In basketball, the layup is the highest percentage shot in the game. Every player should master the move. But many athletes know how to correctly execute only one or two variations. This limits their performance, because there are actually six basic layups: overhand layup, underhand layup, power layup, backhand layup, middle reverse layup and backhand reverse layup—to say nothing of the advanced finishing techniques that can make you downright unstoppable at the rim. In this Complete Guide to Mastering Basketball Layups, we give you a step-by-step guide for learning all of those moves with awesome new drills and helpful demonstration videos. Here in Part 1, we discuss the most fundamental basketball layup technique of all: the Overhand Layup.
The overhand layup is the one most commonly taught and the perfect place to start our series. It’s usually taught first, because most players in youth leagues are too weak to get the ball up high enough and in control. The overhand layup is the easiest in-motion layup to learn and is shot like a regular shot. Here’s a brief video tutorial showing how to do it from several angles.
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The best way to start developing your layup is to work on your footwork without dribbling the ball. (Struggling with your feet? Try 5 Footwork Drills for Basketball.) This example is for a right-handed layup.
- Start facing the basket on the first hash mark from the block with the ball in your right hand.
- Aim for the top right corner of the square on the backboard and don’t take your eyes off that spot. (Sometimes players need to aim slightly higher to ensure they shoot high enough. Driving to the basket from different angles can change exactly where you need to hit the backboard, but hitting the corner is still best in most cases.)
- Begin by stepping with your right foot toward the basket; as your foot hits the ground, bring your left hand to your right side and slap the ball hard. Do not swing the ball in any direction. The ball should stay near your heart.
- Next, step with your left foot toward the basket and jump as high as you can. To jump higher and go closer to the basket, drive your right knee up as you take off. As you lift off the ground, your body and right arm should extend to shoot. Your shooting elbow should be under the ball, your wrist bent backward and your palm facing toward the basket as you release the ball up, just like shooting a jump shot.
- Your follow through should be similar to your jump shot follow through, just less snap and arch. The ball should bounce softly off the backboard and go in.
- Release the ball to hit the top corner you have been aiming at. The ball should hit the corner softly and at the peak of the shot. If you’re really accurate, the ball will hit the backboard, then swish through the net.
- As you release the ball with your right hand, your left hand should stay up and be strong to protect the ball. If a defender tries to block your shot, he should hit your left hand instead of the ball, which will allow you to finish the layup. Your left hand needs to be strong so that it does not get hit into your right hand and cause you to miss.
When to Use the Overhead Layup
The overhand layup is best used when you jump closer to the rim or you’re almost under the rim, where you have to shoot straight up. The choice of which layup to use is determined by the angle you are attacking from, where the defense is and where you jump.
Overhead Layup Drills
To continue practicing the overhand layup, work on your form and footwork. Start with the first steps above, then add distance and dribbles.
Three steps, one dribble:
- Start on the second hash mark facing the basket in a triple threat position with the ball on your right hip.
- Aim for the top corner as before, step with your left foot toward the basket and dribble hard with your right hand.
- Next, step with your right foot toward the basket while scooping the ball with your right hand. Scooping is cupping your right hand under the ball and bringing it up toward your heart.
- As your right foot hits the ground, slap the ball hard and step with your left foot again to jump and shoot, as before.
Four steps, two dribbles:
- Start on the right elbow facing the baseline in triple threat position with the ball on your right hip.
- Aim for the top corner as before, step with your right foot and dribble hard with your right hand.
- Next, step with your left foot and dribble hard with your right hand.
- Step with your right foot again and continue with the rest of the layup, jumping off your left foot, s before.
This is just the beginning! Our “How to Master Basketball Layups” series includes more guides to help you with…