The jump shot is one of a basketball players most useful and necessary skills. Being able to shoot a proper jump shot differentiates the great players from the average players. Shooters like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Ray Allen mastered this skill and used it to take their teams and themselves to new heights. Learning how to properly shoot a jump shot is key to any aspiring basketball player and like all of the fundamentals, improving your jump shot is a matter of starting with the basics, properly practicing the technique, and then moving on to more advanced techniques. Let’s start with the basics.
Step 1: Footing
First, start with your feet. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and facing about 10-45 degrees towards your none shooting hand or the support hand. This allows the rest of the body, most importantly the shooting arm and chest to be aligned with the basket you are shooting at. Your positioning of your feet is very important to your shot because it can have a large effect on the accuracy, power, and quickness of your shot. If your feet are too close you lose accuracy from a weak start, if they are too wide you lose power and quickness of your shot resulting in either too short of a shot or a shot that can easily be blocked.
Step 2: Bending the Knees
Next are the knees, bend the knees enough to give you a nice cushion to be able to jump when you shoot. Don’t bend them too much or try to jump to the absolute maximum of your jumping height, this will throw of your accuracy and isn’t necessary. Practice this set up, practice slowly getting into the proper position and then speed it up, jogging into the correct form and then running into it so that you can set up for a jump shot no matter if you’re taking a stationary jump shot or moving into one. Now that you have the footing and jump down pick a spot that you want to practice the shot in, preferably a distance that isn’t overly taxing for you to get the ball to the rim. Any area around the free throw line or elbows of the key would work best.
Step 3: Shooting Form Set-up
Next is bringing the ball into shooting position. Dip the ball to your shooting side waist or thigh. Spread your fingers and hold the ball with your fingertips to get as much control of the ball as possible while positioning your shooting hand (your dominate hand) behind the ball so that the back of this hand faces directly away from the basket.
Step 4: None Shooting Hand Placement
Position your non-shooting hand on the side of the ball so that the thumb on this hand points toward your forehead. Your non-shooting hand is very important for your shot, do not neglect it! Though your non-shooting hand doesn’t give your shot any power, it's largely responsible for your shots control and balance. To see how important your non-shooting hand is try shooting a shot without your non-shooting hand to steady the ball. It can be very difficult and greatly lengthens the time it takes for your shot to get out of your hand. Now let’s move on to the rest of the shot.
Step 5: The Motion of the Shot
Now we get to the actual motion of the jump shot. Bend your knees and jump, push your legs up and launch your body straight up into the air. As you jump you will want to keep the shooting arm in line with the basket, think of the shooting are as a catapult. You want to keep the arm of the catapult in line with its target otherwise it will veer off course and accuracy will be seriously affected. As you are jumping you want to bring the ball up from the shooting side waist or thigh up to in front of the body. When the upper part of the shooting arm is horizontal to the body the elbow and wrist should be at 90 degree angles.
Step 6: Start of the Shot
Once this proper shooting arm placement is achieved you want to start pushing the ball up and toward the basket so that the ball would fly in an arc toward the basket. The arc that you get on the ball is very important, too flat of a shot makes the basket a much smaller target to hit while putting too much arc on the ball makes the shot a much more difficult shot due to the extra strength it needs. The ball should fall straight into the basket or at a slight angle. Now as you straighten the arm for your shot make sure it stays in line with your body.
Step 7: The Shot and Follow Through
When you have reached the top of your shot and the shooting arm is almost fully extended flick your wrist forward toward the basket to shoot the ball. The extension of the arm is the power of the shot and the flick of the wrist adds the movement forward that carries that ball to the basket. The non-shooting arm should follow the ball all the way to the top of the shot and then simply let the ball be guided by the shooting hand for the shot. Now me move on to the follow through. The follow through is very important for your shots consistency. After the release of the ball you should carry through with the full extension of the arm and hold it there along with the non-shooting hand until you reach the ground. The you are done with the jump shot.
Step 8: Where to Aim
So where should you aim while you shoot your jump shot? Well there are a few different opinions on this matter and really it changes from player to player. If you find that you are over shooting the basket or the ball is going too far you should aim for the front of the rim. Imagine the ball sliding right past the front of the rim. If your shot is falling too short or not going far enough, then aim for the back of the rim. Think of the ball entering the hoop right before it would hit the back of the rim.
Step 9: Practice!
Now comes practice, practice, and more practice. Start off by taking it slow, get your technique and rhythm down for your jump shot. Building the muscle memory for your jump shot to be the proper technique is crucial so that your body will always use the correct technique to shoot a jump shot. Once you’ve got the muscle memory down and are confident in your shot you can move on to trying more advanced shots like the pump fake then shot, fade away jumper, pull-up jumper, or the turnaround jump shot. Good luck and practice hard!