Introduction: Detailed Guide: How to Shoot a Basketball

Anyone can shoot a basketball but it takes a lot of practice and proper form to become a consistent shooter. Eventually muscle memory comes into play and shooting a basketball consistently well becomes like second nature to the shooter. Of course everyone's form is going to look somewhat differently but there are many consistencies between some of the greatest shooters. If you follow these simple steps and make sure to practice all the time, there is no doubt it will translate to better on court performance.

Step 1: Getting the Right Stance

  1. The first part of creating a great shot is to have the proper stance. This forms a solid base for the shooter and will allow for the most balanced shot. Your feet should be more narrow then wide and I would suggest not going any wider than shoulder width apart.
  2. Next is the placement of your feet. They should be turned slightly to the side of your non-dominant hand which helps align your shoulder and elbow with the basket for a straight shot. Your dominant foot should be placed slightly in front of your non-dominant foot to create a slightly staggered stance.
  3. You should bend your knees slightly so that it is harder to get knocked off balance. Don't bend too much though or your legs will tire out sooner than you want. Just be loose and comfortable so that as soon as you catch the ball you are able to go right into your shot without any hesitation.

Some takeaways from this step are that there is no perfect stance. The stance will very from person to person and it is important that you find that stance that feels most comfortable to you while keeping these tips in mind. For instance a person may not find it comfortable to have their feet turned and will instead choose to aim them straight at the basket. This is fine too but it is crucial that once you have figured out the optimal stance for yourself make sure to use it every single time you play so that there is no thinking about it and you can take the stance right away to let your shot fly with no hesitation.

Step 2: The Shot Pocket and Hand Placement

Once you feel comfortable with your stance its time to learn how and where to hold the basketball.

  1. The location that you hold the ball before shooting is just as important as the shot itself. The ball should be placed in what shooters call the "shot pocket". This is the spot slightly above your waist but below your chest. It is just about where your belly button is. Holding the ball higher or lower than this spot has the chance to greatly lower the overall accuracy of the shot.
  2. Once you have the ball in the shot pocket, have the elbow of your shooting hand underneath the ball as opposed to being out to the side. This helps with aligning the shot properly. The non-dominant hand is okay to be cocked out to the side because it will create a window during the shot itself (more on this later).
  3. The next thing to do is have your hands gripped on the ball properly. The dominant or shooting hand should be placed on the ball so that your fingertips are perpendicular to the seams on the ball. The off hand should be placed on the side of the ball and is used to guide the ball as you go into your jump shot.
  4. This next part comes down to preference. Most beginners are taught to leave a little bit of space between your palm and the ball so that when you simulate your shot you can see a small "window" between the ball and your palm. This allows for the ball to roll off easier and give it the proper backspin. More advanced shooters though keep their palm on the ball throughout the shot. This allows for greater control of the ball but does slightly slow down the shot. It is worth noting that if you study today's great shooters they are all "palming" the ball as they shoot. Regardless, it is still perfectly possible to have a consistently great shot without doing this.

Step 3: Time to Start Shooting

You've got the stance, ball and hand placement down. Now you are ready to start shooting!

  1. Start to push the ball upward toward eye level keeping your shooting elbow tucked in. The ball will go above your head when you shoot but be sure to not put it behind or to the side of your head. Keep it around your eyebrow so that you can see the hoop at all times during the shot.
  2. The guide hand can be cocked out slightly or however feels comfortable to the shooter. Make sure that you keep this hand still during the entire shot all the way up until the point when the ball is released. Make sure not to push with the thumb or any other fingers with the guide hand as this will affect the spin of the ball and also can take the ball off a straight path.
  3. As you release the ball, keep your arm and hand up with the wrist pointed down and towards the hoop. This is called follow through and is very important to having a great shot. Also remember to always keep your eyes on the rim through the entire shot process.
  4. The arc on the ball is important as well. Basketball gurus say a 45 degree angle is best. Not too much arc but not a straight line either.

Step 4: Legs,Legs,Legs

It is easy to think that your form is perfect but without the proper leg movement everything can be thrown off.

  1. Start the jump by bending your knees slightly like mentioned in step one. As you catch the ball, position it in the shot pocket and start to push the ball upwards while also beginning to jump. Your torso, arms, and legs should all be working together in a synchronized, fluid motion. Try to release the ball at the highest point in your jump so as to decrease the chances of it being blocked. This will also allow for less energy to be exerted from the arms so that your form is not affected.
  2. Try to keep your body straight up and down so that you remain balanced throughout the shot.

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect!

The last step is to go out and work hard. Muscle memory is an essential aspect to having a consistent shot and the only way to accomplish that is by repetition.

  1. Start by standing close to the hoop and just work solely on the form. Do not worry about jumping here as you are just trying to get used to the hand and arm placements as well as the position of the ball throughout the shot.
  2. Another technique is to shoot free throws. Stand at the free throw line and try to make 10 in a row. Free throws allow you to practice form without having to shoot long range or jump.
  3. Once you think you have the motion down start moving father out and to all different spots on the court. Find your power range and try to take at least 25 shots from each spot.
  4. Once you get some muscle memory and your knocking down shots consistently, take it to the next level and start playing some games. This allows you to learn how to shoot under pressure as well as how to shoot once you start to feel fatigue. That is where the legs come in. Don't forget to use them!