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The Ultimate Guide to Shooting a Basketball

by | Jan 6, 2021

The aim here is to give you the information you need to become great at shooting a basketball.

We’ll be going through:

  1. Shooting technique
  2. Shooting drills
  3. A shooter’s mindset
  4. Shooting off the dribble
  5. Taking your shot to that “next” level
  6. Common shooting mistakes

No need to ramble, let’s get started.

1. Technique for shooting a basketball

Shooting a basketball starts from the ground up, so we’ll follow that direction.

FEET

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, to make sure that you’re shooting on balance.

You can even go for a wider stance if that helps.

In the shooting stance, you have two options.

  1. Your feet point directly at the basket.
  2. Or, they are slightly slanted pointing towards your weak side, as this can be more comfortable. (i.e. pointing slightly left for a right-handed shooter)

Either is fine, choose what works best for you.

As long you are jumping straight UPWARDS, with any other movement directly towards the basket, you’re fine.

(No sideways jumping!)

ELBOW

What DOES matter, is the direction that your shooting elbow points towards.

As you bring the ball just above your head to shoot, your dominant elbow should point at the basket.

Your elbow may flare out a little when shooting, since it can be uncomfortable to keep your forearm exactly vertical.

This is perfectly natural.

Just make sure you shoot with the same upper body motion each time.

This will help your jump shot to stay consistent.

HANDS

Let’s start with your shooting hand.

When shooting, your dominant hand should be underneath the ball with your palm facing upwards towards the rim.

As a beginner, I often struggled with control of the ball when shooting, especially since my hands were smaller then.

With practice, I learned to spread out the fingers of my shooting hand for more control over my aim.

Make sure to spread out your fingers for control and flick your wrist as you shoot to apply backspin to the ball.

(The backspin makes the ball more likely to go in if it hits the rim first)

Now, let’s get on to the guide hand (your non-shooting hand).

The guide hand is placed on the side of the ball and should contribute pretty much no power to the shot.

It keeps the ball secure in your shooting hand, so that your aim is accurate.

Make sure to take your guide hand off the ball just before you extend your shooting elbow and flick your wrist to shoot.

2. Basketball shooting drills

Learning how to shoot a basketball is great but…

SO many things have to go right in your muscles in order to hit a shot.

It’s pointless to try to cram all the technique into your head as you shoot…

You’ll just end up missing.

What you SHOULD be doing is focusing on practice and repetition.

That way, you improve until great shooting technique becomes second nature.

That’s where shooting drills come into play.

Here are two to get you started:

SHOOTING DRILL #1: FORM SHOOTING

basketball drill: form shooting

Instructions

Make four shots from each of the marked spots.

Think of this as taking free throw from short range.

Don’t jump, but fully extend your elbow and flick your wrist, using your normal shot form.

How does this drill help?

You can think of it as a warm-up for your jump shot.

But, it also improves your shooting in the long run.

As a younger player, I never took form shooting seriously. I WISH I had.

In fact, with my school team I’d go through stretches of inconsistent shooting during the season.

In hindsight, frequent form shooting would have helped me solve this.

No, I’m not saying that form shooting will magically solve all your problems.

But, it WILL help you improve your shooting technique and accuracy.

Bonus tips for the drill

  • Focus on shooting the same way every time
  • Still put arc on your shot, even though you’re close to the basket

SHOOTING DRILL #2: MID-RANGE GAME

basketball drill: mid-range shooting

Instructions

Take four shots from each of the marked spots.

Give yourself a point if you make the shot, and an extra point for a swish.

How does this drill help?

Even when you’re shooting from deep, the mid-range still form the foundation of your shot.

A solid mid-range shot will help you shoot accurately from further distances.

Bonus tips for the drill

  • Keep your feet at least shoulder-width apart, so that you shoot on balance
  • Make sure you only use your guide hand to secure the ball, without interfering with the shot

3. A shooter’s mindset in basketball

So far, we’ve gone through two HUGE keys to shooting a basketball.

Technique, plus the practice required to perfect it.

However, there are many players who are aware of both of these, but still don’t shoot well.

Often, this is due to applying a poor attitude to shooting a basketball.

REPS, REPS, REPS

This has been stated before, but I cannot stress it enough.

The golden rule of shooting is practice, practice and more practice!

This is what separates the good shooters from the great ones.

Not luck, but repetitions.

If one shooter has more confidence than another, it’s probably because they practice more.

If a player appears to have “bad” shooting technique, but they hit shots consistently, there’s one reason…

Practice.

CONSISTENCY

As with any goal, consistency is key and it is powerful.

If “player 1” shoots 100 shots a day and “player 2” shoots 1500 shots every two weeks, they are shooting around the same amount of shots per month.

BUT, I can guarantee that “player 1” ends up becoming the better shooter.

I understand that shooting everyday is unrealistic for some.

But, if you want to be the best shooter you can, then you have to be committed.

Put up as many repetitions as possible, as CONSISTENTLY as possible.

HAVE A SHORT MEMORY

This is more of an in-game tip for your shooting mentality.

When I say ‘have a short memory’, of course I don’t mean forget everything you’ve ever learned.

I mean that you should try to stay in the moment and don’t get too attached to the results.

When you miss, don’t get upset with yourself and have confidence that you’ll make the next shot.

When you score, it’s okay to celebrate and feel good, but don’t lose focus.

Of course you want to win and succeed, but understand that basketball is just a game.

When you miss a game-winner, you’ll still wake up the next day and there’ll be another game to play.

4. Shooting a basketball off the dribble

Being able to shoot off the catch is a great ability to have.

It’ll help create opportunities for you and your teammates.

However, if you really want to get buckets, you need the ability to shoot off the dribble too.

FOOTWORK

For a standard shot off the dribble, here’s the general rule:

If you’re moving to the right, then your final steps should be left foot then right foot.

If you’re moving to the left, then your final steps should be right foot then left foot.

Also, with your outside foot (which is the final step each time), try not to let your heel touch the ground.

This will help you to spring up and shoot faster, without getting blocked.

PICKING UP THE BALL

With footwork covered, let’s focus on how you pick up your dribble to shoot during your final two steps.

As soon as you place two hands on the ball, there is one focus.

Get the ball into your shot pocket as QUICKLY and SECURELY as possible.

(Your shot pocket is the area by your waist/torso that your jump shot starts from)

To help achieve this, here are two good habits:

  • Pound the ball hard for your final dribble so it returns at a good height to put two hands on the ball
  • Spread your fingers wide on your shooting hand for more control and accuracy

TRAINING

Shooting a basketball off the dribble is a tough skill that demands training.

Here’s a drill for you to use:

drill for shooting a basketball off the dribble

Instructions

Take a dribble forwards to the right and shoot. Then, take a dribble to the left and shoot.

Repeat this, taking ten shots from each side and focusing on your footwork.

Give yourself one point for a make, and an extra point for a swish.

How does this drill help?

The technique for shooting off the dribble may feel weird and uncomfortable at first.

By practicing with this drill, the shot will become more natural and accurate over time.

Bonus tips for the drill

  • Focus on getting the ball in your shot pocket quickly and securely when picking up your dribble
  • Be careful not to do an illegal travel (don’t take more than two steps with the ball in both hands)
  • Record yourself to assess mistakes in your technique

5. Taking your shot to that “next” level

If you truly want to master the art of shooting, there are two skills you need to develop.

The ability to shoot from long range and a quick shot release.

Here’s the good news…

You’ll improve both of these skills naturally with the training we’ve gone through so far.

But, here are some tips to speed up your progress with both skills.

(for more detail on each, click the links above)

ONE-MOTION SHOOTING

In a one-motion shot, the ball is shot in one fluid motion.

(In contrast, for a two-motion shot, the ball is brought up and outward in two more separate motions)

As I’m sure you can tell, a one-motion shot allows for a much faster shot release.

Also, since it occurs in one fluid motion, it helps you shoot from long range with less effort.

Some players may find two-motion shooting more suitable.

However, one-motion shooting has its advantages and is what I recommend.

Although, as a player, the choice is yours of course.

QUICK SHOT RELEASE: SPECIFICS

Whether shooting off the dribble or off the catch, quick footwork is key.

You could be using two separate steps or a hop step, the goal is the same.

Train the ability to get into your shooting stance as quickly as possible.

LONG RANGE SHOOTING: SPECIFICS

Most of your shooting power should come from your legs.

Whether you’re shooting from mid-range, or from deep three point range.

Yes, you might flick your wrist and extend you elbow a little harder.

But, you should NOT be straining your arms to shoot. By doing so, you’ll only lose shooting accuracy.

Upper body movement should be pretty much identical on all jump shots.

Use more power from your legs as you get further from the basket.

6. Common mistakes when shooting a basketball

To finish off, let’s go through some common shooting mistakes.

That way, if you’re ever struggling with shooting a basketball, you’ll have some quick checks to refer to.

NARROW SHOOTING STANCE

With a narrow stance, you’re much more likely to lack balance on your shot.

Since you’re feet are close together, you’re less stable and more likely to lean to one side.

This could be why you’re missing shots, even when you feel like you’ve aimed perfectly.

That’s why keeping your feet at least shoulder-width apart is recommended.

BAD GUIDE HAND TECHNIQUE

For a long time, my shot was streaky and inconsistent.

I’m sure some can relate.

One day my shot is on fire… the next day? Straight BRICKS.

Until I started recording myself shooting (which I highly recommend), I couldn’t figure out why.

Then, I realised that I was letting my guide hand off the ball too early.

This explained which most of my shots missed left (as a right handed shooter).

The ball was slipping to the left just before I shot.

Make sure you aren’t overusing OR underusing your guide hand.

Practice applying it only to keep the ball secure in your shooting hand.

NOT ENOUGH SHOOTING ARC

It’s mathematically proven that shooting the ball flat (with a low arc) makes it harder for the ball to go in.

Here’s a cue to help fix this…

Imagine you are “shooting upwards” and flick your wrist as if you were trying to reach the basket.

With practice, you’ll eventually hit that sweet spot for your shooting arc.

***

So, that’s it.

All you gotta do is apply the information here and put in the work.

If you do, you’ll be on your way to becoming a great shooter.

As a thank you for reading until the end, here’s the FREE Hooper Boost Skills Training Program.

It comes with a full shooting workout.

Plus, 20 days of dribbling drills with video demonstrations by yours truly.