Introduction: How to Properly Shoot a Free Throw.

Are you an avid basketball player who wants to improve your free throw shooting ability? Or are you new to the sport of basketball and have an interest in learning more? If you fit into either of these categories or somewhere in-between you should continue reading for detailed step-by-step instructions for how to properly shoot free throws.  There are even pictures included with every step so anyone can easily follow these instructions! These instructions also include the use of the BEEF shooting acronym to make the most important steps easy to remember.  

Age and required skillset:
• Anyone from the age of ten and up, regardless of being new to basketball or a basketball expert can easily follow these instructions.

Equipment needed:
• A basketball (preferable regulation sized for your age)
• A basketball court with marked free throw lines

Time required:
• These instructions can be followed in as little as ten minutes, but hours of practice are required to perfect your shooting form.

Note: A shooting partner to help rebound is convenient but not required. 

Step 1: Get a Basketball and Go to a Gym.

In order to shoot free throws you first need to get a regulation-sized basketball and go to a basketball court with a regulation-sized basketball hoop and court markings.

Note: Becoming successful at shooting free throws depends a lot on always shooting them in a consistent manner.  This makes it extremely important to always use a proper sized basketball for your age level and to always shoot on a regulation height basketball hoop.     

Step 2: Find the Center Mark on the Free Throw Line.

The second step is finding the center mark on the free throw line.

Note: On almost all hardwood courts there will be a small nail hole marking the center and most synthetic gym floors have a small black dot as the center mark. 

Step 3: Step Up to the Free Throw Line.

The third step is stepping up to the free throw line. You should place your dominant hand side foot in a perpendicular alignment with the center mark of the free throw line.  Your other foot should be shoulder width apart and parallel to your dominant hand side foot.  Your non-dominant hand side foot should be placed a few inches back from your dominant hand side foot as seen in the picture above.

This step is where the B from the BEEF shooting acronym first comes into play.  B stands for balance.  As you place your feet at the free throw line it is important that they are spaced properly to maintain a good balance throughout your entire shooting motion.

Note: You want to keep both feet at least an inch from the free throw line.  This is important because later you will go onto your toes and you do not want either foot to end up on or across the free throw line. 

Step 4: Pre-shooting Routine

The fourth step to properly shooting free throws is performing your pre-shooting routine.  This should include a deep breath and a simple act such as two dribbles or spinning the basketball in your hands.  Your pre-shooting routine should be very simple and easy to consistently repeat.  This step is important because it is a way to mentally prepare yourself for shooting free throws. 

Note: It is important that you do not move either foot during this step.  This routine should only require between 2 and 4 seconds to complete because basketball regulations only allow for 10 seconds to shoot a free throw.  

Step 5: Properly Placing Your Fingers on the Basketball.

The fifth step is properly placing your fingers onto the basketball.  You should place the fingertip of your middle finger on one of the seams of the basketball.  Your other fingers should be spread apart in a naturally comfortable position as shown in the picture above. 

Step 6: Bend at Your Knees Slightly

The sixth step is adding a slight bend to your knees while keeping your back straight.  

Note: Shorter players tend to bend their knees more than taller players.  This may sound counterintuitive but the extra bend actually allows for their legs to provide more power to their shot. This makes up for the greater distance the ball has to travel. 

Step 7: Raise the Basketball to a Shooting Position.

The seventh step is raising the basketball up to the proper shooting position.  This requires bringing the basketball almost to your face. Your dominant hand should be placed directly under the basketball with your non-dominant hand resting on the side of the basketball.  Your dominant arm elbow should be close to a 90 degree bend and directly under the basketball.  Your dominant hand wrist should have a close to 90 degree backward bend. As you bring the basketball up to the shooting position you should also lift the basketball off of your palm by slightly bending your shooting hand fingers upward. 

This step is where the first E from the BEEF shooting acronym comes into play.  This E stands for elbow because your elbow position is one of the most important factors in properly shooting a free throw.  It Is crucial that your elbow be straight beneath the basketball and not off to either side. 

Note: Your non-dominant hand is only gently placed on the side of the basketball to help balance it.  It should not be holding the basketball up at all.  

Step 8: Focus Your on Your Target

The eighth step is focusing your dominant hand side eye on the basketball rim.

This step is where the second E from the BEEF shooting acronym comes into play.  This E stands for eye because it is vital that your eye is focused where you want your shot to go.    

Note: Most shooters find they have the most success when they focus on the middle-hook on the back of the rim as there target.  

Step 9: Shoot the Basketball

The ninth and final step is shooting the basketball.  During this step you simultaneously straighten your legs, extend your shooting elbow, and flick your shooting wrist and fingers forward. You should hold this position until the ball is half way to the basketball rim.  Your shooting arm should end up fully extended above your head with the palm of your hand facing the ground as shown in the first picture. These actions should all occur in one smooth motion.  You should aim to release the ball with an arc of about 50 degrees which can be seen in the third picture above.     

This step is where the F from the BEEF shooting acronym comes into play.  This F stands for follow through which is  the flipping of your wrist and fingers forward as you release the ball.  This is a very important step as it is what guides the basketball to the rim and gives it a backspin.  

Note:  Your feet should not leave the ground during this step.  It is okay to rock onto your toes as long as you maintain your balance throughout the shooting motion.  

Your first 100 shoots will likely feel unnatural and you will probably not shoot a great percentage.  Don't worry or get discouraged as this is common.  It often takes hours of practice and thousands of shots before this step is mastered.   

Step 10: Practice

Now that you know how to properly shot free throws all you need to do is practice.  For a serious high school basketball player I would recommend shooting at least 250 free throws per week.  This would require about two hours of free time.  For someone who is younger or more of a leisure basketball player I would recommend shooting 30 free throws following any basketball activity.  This should only take about 10 minutes.  You can also speed the practice time up and possibly make it more enjoyable by finding a shooting partner to help rebound your shots.        

During your practice always remember to follow the four parts of the acronym BEEF.
F-follow through

Remember practice makes perfect!