A jump shot starts way before the arms are even involved. It all begins with your lower body; your feet and legs need to be set and ready to start the upward motion of your shot.
Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters in the history of basketball, told NBA TV, “Shooting, for me, is not about my upper body. It’s really about my lower body. So when I’m shooting the ball like I need to, I jump and it’s one motion.”
Basketball players are almost universally taught, at an early age, that stepping into your shot one foot at a time, or a “1-2 step,” is the proper way to use your lower body in setting up a catch-and-shoot jump shot.
The 1-2 step is the traditional and still most widely used footwork for shooting, however, some players at higher levels will utilize “the hop” instead of the 1-2 step, at times, to get their feet set for their shot. Many great shooters in the NBA, from Kevin Durant to Bradley Beal to JJ Redick, will use the hop to get into their shot depending on the situation.
Let’s break down both of these techniques to see which one might benefit you best, and illustrate how to perform the hop should you want to give it a chance.
For right-handed shooters, when using the 1-2 step, you will step with your left foot first, and after that foot is planted you will simultaneously catch the ball and step with your right foot to align your feet (either square to the basket or angled to the left or right). Left handed shooters will use the right foot first and then follow with the left.
If you are spotting up, or catching and shooting from a standstill, you can start with your first foot already planted. The shot will then only require one step into your alignment, catch and shoot, and will thus be quicker.
On the move, the 1-2 step will require you to set up your feet as you move to the desired spot so that the proper first foot is down on the catch, then turning your body to face the basket and into your shot as the ball is caught. To get into the 1-2 step on the move you may have to alter your stride as you run.
After the catch
Once the ball is caught after a 1-2 step, if you decide not to shoot, you can only jab step or begin a drive with the second foot that was used to step into the shot, once the ball was caught.
Your decision to either shoot, drive or pass will be made as you are stepping into your shot and reading the defense.
To use the hop, you will start by jumping just 2 to 3 inches off the ground once the pass is thrown and the ball is in the air. While you are briefly in the air you will catch the ball and align your hips and feet for your shot, so the hop, catch and alignment will take place all in one motion. You will land on the balls of your feet and quickly spring back up for your jump shot.
If you are spotting up with the hop, you can start with your feet in whatever stance is comfortable for you—square, staggered or angled. You will hop off of both feet, catch, align, land and shoot.
On the move you can be ready to hop and shoot at any time because as you move you can get into your hop by jumping off of either foot and quickly turning in the air to align your body. When running, shuffling or backpedaling into a shot, as the ball comes toward you, you will start your hop with whichever foot is currently planted. Then jump off of one foot, catch, align with the basket and land on two feet before shooting.
(It maybe be more comfortable to always start your hop with a certain foot when you are on the move, and in this case you will have to set up your steps similar to a 1-2 step.)
After the catch
Once the ball is caught after a hop, you can attack the defense with either foot because landing on two feet does not establish a pivot foot. So you can jab or begin a drive with either foot.
Your decision to either shoot, drive or pass must be made quickly as you are in the air, catching the ball and reading the defense.
Which is better?
Changing your footwork from the 1-2 to the hop is not going to drastically change your shot accuracy by itself. If you have been taught to use the 1-2 step and are considering adding the hop to your game, there are three main aspects of your shot you will want to consider when examining if the hop helps you or not. So as you are trying out the hop you should be asking yourself about:
- Speed: Does using the hop compared to the 1-2 get my shot off quicker? Is my shot released faster from the time the ball is caught?
- Balance: Does quickly landing on the balls of my feet give me more or less balance when compared to stepping into my shot, one foot at a time? Do I feel like my weight is distributed equally and I am jumping straight?
- Rhythm: Does the hop give me more rhythm? Does hopping into my shot give my entire shooting motion more flow from my feet to my release point?
The video below makes the case for the hop but does a good job or comparing the two methods and providing visual examples of how both are done.
These questions should help you determine if using the hop would be good for you. You can obviously use either the 1,2 step or the hop exclusively or a combination of both depending on the situation of the game. What is most important is what makes your shooting motion the most comfortable and how it affects your shot.