The Art of Shooting
The good shooter is a picture of grace as he releases the ball with seemingly effortless motion. However, this “seemingly effortless motion” comes at a high price. Some studies have proven it takes approximately 200,000 correct repetitions to learn a basketball skill to mastery. So how much is that? About 10 years! Thus, it is extremely important to practice the proper mechanics from the beginning.
Coach Rick Majerus emphasized good shooters always “get their homework done early”. They own their feet! Your feet should be planted slightly less than shoulder-width apart. In doing so, position your shooting foot slightly ahead of your non-shooting foot. This allows for your shooting shoulder to be squared to the basket (similar to throwing a dart). Either a two-foot plant (quick stop) or one-two stop for a direct approach to the basket works just fine. However, the two-count (1-2) stop is a must for any approach at an angle. On rare occasions some athletes can “square in the air”.
Legs & Knees
A bend of 45-degrees is recommended for the thighs and lower legs. We refer to this as "level 1". Typically one can place his palms over his knee caps. "Down-up” energy is the major force necessary to start your jump shot. It is important to develop a consistent jump. Toes through the floor as in jumping rope. Becoming a quick shooter begins with the speed of the toes hitting the floor and bouncing back up. The ball should be released before the top of your jump and your feet should sweep forward at least six inches when landing.
Head & Eyes
Your chin should be slightly higher than parallel to the floor and both eyes should see the basket. With this in mind, a good shooter will focus on the back of the rim. We do not recommend watching the ball in flight.
The fingers of your shooting hand should be spread comfortably with the ball resting on the pads of the fingers (should not be in contact with the “heel” of your hand). Be sure to center your index finger on the ball between your thumb and three other fingers.
The ball will begin in the “shooter’s pocket”, dip down (when shooting off a pass) and follow a vertical shot line up to the release point. You do not ever want to miss to the left or to the right. Good shooters miss straight. Keep your shooting elbow in and under the ball; aligned with your shooting knee and foot.
Perfect U-Shape Platform
Prior to the release of the ball: your wrist, forearm, and upper arm should all appear in the shape of a sideways "U". This perfect platform appears almost parallel to the ground as the wrist is cocked (wrinkle the wrist), and the elbow leads the shot up through the face (vertical) while it stays in line with the shooting foot. The forearm and elbow provide the second force of the shot. The wrist is the third and final force. All three forces combine for one fluid motion, also known as “up-force”. The ideal launch angle is 50-55 degrees. Also, it is vital to release the ball on the way up just before the peak of your jump. Certainly not on the way down. Put your finger above and through the rim. Another rule of thumb to determine whether or not you have proper arc is the top of shot should be as high as the top of the board (top of the shot = top of the board).
After thrusting your fingers forward and through the ball, concentrate on your index finger going straight down. If done correctly, your index finger should come together with your thumb. We call this the “Kobe pinch”. Backspin will be produced on the ball (ideally about two revolutions per second). Be sure to always follow-through with complete elbow extension. (Hold this for two seconds or until the ball hits the rim. Proper arc on the ball can be insured if your elbow finishes just above eye level (eye high).
One of the primary reasons for poor shooting is the incorrect usage of the off-hand. Think of the guide hand's purpose that as a tee is to golf. Merely for balance! The ball is positioned on the pads of the fingers; which are all pointed upward. As extension from the shooting hand (perfect platform) begins, the off-hand releases from the ball. Be sure to practice making "clean" releases. Throughout the two-second follow through, the elbow remains flexed (bent) and the fingers continue to point upward (“5 up & 5 down”). The shooting hand finishes just above the guide hand.
Following Your Shot
A good shooter can usually feel that his shot is going in or not the instant the ball leaves his hand. Therefore, as soon as contact is made with the floor, aggressively follow your shot to the area in which the rebound may go. Generally speaking the ball bounces nearly as far as the shot itself.
It is very important, prior to any shooting practice, to warm-up with proper form shooting. Such exercises are guaranteed to increase your shooting accuracy.
Form Shooting Progression
1. Wrist Extensions – While sitting on your knees, place your hands on the floor with your arms straight and stretch out your forearms. Then turn your hands upside down and repeat the process.
2. Trace & Retrace – Lay down on your back with your shooting elbow tucked close to your body. Assume the perfect platform and extend your arm into the air with full extension. Retrace the motion back to the original position.
3. Arm Swing – Sit down in your stance with your shooting arm hanging by your side. Swing this arm back and forth, eventually locking into the perfect platform position. Then with your guide hand, push your elbow up, fully extended.
4. Groove Your Shot / 1-Handed – With one hand bring the ball up into the perfect platform. From here, shoot vertical (up and out of the phone booth). After a made shot, take one step back and repeat. Do this on the right side and then from the left side, using your left hand.
5. Groove Your Shot / 2-Handed – Stand directly in front of the basket and simply add your guide hand. Concentrate on finishing “5 up / 5 down” with a special emphasis on a “clean release”.
Keys to a Quality Shooting Workout:
Shooting is a very important part of the game and it gets a lot of attention, as it should; therefore, when mapping out your workout incorporate these types of shots whether you are shooting alone, on the Gun or with a teammate(s):
Spot-up, Catch & Shoot
Cut, Catch & Shoot
Dribble & Shoot
Catch & Drive Shots (pull-ups & to the rim)
Catch, Shot Fake & Drive Shots (pull-ups & to the rim)
Finish Through Contact (vs. coach or teammate)
All the while emphasizing:
Game shots at game speed.
Perfect form: feet to follow through.
Count and/or chart makes and compete whenever possible!
Never miss two in row.
Practice “Next Shot” mentality.
On finishing, practice “closing” the shoulder more times than not.