Making jump shots on the basketball court is no easy task. It takes hours of hard work to learn how to put that ball through the hoop.
Even more frustrating, there are a million techniques taught by so-called experts, all claiming to be the right way to shoot the ball. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The most important thing about shooting a basketball is to put the ball through the rim. It doesn’t matter how it gets there. Great shooters make shots. I teach the traditional way to shoot a basketball, because it has worked for me throughout my career (I shot 40% from 3-point range in college and in the pros). I believe it gives you the best chance to make shots consistently.
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The most important thing you need to learn is to shoot the same shot every single time.
How to Shoot a Basketball: The BEEF Method
I advocate the BEEF method, which establishes a solid foundation for building an accurate jump shot. I’ll run you through the four fundamentals of how to shoot a basketball, which will allow you to be consistent every time the ball leaves your hand.
1. Base (or Balance)
A solid base gives your jump shot great balance from start to finish as you start your shooting motion.
Maintaining great balance throughout your shot requires two things: positioning your feet about shoulder-width apart and firmly under your shoulders (if your feet are staggered or narrow, you can be off balance); and pointing your torso and head toward the basket throughout your shot (meaning your body is pointed in a straight line toward the target, so you can direct the ball toward your target instead of off to the side.)
You want your weight to be equally distributed between both legs and to have a slight bend in your knees.
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A common mistake poor shooters make is jutting their elbow out to the side of their body, giving the ball unwanted sidespin or an unpredictable flight path. You want your elbow to be directly underneath the basketball and your biceps to be at about a 90-degree angle with your torso as you prepare to shoot. This will provide a consistent shooting pocket and help you shoot the basketball in a straight line.
“Elbow under the basketball. You don’t want your elbow (outside of your wrist), because the ball will fall off your hand. Elbow up underneath the basketball,” says Jonathan White, Youth Basketball Coordinator at the Cavaliers Academy.
You want the fingers of your shooting hand to contact the ball rather than allowing it to rest in your palm. Your off hand should make contact with the side of the ball and keep it on your shooting hand, but shouldn’t play any role in the power of your shot.
Your eyes are your body’s navigation system. Once you start your shot, your eyes tell the rest of your body where you want the ball to go. This becomes even more crucial when you are shooting off screens or shooting while moving.
I look at the front of the rim, but I know great shooters who look at the back of the rim when they get their eyes up. Steph Curry focuses his eyes on the hooks that attach the net to the rim. More specifically, he focuses on the hooks closest to him and imagines arcing the ball just over top of them, but perhaps you’ll shoot better when focusing on the hooks furthest away from you. It’s all about experimentation until you find that perfect aiming point. Whatever part of the rim you decide to focus on, the important thing is that your head looks up before you start your shooting motion.
Another thing to remember: Don’t follow the flight of the ball as you release it into the air. This takes your focus off the rim and makes you less accurate. Keep your eyes on that aiming point.
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4. Follow-Through (flick your wrist)
Following through and flicking your wrist is the last piece of the shooting motion, and it’s a crucial component when learning how to shoot a basketball.
When you release the ball, your wrist should flick toward the target as if you were reaching on top of a high shelf to grab a cookie out of a jar.
“We always talk about finish. Don’t just shoot it and drop your arms. We call that pulling the string. That takes off some of the power of your shoot. So follow it and see it all the way through,” White says.
When you follow through properly, the ball should roll off your tips of your pointer finger and middle finger, which will produce good backspin on the ball, giving your shot a soft touch and increasing your chance of getting a friendly roll on the rim. You know you will have done it correctly if your wrist is flexed to the point where your fingers point down toward the ground.
Having a good base, proper elbow positioning, an effective eye target, and a solid follow-through can instantly help even the most clueless of players develop a solid basketball shot.
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