The most fundamental skill you can learn in basketball is how to shoot a basketball, and learning how to shoot properly is something critical for any player on the court.
Most people think they can’t play the sport simply due to their height or just not being able to jump high enough. So instead they spend their time trying to increase their vertical, and some even learn how to dunk.
But regardless of your height, your jump height, and whether or not you can dunk, there’s always gonna spot on every team for a person that knows how to shoot.
Guys like Calvin Murphy, one of the shortest players in the NBA, have shown the importance of having a good shot, and how big of an impact it can have on a game.
Even if you aren’t the fastest, tallest, or most athletic person on the court, you can rest easy knowing that with a proper shot you can still stand out and contribute to the team.
Of course, learning to properly shoot a basketball isn’t a walk in the park; there’s plenty that goes on when it comes to the jump shot. To really start seeing a difference in your ability to shoot will require plenty of practice and a strong effort on you’re end.
But with the following 8 steps, we can breakdown the technique behind the perfect jump shot, and learn how to improve our own shot.
However, something common about professional NBA players is that each player’s jump shot is slightly different, as everyone has a different shot that they find more comfortable.
As such, we want to perfect our shot to where we feel our best, as this is the leading factor that is going to contribute the most to your ability to shoot.
So with that being said, let’s breakdown the proper shooting technique, and go through it step by step.
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How To Shoot A Basketball Properly
Before looking at the 8 steps, let’s take a moment to review a common shooting method you’ll see many coaches recommend using.
BEEF is a simple acronym that coaches teach players to help them remember the four important aspects of shooting a basketball. Those four aspects are:
(B) Balance – Maintain balance and correctly position your feet.
(E) Eyes – Keep your eyes only on the target area that you choose on the rim.
(E) Elbow – Shooting hand is bent with the elbow tucked inwards, in line with the shoulder, and located directly under the ball.
(F) Follow Through – The flicking of the wrist while you follow through with your shot is done to increase overall force and to create backspin.
BEEF can be pretty useful for beginners and does a good job of helping you remember some key points, but its approach is a bit too simplistic, missing many other important points. So instead, let’s expand on the beef acronym, and dive deeper into every important aspect of the jump shot.
Step 1: Shot Preparation
The first step to shooting a basketball properly takes place before we even get our hands on the ball itself. Yes, before we get the ball we want to get into a position where we can most efficiently receive the ball to then shoot it.
Shot preparation is something overlooked by many players and coaches; instead of preparing ahead of time for the upcoming shot, players wait until they have the ball in their hands to only then prepare.
This wastes time that could have been spent getting ready, and in the process, give an opposing defender ample time to block their shot.
When preparing to shoot, we want our body to already be in a kinetic position as we anticipate the pass.
That means we’ll want to have our knees bent and our hands out, ready to receive.
Bending our knees gets you a step ahead when getting into the proper shooting form, and having our hands out gives the person with the ball a target area where we want the ball to be passed.
In preparing to receive the ball you have already accomplished two things:
1. You have physically prepared your body to shoot correctly as you loosen your stance and adjust your form.
2. You have prepared yourself mentally by prematurely jumpstarting the process of shooting before you even get the ball.
Considering that a person is most open when first catching the ball, that puts them at a disadvantage as they are likely to be defended long before they take their shot.
By being physically and mentally prepared in advance, you give yourself the advantage of additional time to focus on taking a good shot.
Step 2: Hand Placement
Upon receiving the ball, you want to immediately adjust your hands into the correct position to grip the ball properly.
For the shooting hand, place your finger pads so that they line up parallel to the seams on the ball, and the airhole of the ball should be located between your middle and index finger. Spread your fingers far enough so that you can comfortably balance the ball in one hand.
The ball at this point should be resting on the finger pads and hand pads. You can, however, leave a small space between the middle of your palm and the ball, creating a small window. This helps the ball with rolling off the finger pads and creating backspin.
Keep the balance hand at the side of the ball. A good visual cue that shows your hands are in the proper position is if the thumb of your shooting hand and the base of the thumb on your balance hand form a T shape.
Step 3: Proper Stance
Now we fully adjust ourselves into the proper stance to form a strong base that will allow for a more balanced shot.
Spread your feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width; if they’re too narrow it becomes much more difficult to maintain balance, and if they’re too wide then you don’t get enough height when shooting.
Maintain your weight equally distributed on both feet and don’t lean on either foot as this leads to imbalance and a poor shot.
Your dominant foot is going to be slightly in front of the non-dominant foot in a position that is comfortable for you, which will create a staggered stance.
Your feet will be at a slight angle of about 10 to 30°, specifically:
For right-handed shooters, their feet should be turned slightly to the left.
For left-handed shooters, their feet should be turned slightly to the right.
Maintain your knees at a slight bend to retain a stronger stance and remain loose, and once you find a comfortable position for your feet to be in, practice getting into the same position every time you go to shoot to build the habit and remain consistent.
Step 4: Eyes On Target
While our goal is to get the basketball into the net, we actually want to pinpoint a target location on the rim, which will help increase our accuracy. This target can be in various locations, such as the front, back, and even center of the rim.
Once you find a point that feels comfortable, remain consistent by aiming at that target every time you. This will improve your overall accuracy, whereas constantly changing your target will instead lead to inconsistencies in your shot.
Another important tip is to keep your eyes on the target at all times; do not let your eyes follow the ball, as this will also throw off your aim.
Step 5: Shot Pocket
The Shot Pocket is a term used to describe the location where a player holds the ball before shooting.
This area is usually located near the stomach or lower half of the chest, with the ball being held either towards the middle of the body or more towards the side from where you shoot.
However, there isn’t a predetermined area for the shot pocket, and instead, it’s much more the case of finding a position that feels comfortable to you.
Some players have had shot pockets located above the chest, and others have had this area be on the opposite side of where they shoot.
A big mistake that people make with the shot pocket is thinking that you are positioning the ball in that area, stopping, and then shooting.
The shot pocket acts as a point in the ball’s path that it goes through on it’s way to the shot, and has at most a slight pause.
Using your shot pocket will help build consistency with your form, signifying a stable jump shot.
Having the ball in a position that is higher or lower than your shot pocket can actually lower your accuracy when shooting, as it throws your shot off-balance.
Step 6: Hand Positioning
Now let’s go over our hand positioning as we adjust for the release.
Your shooting hand is directly beneath the ball, cupping the ball and bending at the wrist by a little less than 90°.
When you go to shoot your hand should nice and relaxed, and the basketball should roll off your fingers, not your palm.
The bending of the wrist is especially important as the snapping motion upon release creates both power and backspin.
With backspin, you get a soft shot, which reduces the chances of the basketball bouncing off, and also increases the chances that it goes in the hoop.
A common issue for players is shooting with a straight wrist, which instead of following an arc, pushes the ball directly towards the rim and leads to a flat shot.
A solution to this problem is by observing whether or not your wrist is wrinkling, which is a good indicator that notifies you if your wrist is bent far back enough.
The elbow of your shooting hand directly under the ball and in line with the shoulder, forming an L shape.
This will help immensely with aligning your shot so that it goes in a straight line, and contributes to the backspin you place on the ball.
Your non-shooting hand is kept beside the ball, ensuring that it stays in place and doesn’t roll off as you go through the shooting motion. This is why it’s often called the ‘balance’ or ‘guide’ hand, as this hand helps keep the ball in place up until the delivery.
Step 7: Delivery
During delivery there are many different actions taking place at the same time:
After taking the basketball through the shot pocket, raise it while keeping the ball in front of you at all times. While doing this, simultaneously extend your knees and hip, and raise yourself with your legs, generating force for the jump.
As you jump, straighten your elbow and snap your wrist in the direction of the rim, releasing the ball before the top of the jump in an upwards arc with your shooting hand. Your fingers are now pointing to the rim, with both the index and middle finger having touched the ball last.
When jumping, don’t focus on trying to jump high, instead, get into the rhythm of coming up from the shot pocket. The snapping of the wrist will provide force and backspin to the ball.
during this time your balance hand should not move and should come off of the basketball first before the shooting hand does. This is done to prevent the balance hand from adding any force or spin that could derail the ball off track.
A good way to make sure you throw the ball at the correct angle is by having the elbow of your shooting arm finish next to your eyebrow.
Step 8: Follow Through
This is the final step after shooting a ball and is often the highlight of a jump shot.
You finish with your wrist relaxed and the fingers pointing to the rim with your head and arms held up; maintain the follow-through position until the ball hits the rim.
Now that you know the proper technique of shooting a basketball, the only thing left is to fully ingrain what you learned through practice.
This is where the effort you put in comes into play since only through repeatedly shooting can you build the proper technique until it solidifies itself into a habit.
This can be especially hard since at first, you may be resistant to changing your form, but no matter how much you practice, using an incorrect form won’t lead to progress.
Only after repeated use of the proper form will it eventually become more comfortable to use, at which point then you can really start to improve.
You could also use mental training exercises to boost your confidence and improve your accuracy when shooting.
For practice, it’s a good idea to train daily, shooting upwards of 100 times or more to build muscle memory and keep your ability to shoot sharp. You can have someone else help you practice, grabbing the rebounds, and keeping track of how many shots you made and missed.
Another good tip is to keep track of the number of shots you made and missed during a game, and looking back on what you did when shooting.
Even with the proper shooting technique in mind, you’re still bound to have shooting mistakes that occur in-game and during practice; it’s just natural. Let’s look at some common shooting mistakes that people make, and see how we can avoid them.
Fingers Not Spread Wide Enough
Common to young basketball players, they don’t widen their fingers to comfortably wrap across the ball, and instead, hold their fingers too close together. This reduces their overall control over the ball and their shot, leading to a poor jump shot.
To counteract this issue, always be conscious of how wide you have your fingers spread apart, both in practice and in the game.
Applying Force With The Balance Hand Thumb
Considering the balance hand thumb is touching the ball most of the time to keep it in place, it may seem tempting to use it to apply some force to the ball if you feel you won’t be able to generate enough force with your shooting hand.
Something to help remove this dependence is to practice shooting only with your shooting hand, no balance hand included. This way you depend on your shooting hand to do all of the work, and only use the balance hand to keep the basketball in place.
Shooting After Peak Of Jump
Another mistake is shooting only after you come back down from the peak of your jump. This mistake is very counterintuitive as you avoid making use of the added force you generated from the jump, leaving your jump shot much weaker than it could have been.
To fix this problem, it’s a case of working on your timing during practice, trying to find a point on your way during the jump from which to shoot, but shooting before you reach the peak of your jump.
Hopefully, with this breakdown of how to shoot a basketball properly, accompanied by some tips on how to avoid common shooting mistakes, you’ll able to improve your ability to jump.