From a pick-up game to a professional one, it's easy to see there are multiple ways to shoot a basketball. Most players believe that if they take a shot and the ball goes in, they must be shooting well enough. But with repetition and practice, any shot has a chance to go, even one executed with terrible form.
A correct shot is actually one of the most unnatural movements in sports. However, mastering the technique will make you a consistent scorer. (See Score More Points With Ray Allen's Textbook Shooting Form.) There are different methods to teach shooting, but as a coach, I've found great success with this unique approach. Give it try and see how much better your offensive game becomes.
- Feet. Players are often taught to have one foot slightly forward, but the straighter your entire body is, the more consistent you'll become. Keep your feet even, your weight balanced and your body squared up to the rim.
- Knees. Bend your knees and keep your body low. Your legs control your power, allowing your arms to do the same thing every time.
- Fingers. Spreading your fingers wide gives you more control over the ball. When learning to shoot, place your index finger on the pump valve and spread your other fingers wide. You want your index finger straight down the middle of the ball and your thumb and little finger in line with each other. If you have big hands, your thumb and little finger will along a seam. If you turn your wrist so your palms face you, you can tell if your thumb and little finger are in line, even if you have small hands that don't reach the seams.
- Wrist. Better shooters tend to expose more of their wrist to the rim. Once your fingers are lined up, bend your wrist back so you see the wrinkles in your skin. Then make sure the ball is not on your palm. The ball should sit on your finger pads and there should be some space between the ball and your palm.
With the ball in place, lift it up so that your elbow is bent and your arm forms an "L." Keep your wrist bent backward. Your elbow should be directly under the middle of the ball. Make sure your index finger, elbow, shoulder and foot are all in line and facing the same direction.
Your off hand should rest softly on the side of the ball. Both hands make a "T" this way, where your shooting thumb would fit into the groove at the base of the palm of your off hand. This hand is just a support and a guide. It does not rotate or push the ball.
Before shooting, it's important to aim at a target. Typical targets are the front of the rim, the back of the rim and the middle of the rim. Aiming for the front can lead to shooting short, aiming at the back to shooting long. Players will hit where they are aiming. It's hard to aim for a spot that has no physical markers. I recommend aiming for a spot about two inches above the rim. There is nothing there, but it is a point you can envision.
To shoot, aim for the spot above the rim and don't take your eyes off it. Shoot as high as you can by extending your legs to jump while also extending your shooting arm as high as you can.
The last part of your shot is the follow through. This is done just as your wrist gets to the highest point of your reach. For a proper follow through, snap your wrist forward as if you were trying to touch your forearm with your index finger. Remember, this is not actually possible. While you snap, keep your fingers wide. The ball should release off your index finger last. When your index finger snaps forward, the other fingers will follow. Hold your follow through high above your head, with your off hand in the same position it was in when it was supporting the ball. Avoid moving your off hand away from the ball, as it will cause you to turn.
A note for your off hand follow through. You can keep it in front of your face, where it started; or it can go up with your shooting hand and snap your little finger towards the rim; or it can push into your shooting arm after the release. It depends on what is most comfortable and what keep your shot straight. In all three positions, your off hand never rotates. Your palm always faces in the same direction as it did when it was supporting the ball.
Keys to Consistency
- Focus and aim
- Start low and jump as high as you can
- Spread your fingers wide and snap your wrist
- Hold your follow through until the ball hits the floor
- If you shoot short, use more legs
- If you shoot long, snap your wrist more and/or release the ball higher
Now that you know how to take a shot, practice with Individual Basketball Shooting Drills.
Photo: Issac Baldizon, NBA.com