Chris Matthews On How He Became “Lethal Shooter” On The Court
The in-demand shooting coach talks about finding and embracing your purpose.
As a kid growing up in Washington D.C., Chris Matthews had one goal — to play in the NBA. After a brief stint in the G-League, several years playing professional ball overseas and a few major injuries, Chris’ perspective on everything began to shift. He started viewing success as more than the sum of one’s individual accomplishments; he realized that he could inspire and impact others in a different role, as a coach.
If the name Chris Matthews doesn’t ring a bell, his nickname “Lethal Shooter” might. As a skills and shooting coach, Chris has helped countless NBA and WNBA players, as well as a few big-name entertainers, improve their shots. Between all of his clients over the years, there’s a lot of growth that Chris could take credit for. Instead, he’s adamant that while he may provide the tools, his dedicated students put in the hard work.
Chris himself put in the work, too. In his senior year at St. Bonaventure University, he set a single-season record for the program with 101 three-pointers in 31 games on 39 percent shooting. Since then, he’s played pro basketball in Mexico, Canada, China and Russia, among other places, and set various shooting records along the way.
Through camps and other community outreach programs, most in his hometown of D.C., Chris is helping others in as many ways as he can. He hopes to continue positively influencing the youth by teaching discipline and determination for life, not just basketball.
Below, Chris talks about committing to a life of service, moving to L.A., learning to pivot and more.
How did coming up in D.C. help you become the player you are today?
Growing up in the D.C. area, I was lucky to play with some current pros. D.C. has always been a city that produces great talent. There are a lot of athletes [from there] who never played in the NBA but certainly could have. Playing pickup games at Bowie State and other gyms, you couldn’t make it on the court if you weren’t working on your game every chance you could. I always made it a point to be the best shooter on the floor, so I had to get up shots and work on my craft whenever possible. Being around so much talent made me a better player and showed me what excellence on the court looked like.
How did you decide to switch to coaching after playing pro ball?
I was very blessed to play professionally overseas for about seven years. Unfortunately, I suffered a few pretty serious injuries and couldn’t continue to play basketball at the same level. I knew I wouldn’t feel fulfilled in a career that didn’t include basketball, and I was reminded of some of the amazing coaches who made me a better player and had a big impact on my life. I felt that becoming a coach was the best way to positively influence the next generation while staying close to the game I love. It was truly a blessing that I had the skills necessary to pursue that next journey as a coach.
You’ve been vocal about overcoming setbacks in order to find your true purpose. What did it take for you to find your path in coaching?
A big part of overcoming setbacks is knowing when to change course. Walking away from basketball as a player was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and it took me a while to realize that it was the right decision for me. Thankfully, I had friends and mentors who helped push me toward that decision, and I began to realize my potential as a coach. You have to follow your heart and believe in yourself, but you also have to be open to wherever your journey may take you. Just because your destination might be different than you planned doesn’t mean you’ve failed. We have to trust the path that is meant for us.
“The instant I see my coaching 'click' is the most rewarding thing in the world, because I know it’s just the beginning!”
What is the most rewarding part of being a shooting coach?
It’s that moment when an athlete experiences a breakthrough, whether it’s working to change muscle memory in a shot or helping an athlete regain focus off the court. That’s the spark that fuels my passion as a coach. The instant I see my coaching “click” is the most rewarding thing in the world, because I know it’s just the beginning!
What are the most common mistakes, questions or challenges that your clients have when they hire you?
One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that it will be easy. Changing muscle memory is not an easy task, but once you get a new rhythm and improve your form, you start to see how impactful the changes are. I get a ton of questions from athletes about how to fix their forms, but every athlete is different. It really comes down to creating a specific blueprint that fits each player’s needs, to help them see progress. The most common mistake an athlete can make is believing they don’t have any improvements to make. We can all get better at The Art of Shooting, even by making the slightest changes.
What does everyone have in common in the pursuit of becoming a better shooter?
Everyone has the same 24 hours. The athletes who truly want to become better shooters are willing to put in the time and get up countless reps. You cannot become a great shooter overnight. I think everyone acknowledges that being a shooter is crucial in today’s game, but not everyone is willing to do the work it takes to bring that kind of value to the court.
You also train a number of big-name entertainers. Why do they gravitate to you as a coach, and how do their sessions differ from athlete sessions?
I am very appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had to train celebrities. I think my ability to coach them in an impactful yet enjoyable way is why they want to come train. I approach every client as if he or she is the reigning MVP. Regardless of why they want to become a better shooter, it’s my goal for them to leave the gym better than when they walked in. Anyone who trains with me is striving for excellence, and it is my goal to help each person achieve it.
Your schedule seems crazy busy. When not sheltering in place, how do you balance your career with fatherhood?
A lot of the balance in my life is achieved through organization and not being afraid to say no. I work closely with my manager to thoughtfully schedule my time in the gym, especially when it requires me to be on the road for days or weeks at a time. I’m so blessed that my fiancé is a wonderful mother and holds things down when I can’t be home, but it is also extremely important to me that I’m a present father for my daughter. We all work as a team to achieve balance and ensure that I have time with my family.
On Instagram, you did a nostalgic, at-home hoop tutorial. How else have you been staying motivated and trying to spread positive energy during this time?
A lot of my motivation comes from watching great basketball. Growing up, I watched a lot of legends who inspired me. One of those legends was Delonte Taylor, Sr., who really pushed me toward excellence as a child. Those same players, along with the current generation of players, continue to motivate me and fuel my excitement for the sport. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my family, and they inspire me, as well. Being home every day to see my daughter growing up so quickly reminds me how important it is to continue working toward my goals and building a great life for her and my fiancé.
What are a few things that people can do at home, with or without a hoop, to improve their shots?
One drill I used to do as a kid was to shoot from my bed while laying on my back. I would shoot from my chest into the air, without the ball hitting the ceiling, until my arms were tired. That helped me with my wrist strength and also helped me work on using my point finger.
Being a better shooter also requires athletes to be in better shape overall. Shooting requires a lot of conditioning and strength, so I recommend athletes use this time to also work on their overall fitness levels. Try to do push ups, core work and other exercises that can be done safely at home, so that you’re ready to hit the court after quarantine. I’ve also been sharing some training tips on my social media channels to help during these tough times and hopefully inspire athletes to try some drills at home.
One of your mottos is “stay locked in.” How and when can athletes use this mentality?
The phrase “stay locked in” is really about keeping focused and avoiding distractions as you move toward greatness. The best thing athletes can do is to continue working toward their goals, however they can. Even when they face setbacks or are struggling, staying locked in requires athletes to keep grinding and striving for excellence.
You’ve made it a point to give back to your community in D.C. through camps and otherwise. Why are these efforts important to you?
When I was growing up, I didn’t have much. In a lot of ways, basketball saved my life. It provided me with opportunities to get an education, to travel the world and to now make a living. Throughout my journey, I’ve met a lot of people who have inspired me to stay focused and maintain sight of my goals and dreams. I do a lot of camps and try to give back when I can, because you truly never know how much you might inspire those kids. Even if it’s just one kid whose life I can impact during a camp, that is one more kid who I hope will stay in school, make good decisions and achieve their goals in life. I am finally in a position to give back, and that will always be a big priority for me.
Why did you make the move to L.A.?
There are a lot of reasons I made the move to L.A. A lot of people may not realize how much growth can come from being uncomfortable. For me, moving to L.A. was a pretty big risk and took me out of my comfort zone, but I knew the move would help me grow as a coach in a big way. Moving to L.A. was also an opportunity to help more athletes. Because there is such a strong basketball culture in L.A., and so many pros are drawn here in the offseason, I knew that I could create opportunities to help more players.
What is the basketball community like in L.A., and how does it compare to D.C.?
The basketball community in L.A. made me feel at home since Day 1. For example, the Jumpman L.A. team gave me more platforms to train kids and push them towards excellence. I’ve also done a lot of private runs for athletes and celebrities that have gotten incredible support.
Like D.C., the basketball community in L.A. is tight-knit. The competition on the court is great, but people also support one another. The biggest difference between L.A. and. D.C. is just the sheer number of resources available to athletes. There are so many gyms, training facilities, elite trainers and leagues that can help athletes stay sharp in L.A. When I was growing up in D.C., so much of what we learned about the game came from playing at places like Barry Farms and pushing each other toward excellence. Whether it’s in D.C. or L.A., kids nowadays have so many resources available [to them]. I just encourage them to take advantage of any opportunities they get, wherever they are.