Basic shooting guide

UPDATE: We have added a very good video series on how to shoot a basketball click on “how to shoot a basketball” to access it

Being able to shoot is vital in order to be successful as a basketball player.  No one has a perfect shot…everyone’s shot can be refined and improved.  When you see a player with a smooth fluid stroke…they weren’t born with it.  They put in the hours needed to build a good shot.  We will delve further into advanced details of shooting, but let’s start with the basics.

If you have never been taught how to correctly shoot a basketball or you are new to basketball.  It is best to build your shot from the ground up.

Square your feet – Your feet should be approximately shoulder width apart.  If you are right handed your right foot should be just slightly ahead of your left.  Your feet should be squared with the basket before initiating your shot.  This is commonly referred to as “squaring up”.

Bend your knees – When you start to initiate your shot you should bend your knees.  Your legs are going to provide most of the power in your shot, so getting a good knee bend in preparation for the shot is vital.

Square your body – In addition to your feet being square to the hoop you should also have your waist and shoulders square to the basket.  You should be completely balanced and feel comfortable prior to your shot.  This is extremely important.  Whether coming off of a screen, shooting off the dribble, or simply moving to an open spot, you must have balance and have your shoulders square with the hoop.

Eyes – Your eyes should be on the rim and focused on one spot (the back of the rim or the backboard if you are going to shoot a bank shot).  You should not watch the flight of the ball.

Let’s pause for a second to discuss how you should hold the ball.  Your strong hand should be placed behind the ball with your fingers spread comfortably (they should not be too close or too spread out…your hand should still feel comfortable).  Your thumb should be at approximately a 45 degree angle from the pointer finger.  The ball should be gripped primarily by your fingertips, and secondarily by your finger pads (this is the area on your finger between your fingertips and your palm).  The ball should not rest on your palm, however it should be close.  You should be able to barely slide a finger between your ball and your palm.  Your weak hand is usually referred to as a “guide hand”, however it really shouldn’t guide the ball.  It is used only to assist you in raising the ball up and getting into position.  Just before you shoot you will actually gently let your assist hand fall away from the ball.  Additionally, you should try to “find the seams” on the ball with your fingers.

All this information gets you into the correct position to take your shot.  We call this “shot ready”.

Initiating the shot – As you initiate your shot you will bend your knees and begin to jump in the air.  The ball should start off around chest height slightly to the right of the body with your shooting hand underneath/behind the ball.  Begin raising the ball up towards the face (just slightly to the right of your body for right handed shooters), being sure to KEEP YOUR ELBOW IN (the elbow and wrist should be in a straight line up and down…do not let it slide out to the side).  The ball should move just above the head, and should be resting in the “waiter’s position” (this is similar to how a waiter carries a tray at a restaurant…the wrist is bent so that the hand is almost flat).   The hands should hold the ball secure, but both the hand and the wrist should be relaxed.  At this point if you were viewed from the side your arm would make a backwards “L”

The shot & the follow through – As the top of the jump is approached, begin to release the ball.  Just before the top of the jump, the elbow should rise just above eye level, the arm should begin to straighten and as this happens, the wrist should begin to rotate forward to launch the ball toward the basket.  Just before release your guide hand should let go of the ball and you should allow the ball to release off of your fingertips.  Releasing the ball from your fingertips should impart a nice backspin on the ball (this back-spin is the reason many people get a “shooter’s roll”). You wrist should continue falling forward after release.  It is often called “reaching into the cookie jar” because it looks as if you were reaching into a jar on the top shelf.   Hold the release until the ball gets to the hoop.

Ball Trajectory – The shot should feel easy because the strong muscles of your legs, rather than the smaller muscles of the arm and wrist, power the shot.   The ball should travel with a good “arc” toward the basket he power does not come from your arms as much as it comes from the upward momentum of your jump.  Ensure this momentum is upward by landing in the same spot as you jump from.  A shot with a higher arc has a better chance of going in the hoop with a higher arc (it is physics if you have questions on this or don’t believe us, feel free to contact us).

Shooting off the dribble – When shooting off the dribble, it is important to make the dribble flow seamlessly into your shot.  The last dribble should flow right from a high dribble to your shooting shoulder into your shot.  It is important to not drop the ball down to your waist before shooting, as this gives the defender a chance to swipe the ball away without blocking it.

Shooting off of a catch – Similar to shooting off the dribble, you also need to learn to have the shot flow from catch to shoot.  It is important to first catch the ball with two hands and try to find the seams quickly.  The ball should then go directly to your shooting shoulder without dropping down to the waist.