When it comes to proper basketball shooting form, there is a lot of advice out there. It can be overwhelming for young players to absorb all the information they come across and then implement it when they get on the court. For this article I have tried to simplify the topic as much as possible and cover the key elements of good shooting.
Positioning of Feet and Body
The best shooters will start by shooting just 2-3 feet from the basket when they begin warming up. If you are trying to obtain a new shot, this is the best way to learn it. Start from 2-3 feet, not the 3 point line. Get directly in front of the basket, don't start from the side or try banking shots. Start from directly in from because you'll want to swish each shot. We start from the feet up first and that is by getting your feet shoulder width apart with your knees flexed a little bit.
I put one foot slightly ahead of the other. I am right handed so it's my right foot I place forward. If you are left handed it would be the left foot that you would place in front. As we move up to our shoulders, make sure that your shoulders are in balance or squared to your hips. If I am raising my arms to shoot the ball, I need to make sure that my body is in balance and aligned. I don't want to be tipping to a side or tipping too far forward. I need to be in balance with the weight of my body on the balls of my feet.
This is something that isn't taught as well as it should be. Players are usually decent at the legs and shoulders, but terrible when it comes to the hands. You might have read about me referring to players as thumb shooters in other articles. These are players that use their off hand thumb to help propel the ball toward the basket. These players are typically very streaky in their shots because the shot rarely repeats the same release.
Take the ball with one hand at first and shoot from 2-3 feet away but don't use your off hand to help yet. Make sure that you are keeping your elbow in and getting the proper rotation on the ball. For practice, make sure that you are shooting the ball from the logo on the ball so you can see the rotation you should be getting. The ball should be shot from your pointer finger and middle finger.
If the ball is coming off the last three fingers then you need to do some adjusting before you bring up your off hand. Once your release is solid, then stay at the 2-3 foot range and bring up the off hand. Your off hand elbow should stay in as well and only guide the ball. Make sure that the rotation stays the same by using the guide hand. If you notice the rotation is different or the ball is coming off your shooting hand different, then stop and start over without the guide hand. Nothing should change by using the guide hand.
This is a great debate as some coaches say to aim for the back of the rim and others on the front of the rim. I believe that is best to aim at the back rim. In my opinion it is better to miss long because throughout the game you will get tired and the ball will be there when you need it.
The important thing is to have a spot that you are aiming for and focusing on. Don't think about missing it. Think about making the shot and having a positive attitude. Remember that shooting is like golf in that you would rather miss long than short, you want to give the ball a chance to go in. When you leave it short, it has zero chance of going in.
The jump shot is one of the most basic fundamentals in basketball. It differs from a set shot in that the player jumps in the air before releasing the ball. For a young player, this is very awkward to accomplish. Don't start too young to shoot these if you aren't ready. I believe that a jump shot started at too young of an age can lead to poor mechanics. What happens is kids aren't strong enough yet to get the ball to the basket from far away and because they have to strain themselves they develop poor habits that are hard to get rid of.
A good jump shot is learned from inside the free throw line, not at the 3 point line. One of the prettiest shots I've seen in a long time is from JJ Redick. He obeys all the correct rules. Balanced feet, square shoulders and his off hand is strictly used just to guide the ball. He gets excellent rotation on the ball and shoots the ball above his head where he can see the basket with both eyes. Other great shooters, like Larry Bird followed those same principles. Bird's shot wasn't as pretty as Redick's, but his release was flawless.
It came off the right part of the hand and he could see the basket with both eyes. It was simply amazing to watch up close. I say this a lot, but if your elbow is straight when you shoot the ball will probably go straight. Let's not make it any more difficult than it already is.
I was horrible at lay-ups growing up. I cost myself hundreds of points because I couldn't make one. I felt it was important enough to cover some of the fundamentals of a solid lay-up.
When I was 12 years old, I went to a basketball camp where the coach filmed us driving in for a lay-up. I was just getting over my lay-up phobia and was ok with being filmed as I thought I was the man. When we watched the tapes we were all amazed at a simple flaw some of us were doing. When we would come in for the lay-up we would bring the ball to the other side of our bodies before we brought it up to shoot with the correct hand. I was worse than everyone at this. By doing this,
I was giving the defender the opportunity to slap the ball away or simply knock it away from me. I learned also that this was a major reason I was so bad at lay-ups in the previous years.
When you are shooting a lay-up make sure you are concentrating on using proper footwork. If you are on the right side, typically you will use the left foot to jump off and vice versa from the other side. For younger players this is honestly a major challenge. Young players don't be alarmed if this isn't natural for you right away. Lastly, don't take off too far away from the basket or too late. This can only be learned by practicing and knowing what your personal limitations are. I've recently learned that my limitations have changed as I've gotten older. No fun.