tell you everything you’re doing wrong. That’s what a lot of people don’t know about me. When I watch film and see you shoot in person, I’m actually taking pictures in my head so I can break down your shot to correct it.

IH: How much of shooting is physical and how much of it is mental? 

CM: To me, shooting is about 80% mental and 20% physical. Steph Curry’s the best shooter of all time, but Steph Curry has the mentality of a Floyd Mayweather or a Muhammad Ali or a Michael Jordan. He understands what it takes to concentrate. There are a lot of shooters that can probably shoot as good as Steph Curry, but the reason why they aren’t Steph Curry is that their mentality isn’t as strong as Steph Curry’s. The 20% physical comes from repetition and getting in the gym, but it takes a certain type of concentration to be the best.

Chris “Lethal Shooter” Matthews turns NBA stars into sharpshooters.
Red Bull

IH: Do you have a philosophy about shooting?

CM: I was really hard on myself when I used to miss. My dad would tell me that failure leads to success. When you’re shooting the basketball and missing, don’t think about the last shot — think about your next shot. It’s just like in life. If you keep thinking about your failures, you’re never going to be successful in the future. You need to use failure to understand why you failed. If you miss a shot, think about why you missed it so you don’t make the same mistake with the next one. That’s a philosophy that I use with my clients. I don’t care if they’re 0-for-5 from three-point range, I’ll never tell a shooter to turn that ball down if they’re wide open. Just remember why you missed those other shots and don’t make those same mistakes. You’re going to miss a few shots, but it’s not about the past, it’s about the present.

IH: How are you able to get superstars who make millions of dollars to listen to you?

CM: People like to learn from people who have mastered their craft. If anyone uses their spare time to learn from me, they’re learning from somebody who mastered their craft. It’s just like me and you. We’re not going to go to college and learn from a professor who doesn’t know every single thing about the subject we’re learning. I think that’s why people love to learn from me. And, most importantly, they see my product works. Every single player I’ve helped took something positive away from that training.

IH: What are your thoughts on shooting free throws underhand?

CM: I love it. If it’s working for you and it’s consistent, never change it. I feel a lot if people care about how their shot looks, but if it’s working, why change it? If it’s not working, change it. If it’s butter, shoot underhand.

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