When it comes to representing his country Tristan Thompson is determined to do things the right way.


The burgeoning Canadian NBA star a left-handed shooter for his entire basketball career has decided to use his right hand to shoot jump shots and free throws.

The unusual – perhaps historic – switch has been months in the planning but had its competitive debut Thursday night in Canada’s 81-71 win over Jamaica in the first of two exhibition games between the two countries in advance of the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament.

Midway through the third quarter of his first game with the Canadian national basketball team Thompson got the ball on the right side of the floor faked left drove right and took off for a dunk.

He was met at the rim by Jamaica’s Samardo Samuels who got whistled for the foul.

In itself it was a strong sequence as Thompson demonstrated he is a threat to go strong with his so-called weak hand.

And then something remarkable happened: Thompson went to line set up for his free throw and shot them right-handed as well – and a new phase in his basketball life began.

“I think it’s the first time ever in NBA history” Thompson said of the change and he may be right.

Jerry Colangelo executive director of USA Basketball has been affiliated with the NBA since the mid-1960s and has seen everything the modern game has to offer seemingly. Does he know of an NBA player switching his shooting hand mid-career?

“No” he said flatly when I asked him. “There are a lot of players who work hard so they can finish equally well with both hands but as far as changing the hands they shoot with? I’ve never heard of that. That’s 1-in-1000 right there.”

Thompson’s decision comes after careful deliberation. He’s naturally almost perfectly “multi-handed” if not purely ambidextrous. He grew up shooting with his left-hand and driving the ball predominantly to his left but he throws a baseball with his right hand. He writes left-handed but brushes his teeth with his right-hand.

“I’m all messed up” Thompson joked. “I’m still trying to figure myself out.”

It’s not completely unusual. About 90 per cent of the population is predominantly right-handed and about 10 per cent identify as left-handed but there are a small sliver of people who are “multi-handed” while only about one per cent of the population is considered ambidextrous – able to use either hand equally well.

For Thompson the decision to switch reflects his commitment to improvement. The 6-foot-9 forward had a breakout second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds and finishing 16th in the NBA in double-doubles and seventh among power forwards but being able to shoot from the perimeter more efficiently combined with his quickness and ball-handling would bring an entirely new dimension to his game.

He converted 49 per cent of his 799 shot attempts last season 13th among power forwards but for Thompson the issue is not the shots he made but rather the shots he never took.

More than 70 per cent of his attempts were inside 10 feet where he converted a rate of 56 per cent on tip-ins dunks put-backs and a variety of other shots. The issue for Thompson is that he only took 84 shots from outside 10 feet and just 51 from outside 16 feet.