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Basketball Shooting Principles - The Upper Body

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In this article I want to cover some of the key principles of using the upper body and how it affects your shooting.

Understand that there are some basic laws of shooting that I believe everyone should know and understand.

For those of you reading this that are coaches of young players, please read this and instruct kids to shoot the right way.

If there is one glaring weakness in today's players it is the inability to shoot the basketball consistently. We are in an era of the slam dunk and making moves that humiliate the defenders.

It's the reason we have been struggling as a country against other international teams. No matter how good our best players are we are now losing to countries that we beat up only 15 years ago. They beat us because they can shoot the ball better than us - plain and simple.

1st Principle

If your elbow is straight the ball will go straight. This sounds simple and it is. When I miss a shot short or long I am honestly ok with the miss. When I miss to either side of the rim I get concerned and know that my shot needs adjusting. But if my elbow is straight I get the best chance to make the shot.

2nd Principle

Hold the ball in the pads of your fingers. On the release the ball needs to come off your index and middle fingers. You don't want the ball in the palm of your hand because it will cause a flipping effect when you release it. When the ball is in the pads of your fingers you will notice a more natural, comfortable release. When the ball comes off the correct fingers you will get the correct rotation on the ball. If the ball comes off with a side spin then typically the ball is not coming off your fingers correctly.

3rd Principle

Off hand is a guide hand. You've probably heard this before but it's worth repeating, the off hand should not propel the ball toward the basket. When the guide hand is used it is typically done by the thumb on the other hand. I call these people thumb shooters. Thumb shooters use the off hand thumb as a source of power in the jump shot. Typically, thumb shooters are notorious for being very streaky with their shots. The off hand should strictly be used to maintain a straight elbow and that the ball comes off the shooting hand correctly. Use it in line with the other rules of shooting.

4th Principle

The follow through is a key to any shot. My father used to say "elbow to the ceiling". Other coaches say that you should shoot the ball as if you're in a phone booth. This means that the higher the elbow goes the better the arch is. In fact, you'll notice that if you shoot a flat shot it is because your follow through is too low. You need to get your elbow underneath the ball when you shoot and you'll fix that right away. I have a drill that I recommend for people who really want to work on their form. It is very basic and simple and will seem tedious, but is an absolute key to finding problems with your shot and fixing them.

Take the ball 3 feet from the front of the rim. Hold the ball out in front of you with your shooting hand. Bring the ball back to shooting position while maintaining control of the ball with your shooting hand. Make sure that your elbow is straight and that the ball is in the pads of your hand. Take the ball to shooting position and shoot it at the hoop.

Normally I wouldn't tell you to watch the ball, but for this drill I want you to watch the ball and the rotation that it has. It should not be going side to side at all. If it is then you have some flaws. Typically the ball is coming off your last two fingers of your hand. Make the necessary adjustments and keep shooting for 5-10 minutes.

This will be boring but forming good habits takes time. After 10 minutes back up a few feet and do the same drill but start to use your guide hand in the process. Make sure that the rotation is true. The rotation of the ball will tell you everything that is right or wrong in your shot. Again, this drill will seem tedious but Larry Bird used it. If pros use it then we should also.

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