Let It Fly: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Shoot the Basketball,
Wanna Improve your Jump Shot? Improve your fundamentals, mechanics and overall shooting accuracy. Learn how to think, practice and perform like good shooters and great players do at the highest levels so we can raise our own basketball IQ, make and stick to the habits that are good for us and, learn a few unexpected things in the process..
There is no standard way to shoot the ball properly. Here are some quick links to get started.
The notes below are primarily taken for those want to sit through reading and learn about the many dimensions that go into shooting the ball. It’s a continually evolving subject – The GS Warriors just smashed the Live and Die by the Jump Shot theory; a theory that made so much sense. The guide looks at the subject holistically, not just limit the conversation to workout drills, biomechanics, and the perfect form. We put the focus on mindset, a simple and complex thing that takes time and thought.
Let it Fly: A Comprehensive Guide on Learning to Shoot the Basketball, The Right Way
Improve your fundamentals, mechanics and overall shooting accuracy. Learn how to think, practice and perform like good and great shooters do at the highest levels so you too can develop your basketball IQ, productive habits, and a Growth Mindset: traits that will slowly but surely up your game on and, just as importantly, off-the-court.
What up, ball player? My name is Raj Shah and I’m a basketball shooting instructor from Chicago and USA Basketball certified youth basketball coach. I love writing words, shooting the rock, my home city of Chicago, and in general, nonstop learning.
I made this guide for amateurs like me and you, who grew up learning the game without a coach.
I pay attention to different players, instructors and coaches – at all levels – non-stop to gain more knowledge about the technical and the abstract aspects of shooting and the game of basketball. I read books on the matter and try new training methods and products.
The guide here reflects those notes made to myself with the hope you’ll learn something new, too.
The Fixed Mindset, The Growth Mindset, and the General Population of all Basketball Players
Question: Who and What do you Play Basketball for?
Chances are you fall into one of these groups and you either play for fun (social), for serious (personal) reasons or both:
- Grade school students: Do you play on your school’s team? Do you compete in youth basketball leagues at local park districts? Do you want to play on your high school team? Or do you simply play for fun during recess or after-school with your friends and strangers?
- High school students: Do you casually play because it’s fun to hoop with friends, or because you’re on the HS basketball team? Is playing college ball your goal?
- College students: Ditto; do you play at your school’s rec center? In intramural leagues and tournaments? Or do you play on your college team with the goal of playing pro ball?
- Working professionals: What brings and keeps you coming back to your local gym or playing in local tournaments/leagues? Do you still play regularly or are you too busy with work, family and other priorities?
Reality: You either fall in the 99th or the 100th Percentile of all Players…
The 99th Percentile
Regardless of your reason for playing, skill level, age, gender, position and other basketball differences, most of us ordinary humans fall somewhere in the 99th percentile of the general ball player population. We don’t hoop for a living.
Maybe ball is life, but these priorities come first: your family, your education, your job, your health (and your smartphone :). Which means that right around the time after college, your commitment to basketball decreases.
The 100th Percentile
From these groups, a few elite players who overcome enough (basketball, school and life) obstacles play for the NBA, WNBA, FIBA and other up-and-coming international leagues. Some of you end up teaching basketball as instructors and coaches. Some of you bleed your pens out as bloggers or journalists.
Congratulations, you the Real MVPs, because in the basketball world, you found a way to make a living without sacrificing those main priorities and so even after college, your commitment to basketball increases.
Regardless of which percentile you fall into, whether you’re an amateur or pro, a kid or an adult, the point is this:
There are only 2 types of Basketball Players
And the greatest difference isn’t in the job title, or in their number of championship trophies, or in their race or in their gender: it’s in their state of mind.
Most of us, even some professional athletes, have a Fixed Mindset.
Some of us, even some amateur athletes, have a Growth Mindset.
Evidence from decades of ground-breaking research on the psychology of success suggests:
Your mindset ultimately determines your individual potential and how fully you achieve it.Carol Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University
One of the world’s top psychologists and author Carol Dweck argues in her book “Mindset” that at some point in our growth, as kids or as young adults and based on our upbringing, we make up our minds: we’re going to remain, as we are, because we’ve already learned what we needed in order to live a decent life or we’re going to keep growing, because we realize that there’s always more to learn. In our personal life, our careers, our education, our health, and of course, in the sports we play.
Fixed mindset – the best days are behind us and we are a finished product. Growth mindset – our best days are ahead of us and we are a work-in-progress.[Take the test: Do you primarily possess a growth or a fixed mindset?]
The basketball player in every one of us, knowingly or subconsciously, decides that either we’re stuck with the skills and abilities we had in our younger days or that we’re going to get finer with age.
Our mind calls these shots, and our habits follow accordingly.
In this guide, we’ll look at the downsides and upsides to both approaches. The good (or bad) news is that anyone can choose to change from a fixed to a growth mindset (or vice versa).
Most of the contents in this guide (and I, personally) encourage you to go with the growth-mindset, because that’s where true improvement – short and long-term – lies whether your current shooting skills are subpar, average, respectable or excellent. Every ball player wants to shoot the ball better. Even Kyle Korver, as you’ll see below. So what better skill to focus on to help you develop a growth mindset than shooting?
Few materialistic things in life feel more rewarding than the swish of a net. The feeling never gets boring. Shooting is the most exciting form of practice for youth, amateurs and professionals. It’s the most interesting basketball skill to learn about when you study highlight reels, game tape, scientific research, sports psychology and play books.
It’s made for you, the competitive athlete, who wants to practice smarter and harder in the gym so that you can shoot better against tighter defenses.
It’s made for you, the semi-serious working professional, who plays in after-work and sunday-afternoon leagues for your temple, your health club or your local park district.
It’s made for you, the casual player, who wants to take smarter shots in pickup games and make them more often.
It’s made for you, the player benched in your own home, who simply just needs good reason and practical tips to get back on the court as effortlessly as you used to when you were a kid without a care in the world.
It’s a supplementary resource made for you – coaches, instructors and parents, alike – who want your kid players to learn the game the right way and develop the right habits.
The Point of this guide in two words: To Learn
The point of this guide isn’t to help you go from the 99th percentile as ordinary basketball players to jump into the 100th percentile of professionals (if that’s your goal, trust your parents, teachers and coaches to help you get there).
Instead, I want to help you take the lid off from the Fixed mindset, which puts a cap on how great of a shooter you can become, and develop the Growth mindset like every professional marksmen shooting the basketball needs, whether you play at the Rec center or the united center.
Share this Guide with your Basketball Friends
Start with Why
What is your
Think about it…
The questions and answers that this one WHY question leads you to help you determine your basketball end goals and hold a mental estimate of your potential in the back of your head. HOW high or low you set your bar and your goals, and WHAT habits you make or break over time, determines the quality of your shooting and your overall basketball abilities.”
For more: What’s your WHY?
Start with the Basic: The Fundamental Rule that Matters Most in Basketball Shooting
The only shot that ever matters is your next one.
Learn something from each miss, learn something from each make, and focus on the next shot.
Don’t live in the cold streaks and hot streaks of the past. Don’t worry about the games to come.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– Lao Tzu
Kids: if you see yourself playing basketball in grade school, high school, college and beyond, then relax and realize you have a long journey ahead. Some of you will shoot hundreds of thousands of basketball shots throughout your life, a few of you even more.
In warmups, workouts, practices, casual games like 21, HORSE or 3 on 3, pickup games, tournament games, season games, playoff games, finals games, see shooting as a fun game with no limit to how much you can learn and improve. In any situation, focus on taking the next good shot available the best way you’ve learned how, and you will gradually make more and more shots with higher accuracy.
Your learning curve develops one shot at a time, and you’ll need to take hundreds and thousands of shots in circumstances ranging from individual shooting sessions in empty gyms to 5-on-5 games in packed gyms. Only after you gain enough experience can you truly become skilled at scoring.
The Full Game of Basketball: Shooting is only 1% of the playing
What do good shooters do when they don’t have the ball in their hands — on both ends of the floor — that helps them shoot better?
R&B. They establish rhythm and breathing. On defense and offense, players spend about 90-95% of the time without the ball in their hands.
The constant movement requires each player to move in all sorts of patterns of bursts and drifts; backpedals and sprints; long strides and choppy steps; straight-line cuts and straight-up jumps.
The smarter you expend your energy, the steadier you breathe, and the more you shoot with confidence, balance and ease. These are the qualities of all great shooters, no matter how different they are.
On Offense And Defense
Good shooters move well off-the-ball to free themselves up for open shots. When they make those, they open up more opportunities for the rest of their offense due to increased spacing. On the the other end, playing solid defense and grabbing rebounds helps shooters find rhythm and confidence which helps them on good nights and bad.
Small Changes, Big Gains
What small steps can we take to see the gradual and the occasional spike in the improvement of our shooting accuracy?
By breaking down each into tiny steps, from the initial crouch to the final follow-through, we can understand how our mind trains its muscle memory. The better we can understand these sequences, the better we can train our mind. Simply correcting the way you see the rim or complete the follow-through can make a big difference in short-term and long-term results.
In any market where consultants and gurus are paid to offer “the best” advice, you should question it all before you fully adopt it. In shooting, the most popular: What’s the Best / Perfect Form?
There’s no such thing as a form that’s better than yours.
See why the idea of “the perfect jump shot form” works for some, but can backfire for you. It’s wiser instead to find your own natural form and to incorporate and correct the fundamental elements that are limiting you from shooting lights out.
Shooting Workouts: We’re talkin’ about Practice?
What are the most effective drills, workouts and step-by-step instructions for shooting jump shots, stationary shots and layups?
Think about it…
There are 100s of drills you can incorporate into your own self-made shooting program. Which ones do you actually complete? Question yourself and your instructors on your weaknesses, one by one and go from there.
See this list of questions to ask your instructors and coaches, which also contains links and resources to the various types of shooting workouts you can try.
Point blank range, short range, mid-range and long-range (2 and 3-point) shots. How to find your sweet spots from each of these scoring spots in the half court.
Comfort and Confidence in getting each shot off with your most natural and accurate shooting form are the key, whether you’re taking layups, free throws, bank shots or jump shots from beneath or beyond the 3-point line.
Jump Shot Effort: From Manual to Automatic to AutoMagic
What is an automatic jump shot and how can you make yours automatic?
Advancing your shot. Once you can learn how to shoot a basic jump shot with good form, you need to learn how to shoot it automatically. You need to shoot without thinking. And you need to do it against easy and tough competition, alike.
Routine Basketball Habits
How can we make more time – while having jobs, classes, and personal responsibilities – to get to the gym regularly and get your workouts in?
Motivation is overrated.
What you really need to start and keep regular gym habits is a routine that integrates well into your schedule that you can’t afford to give up. Here are some good resources, backed by research about sticky habits.
Read about developing productive shooting habits.
Measure your progress
If you want to improve, you need baselines and goals: where you were yesterday, what you practice today and how you perform tomorrow. You need to know your numbers.
How to keep stats without statkeepers
Use a pencil and paper, use mental counts or use the Shot Tracker so you know how well you shoot in your practices and how much you’ve improved or regressed over time.
How to Catch Fire
Remember when Klay Thompson torched the Kings defense by scoring 37 points in that crazy 3rd quarter last season?”
Fire is a state of mind more than it is a spontaneous basketball combustion that happens randomly. Shooters have to believe they’re always on fire at all times, even when they’re not, and this is the confidence that leads to more games with consistently sharp shooting.
If you practice shooting your shot enough from different spots on the floor, with different release points, and under challenging practice conditions, you will gain more confidence and better understand the importance of faking or being confident in your shooting at all times.
Run Through the Tape
How can you learn more about shooting by watching film or watching games on TV of your favorite shooters or of yourself in order to detect corrections and improvements?
Pay attention to the details in slow motion and understand what helps and hurts shooters. Tape helps players shoot better by the power of visualization. Learn how to observe shooting with a keener eye.
40+ hour Work Week
The difference in mind and body of the average person (the first 99 percent of all players in the basketball world) vs. the professional athlete (the final one percent), in their 20s and 30s.
The greatest difference in thought and action between paid athletes and unpaid athletes lies in the weekly routine. Or the lack of.
The most basic, and the most important, FORM (pun) of shooting.
Stand two feet away from the rim and work on your form, start to finish. Keep the BEEF Concept in mind and shoot 20 shots from the left, the middle and the right sides each. Shoot with rhythm and confidence. Once you start making these at a high rate, challenge yourself to make them without the ball touching rim, right down the center of the hoop.
Shooting Devices, Aids & Accessories
A ball and a hoop are all you need to work on your shooting, but incorporating tools into manual processes have helped humans forever. Use them to supplement your workouts.
You can use the Splytter (Amazon Link), the Shotloc, the Shooting Bandit and/or the Shot Tracker as you go through your shooting drills. These accessories aid you by improving your Form’s muscle memory, correcting your mechanics, or simply tracking your makes and misses.
Measure & Track Results
Use a pen and paper to fill out shot charts manually or use the Shot Tracker to automatically track how many shots you put up, make and miss. You can’t become better if you don’t know how good or bad you are today.
Progress IS Perfection
You can’t measure what works until you know where you stand. You need to know your accuracy (ball park estimates work for average players, but good players will count exact makes and misses) so you can challenge the shooter You (your only training competition) were yesterday.
You can mix up your workouts with a wide variety and styles of shots, like fade-away and turnaround jumpers or half-court chucks, but remember that these shots are rarely good shots to take in games.
You’re not Kobe or Jordan and as much fun as it is to emulate their shots, every shot you take must be a disciplined good shot. So, in your shooting workouts and drills, work on LONHOBIRS: Layups or No-Hand (in your face) On Balance and In Rhythm Shots.
Here is a list of basketball shooting drills and workouts that are aimed at helping you take better shots and to make them more regularly.
Learn more about LONHOBIRS shot selection
As you start to get older, and responsibilities get heavier, basketball and other activities that aren’t high-priority fall off and you fall off the face of the basketball earth.
It’s Okay to grow up and mature and prioritize. It’s not cool though to mistake excuses as reasons. If we try smart and hard enough, we can make it possible to manage family, career and your creative self.
Learn how to defer basketball retirement.
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset
The differences and similarities between a growth and a fixed mindset
Only you can choose, if you already haven’t decided, on how you want your mind to think and perform for you.”
For all their 99.99th percentile achievements, superstar shooters like Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Kyle Korver and Damian Lillard are all still average 20, 30, 40-something year old humans.
In many ways, they’re just like the rest of us ordinary athletes. At one point in their lives, before they committed to those achievements, they were on our level and we were on theirs. There was competitive parity.
Then, they took off. Something just clicks in the mind and game of the baller heading to the big leagues. It happens with all kinds of athletes, not just basketball players (shooters, specifically). So what exactly happens in that transformation when he or she goes from average to good, from good to great and from great to remarkable?
What can the rest of us regular pick up players learn and apply to our game? How can we learn to care, not just to improve performance, about a game, a hobby, an unpaid side gig that is pickup basketball?
We don’t have coaches or instructors like high school and college players. We don’t have their plays, their fundamentals, a team to work and grow with that span seasons and seasons. We don’t have the structure of scheduled workouts nor do we have the drills in our back pocket.
Throughout grade school, high school and college, we rely on basketball as our main recess, after-school, and weekend activity. We play because we’re young and it’s fun and because we do want to genuinely get better, but we also play just for the simple fact that our peers and friends do. We play because we get a workout in that’s not as boring or tiresome as typical exercise. Free as birds, we don’t fear broken bones, bad backs and torn ligaments.
After college, our situation starts to flip. We go to the gym less and we blame it on our work and our girlfriend for our busyness. When we watch our favorite players bust their shit on TV or we suffer an injury ourselves at the gym, we use that as an excuse to keep away. Health insurance, gym memberships, nutrition plans – these are too expensive to justify when making rational choices between your adult life must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Forget training and continued improvement, for most young adults, hooping slips from an obsession to an occasion. It turns into something you have to force yourself to get up and do. The same friends you grew up playing with have to beg and plead you to make it out. Some of us cling on to the past, while others go with the age flow.
The Common Man and Woman’s Most Common Excuse
“I’m too old.”
The most popular cliche heard in the basketball sphere, ever.
That’s the difference, number 1, between good and great players.
#1) Maturing players who stay in the gym feel they’re growing. Declining players feel they’re retiring.
All physical ability starts with the mental and the difference in these mindsets obviously dictates performance levels and overall potential.
Players that end up in the big leagues didn’t do it because they were masters, but rather because, just like the rest of us, they accepted weren’t. And unlike the rest of us, they decided it was a starting point to build off of.
The difference in our choices can be found in our (ir)rationality. Shooters who must put up thousands of shots every year in their free time need to create adequate free time from their busy schedules. They find ways to do it. It’s easier for high school and collegiate players to develop this routine, but it’s just as possible for the rest of us to do so.
I know, I know, we live in America, where having this kind much flexibility in a work week sounds like fantasy.
But seriously, if we cut out most of the fantasy, and stuck to the reality of basketball — the games we watch on TV, the stories we digest on the web, and the sport we can train and learn from — we’d find that time and use it in ways that would help us develop as competitors, professionals of whatever ordinary careers we in the 99% follow, and most importantly, as people.
I don’t suggest you refrain from the mainstream noise altogether, but suggest that you remain mindful of where you spend your time, weigh its costs and benefits against other basketball options and make that decision, consciously.
Go beyond the numbers. Add some irrational reasons for wanting to commit to something. Reasons like fun, peace of mind, competition, education are all intrinsic byproducts of playing basketball that you can’t count money and time against appropriately.
Difference #2 between the mindset of ballers and regular players.
They value their passions, things that have keen ability to give you more highs and lows than all other things in life, enough to keep the bullseye off of money alone. Money is huge, everyone needs checks to support their families and to live well, but a laser focus on it detracts you from the things that’ll ultimately mean more to you in the long run.
2) A basketball player with permanent access to a good ball and hoop never goes broke in life.
That sounds like a hyperbole, but I believe that when you play and use basketball as a point of reference, as a framework, to help you see the bill-paying priorities, such as career plans and family plans — you will outperform your peers and associates who don’t have a framework to guide them.
Basketball is a game that helps you gain clarity once you get past all its’ kinks and nuances. Hint: TV highlights, fantasy lineups, and social media are all great starting points but there are also books, videos and time spent in the gym are all additional ways to keep learning about basketball, the subject as a whole.
Compartmentalizing basketball in the mind, building the foundation detail by detail, story by story, game by game, helps design a framework in your mind about how an entire realm looks and works. Over time, with more impressions, your mind sees this abstract framework clearly and makes patterns and connections that span across and beyond basketball.
I think many basketball players value this benefit just as much as any material perks because the education is unlike any you receive in classroom settings.
3) You can reject Derrick Rose’s SAT scores, but you can’t deny his basketball intelligence.
Same goes for all the knuckleheads we like to pick on. It’s not inherently wrong to take jabs at and make fun of any one, but when that’s the only thing you’re doing, you’re forgetting how the player made it to the top of the realm of his or her life’s work. No athlete is an NBA-trust fund baby, not even freakishly gifted athletes like Lebron James or Javale McGee or Russell Westbrook.
Every NBA athlete has to put in the work to be at the top of their game, just like we have to put in the work (at school or at the office) to stand out in the realms we work in. Any pre-given freakish talent is simply a starting baseline. Everything above and beyond correlates directly with, and is caused by, intended human effort.
4) Good players put great players’ gifts on a pedestal and attribute their fortune to luck. In effect, this allows for excuses for one’s own shortcomings.
Great players, on the other hand, their mindset is to focus purely on where they were yesterday and what they can do today. The comparisons we make in our heads can move you forward or set you back. Make them thoughtfully.
If you notice a pattern in these above tips about the difference in mindset of average, good and great players and see the similarities to success in career and business posts on LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter, you realize that the laws and kinks apply to many art forms. And that’s the 5th tip.
5) An investment in learning any art form pays dividends through the areas of our life because art forms are central to our humanity. It helps you develop the type of personality and skill sets that are transferrable for the rest of our lives, no matter what conditions surround us. Value art just as much as you do your day job, and eventually your work of art becomes a day job and your day job turns into a work of art.
We think in binaries often choosing the 1s over the 0s, but binary code works in full effect when you combine both. If we can find the balance between our basketball, our health, our jobs and our families, we can develop our mind and bodies to economize all 4 important areas more efficiently. It’s like that thing about the rising tide lifting all the boats.
Questions to ask
Tips, hacks and shortcuts only have short-term value and I include those here as well, but the core ethos of this guide is based on continual long-term improvement mindset, it’s based on comparing yourself only to the work you put in yesterday, and is based on seeing value spill over to areas of your life you might not have previously considered. Finally, it’s based on an appreciation of great marksmen from the past, those in the present and those putting in work for the future, each of whom collectively offer us an endless amount of wisdom, if we choose to dig deeper.
While we may never replicate or reach their professional sharp shooting achievements, we’re not that different from them.
- So what are these differences and similarities between maturing basketball players and advanced professional athletes?
- What can we learn from them and apply in our own game, realistically?
- What can we learn about how they learn?
- How can we think like a pro and what impact does this have on our minds?
- How can we continue improving without putting in the effort that the dedicated players do, if the game of basketball is purely just a hobby?
- How can we use the web to improve our learning, increase our self-reliance and help others develop their game too?
Purpose: To help you teach yourself how to shoot properly and improve gradually
This guide is for any maturing student athlete who simply loves to play: in school with peers, outside at the park, in leagues and tournaments with a team or in the driveway by yourself. And if you love to play because you love to shoot, then this guide here is for you.
To help you gradually improve your jumper over time.
To help you maintain a correct form and consistent accuracy against greater competition.
To allow good shooting to enabling you in playing a better all-around game on both ends.
This guide is based on 2 principles: continuous improvement and productive fun.
Continuous improvement is the art of making small changes to get big results. Productive fun means you do something not because you have to, but because you love to.
Variety: The Types of Basketball Shots & Spots to Pick from
Location matters more than distance.
There are 5 spots on the court and an array of shot types players have to pick and choose from while training or during games. The more identical training and in-game conditions appear to players, the better a player performs when it matters most.
Range: Point blank, short, mid, long and far.
Layups, post shots, bank shots, jump shots, free throws, long 2s and 3 pointers.
Each spot on the floor carries risk and reward equally, this guide does not assume close up shots – due to their high percentage accuracy – are better than long range shots. Ultimately, the quality of the shot is determined by your level of focus, rhythm, stamina and mechanics at any given point in the game.
How comfortably and confidently you get a shot off is more important than where you shoot from. As you aspire to become a marksman, remember that you will miss over and over, that will never change. You can’t let that dissuade you. Be prepared to shoot every shot the same and forget both the misses and makes quickly.
The only way to build comfort and increase confidence is to never stop shooting. In practice after a few hundred jump shots. In games you struggle vs a tough defender or struggle, period.
It’s simple. In individual shoot around sessions, in practice, in exhibition games, in regulation games and in playoff games, you’re presented with different challenges and pressures. However, one thing that doesn’t change is the physics of a jump shot. Whether it’s a layup, free throw or a long jumper, you need to spot up, eye the rim, get in your regular form, release the shot and follow through full-circle.
You need to be ready in any one of these scenarios to shoot with confidence. The goal of this guide is fundamental in nature. It focuses mostly on individual shootarounds. This is because I’m a firm believer of thoughts and habits. The more you align your focus and your mechanics, the better you perform. The best way to improve your muscle memory and your mechanics is by dominating individual shoot-arounds.
Start with FORM Shooting.
When trying any system or training to improve your shooting ability, always pick a spot or area on the court you want to master and the type of shot(s).
By choosing, you only improve your shot selection AND you have a baseline to measure your progress against. Once you master a shot spot/type, move to the next area and repeat. Read this post on basketball shooting drills. Your ball is your partner, go get a good one. I suggest the rock I’ve played with for the last 8 or 9 years – the Wilson Evolution Men’s Indoor Game Basketball (29.5).
My favorite shooting drill is form shooting: To shoot as many jump shots from as close up as possible to develop your natural form. You know, the dotted line around the rim. I’m not talking about layups. I’m talking about shots, stationary or jumping, with high arc and strong flicks of the wrist. This is a much tougher shot than it looks. If you really want to improve your close, mid, long range jump shooting, start from within. Shoot as many of those as possible. It develops form and perfects muscle memory. Once you get the form, flick and follow through right, go further out and adjust the power in your jump and in your release accordingly.
Like a Pro: Characteristics of assassin shooters and scorers
Not all shooters are scorers and not all scorers are shooters but the one thing they both share an incredible ability to put the ball in the basket. Michael Jordan was an average shooter early on, but he realized how important it was to have an accurate stroke so he devoted thousands of hours to improvement. And well, you know the rest of that story.
Steph Curry, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr. They all play different positions and play different roles but their shooting ability is world-class. It’s a specialty. Each specialist carries a common set of character traits rooted in excellence.
Sharp shooters pursue excellence. They shoot harder and smarter than everybody else. They don’t settle for good, they chase greatness with work ethic. It doesn’t matter what level you play at or how better others are than you, the point is you need to simply focus on being better than yourself. Keep raising your own bar so you don’t settle for being just an average shooter.
Sharp shooters shoot with the same form. Over decades, millions (yes, millions. Do the math.) of shot attempts sharpen their muscle memory with each repetition. As you seek to improve, don’t just track makes/misses. Observe your mechanics start to finish and be mindful of your state of mind. Did you follow through? Did you give enough arc? Did you remember to focus on the center of the rim/hoop as you release your shot? Did you adjust your strength and trajectory for body position and momentum? What were you thinking about as you shot? Were you scared? Did you get distracted? What could you do better on the next attempt?
Gradual improvements lie in these details, which most players are not willing to focus on, perpetually.
Sharp shooters understand their sweet spots and they practice patience. The ability to shoot out lights doesn’t carry them away into jacking up 30 shots per game. (And yes, Steph Curry – the inevitable Ray Allen record-breaker – is a worthy exception). Coaches and teammates give them the green light to shoot at will, but the sharp shooter understands dumb shots from smart shots. He lulls defenders to sleep, picks his spots, gets the rock and launches without hesitation.
Sharp shooters are gym whores. They get in the gym earlier and leave later than most players because shooting is a numbers game. What separates extraordinary shooters from the ordinary is the number of shots they put up. Throughout their life, this number can add up to over a million shots. Record-breaking shooters, with their robust work ethic, shoot more because they know how to increase their overall capacity of attempts.
The younger you start, the higher your capacity. The longer the hours in the gym, the higher the capacity.
Most players frankly just don’t think it’s worth their time to chase shot perfection. This is your advantage. Be unlike most players.
Sharp shooters are students of the game. They’re always learning and thinking of old and new ways to shoot more creatively and efficiently. Kobe and Lebron go to Hakeem after winning titles in the offseason. DRose locked himself in a Cali gym during the summer of Lebron and won MVP. After losing in the 2006 Finals, Dirk renewed his focus on scoring and capitalized on a second opportunity. The new Dirk shot 49% FG, 46% from 3 point FGs and 94% from the FT line.
Sharp shooters and clutch scorers are never out of the game. The best shooters will and do have *off *nights on which they struggle. Badly. Still, somehow they’re able to make shots in the clutch time after time again because they ‘forget’ all the misses. The next opportunity they get, they take it with confidence and redeem themselves.
Sharp shooters become naturals in performing when it matters most. Elite shooters and scorers rely heavily on their preparation in crunch time.
Sharp shooters shoot the ball, fundamentally. Even if their shot technique and form looks different from that of other fundamental shooters. Even with they take the shots of great difficulty. Mediocre players get too fancy and too cute with their shots. They’re the ones who get overly happy when they make and dramatically frustrated when they miss. Don’t be that guy or girl.
If you want to be a sharp shooter, find inspiration from the elite and go to work. By inspiration, I mean learn from their on-court and off-the-court habits, their demeanor and from their strengths and weaknesses. Study them deeper than your opponent does and go to work. Test everything. Challenge their ideas and find better answers.
By now, you understand the importance of habits and thoughts. Let’s go over how you can become a better shooter by developing effective habits and destroying the silent bad ones.
How to Incorporate Shooting Tools and Aids to Increase Focused Fun and Shoot Properly
To make shooting a regular thing, it starts with making it fun. To make it a regular habit, it needs to be focused fun. Focused fun is the type of a natural and intrinsic motivation that excites you to play and constantly setting new challenges against yourself.
Once you get bored with the easy stuff, you get to the unfamiliar levels of competition that seem to get increasingly difficult. If all you’ve played is pickup basketball your whole life, the first sets of games you play in organized gives you culture shock. Players in jerseys, refs enforcing official basketball rules with the whistle, the sound of buzzers, are all foreign territory, which throws new elements of the game your way that you need to sufficiently anticipate and prepare for.
Leave room for suspense, though, because you can’t possibly predict it all. You will encounter choke moments. When you do, your body loses sync with the mind. When that happens, all your hand-eye coordination required for proper shooting, passing, dribbling skills weaken. That’s the pressure that even pros face at the highest levels, but the human reactions are the same in these types of experiences. The same back-and-forth laps you seem to make effortlessly in pickup games exhaust you quicker. It gets harder to execute the same plays and moves you may have made hundreds of times in your life. You make silly turnovers, overthink your shots, and in general, you suck it up.
If this scenario feels familiar, know if you already don’t, that this is a natural progression. It’s a part of the basketball experience, but besides the new elements thrown your way, it’s just basketball. Everything else is noise, as terrifying and nerve-wrecking as it may sound. Initially, you can let it scare you, but over time, you can’t let it scar you. Keep on moving on.
One way to keep on moving on is to remember that even the most basic pickup games like 1 on 1, 3 on 3, and even 32 has at one point in your younger days made you nervous, too. When you didn’t have the skills and experience, like a newbie, you had your bad games and bad night then, too. But over time, you began to have fun as it got easier and familiar. Basketball is a comfort sport; if you can chill out and play simultaneously, you’ll start to perform the best way you know how.
In order to lose the nerves, be better prepared and compete respectably, keep your focus on the fun. Work harder on the things that the skills and plays that give you the most joy. Work on the things that have come most naturally to you and work on the things that supplement it.
If shooting is your thing, work on the ‘bare minimum’ things: on bad shooting nights, do the things that you’re able to do anytime that helps teams wins ball games. If shooting is your thing, then make the fun part of it more challenging and gradually up your ability to shoot as well, or at least close to, as you do in an empty gym, in a big game. Emulate big-game conditions in your regular shootarounds. For example, incorporate intense conditioning drills in-between your shots so that your heart rate spikes as you practice shots, like it tends to in games. Learn controlled breathing and relax yourself. Learn to imagineer.
The simplest thing you can do, if all of this sounds like too much work, is to stick to the fun: add a tool or two into your shoot arounds and see where that takes you.
You can try to incorporate the ShotLoc in your shoot arounds, so as you take shots from the designated spots, your hand-eye coordination improves gradually. You can try the Shooting Arm Bandit which will locks your arm’s range of motion at the desired starting and ending point of your shot. You can stick a chip on the net, one on your arm and sync ‘em both to your phone so that that Shot Tracker’s wearable app technology records your shooting stats in real-time, eliminating the need for a pencil/paper or a mental make/miss count.
In first workout I ever did with the Shot Tracker, I put up over a 1,000 shots in 2 hours of focused fun, making a blended 50% from all the shot spots in half-court. It not only made me want to improve my accuracy, just seeing the 1,000 mark makes me want to take more shots the next time, too. What if you combine the ShotTracker with the ShotLoc and the Shooting Bandit? What if you combine different aerobic and inaerobic workouts in-between?
For most of us with full-time jobs and multiple priorities on our plates, if it sounds like too much work, too much time, know that you can adjust the time in the gym or the work you put in; gradually is the best way to improve anyway. It’s the stopping from going to the gym altogether, that’s an excuse. It’s scrolling mindlessly on phoney apps and screens, instead of hoopin’, that’s a problem. It’s the belief that you’re too old to play, knowing you’re years away from real retirement, that’s a problem. Staying young, staying competitive, staying curious, those are fun choices.
- Jump Shot Fundamentals
- NBA Coaches Playbook (Available in the NBA Hall of Fame or at Amazon