Learn how to properly shoot a basketball with accuracy and graceful form
This guide is for any basketball player aspiring to become a marksman shooter. Whether you’re a kid youth basketball player, a high school or college athlete serious about going pro or the casual pick-up player, the goal is continuous improvement. Your shooting will never be perfect but you can work to perfect your stroke. You just need to commit to a legit Wilson Evolution Indoor Game 29.5 Men’s basketball and 24/7 access to a gym or park. You need to practice day and night if you want to see big leaps of progress. This guide shows you exactly how to become a professional marksman.
- Types of shots
- Characteristics of assassin shooters and scorers
- Short and long-term Habit Changes
- Continuous Improvement Principles
The Types of Basketball Shots & Picking your Spots
Location matters more than distance.
There are 5 spots on the court we’ll cover as well as the various types of shots (field goals) players pick and choose from.
Point blank range, short range, mid range, long range and deep range.
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, confidence, 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.
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).
Now let’s talk about the make up of a marksman. What makes a marksman different from the average and garbage shooters?
My favorite shooting drill is simple. To shoot jump shots from as close up as possible. You know, the dotted line around the rim. I’m not talking about layups. I’m talking about jump shots, with mighty 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.
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.
The Habits of Highly Effective Shooters
One of the highest selling books in the business world is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold over 40 million copies and was listed in ‘The 25 Most Influential Business/Management books’ by Time Magazine for its’ simple, practical advice which not only applies in business, but life in general. It applies to sports too – especially basketball – because every player and person is a creature of habit. If you really care to explore how habits influence our life, read the Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business.
Here are the 7 Habits from Covey’s book, as applied to basketball shooting.
1) Be proactive.
As a player, you need to be proactive in your approach to shooting. Only you know what your goals and values are – both in basketball and in life – so think about the importance of effective jump shooting. Are you serious enough to take responsibility for your actions and consequences? Will become a better jump shooter take your game to the levels you wish to attain?
Before you jump into any program, ask these tough questions and be brutally honest with yourself. Ask friends, family and/or coaches to give advice. If you’re truly passionate about long-term domination, you’ll develop a natural and proactive approach to the way you train. Being constantly proactive trains the mind and kills laziness and procrastination.
2) Begin with end in mind.
Again, think about your goals. If you’re in high school, how do you see yourself as a player in college and beyond? Do you see yourself playing professionally, casually or in-between? What about when you grow older and have family?
If you don’t know what the future holds, ask yourself: if you invest in the game, will you be happy with the results, even if life doesn’t go the way you planned?
I knew that I would never play college or NBA ball, but I’ve always felt that basketball habits would benefit me both on and off the court. Years of playing, learning and growing from the game of basketball confirms this to be true. The investment pays dividends continuously at basketball, at work and at home for me.
For me and for professional shooters, there is no end in mind. I strive to improve my shooting throughout the different stages of life. This is how I can stay forever young. If I can shoot the ball the rest of my life, I know I will have lived meaningfully.
3) Put first things first.
What is your greatest weakness, as a jump shooter or as a player? How do you turn it into a strength? Where is the greatest opportunity for improvement?
One of Michael Jordan’s greatest weaknesses out of college was a weak jump shot. He prioritized it, went to work and well, the rest is history. He finished with career averages of 50% FG, a respectable 33% 3-point shooting and 85% free throw shooting. Lebron James continues to do the same today as shooting has always been a weakness for him.
Get honest feedback from a coach or trainer. Instead of focusing on 5 different things, find the most critical and get in the gym.
4) Think win-win.
Don’t just think about yourself and your game. Think about your team and your coach’s system. How can you improve your game so that both you and your team(s) benefit?
This is an extremely important question because in basketball, shooting is often associated with selfishness. Scoring is exciting so it’s easy for a good shooter to believe all he needs to do is jack up shots. In 21 or 32, it’s fine. In real games, it’s not. You’ll hurt yourself and your team because the goal isn’t to take more shots, it’s to take and make better shots.
In games and in practice, think about how each shot helps/hurts your team’s chances at winning. A smart shooter who takes less frequent, but great shots helps his team more than a great shooter who takes too many questionable shots.
5). Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
In other words, understand the game first before you decide the type of shooter and player you wish to become. Every shootaround, practice, game is different when you consider all the environmental factors such as team chemistry, game tempo, the competition, etc.
The best players ‘let the game come to them’ and strike when they see the opportunity. So observe everything you possibly can about your own game and the game of basketball in general.
Shooters should understand what type of shots the coach encourages and discourages. Smart shooters understand the role of teammates and gel in accordingly. Smart shooters understand their point guard’s ability or inability to get him/her the ball in sweet spots. Smart shooters understand what they need to do on-ball and off-the-ball to keep the offense flowing. Shooters should understand the defensive spacing. When you regularly observe these nuances, you become an instinctive, reactive player who uses the game ‘settings’ to get off quality shots.
Most players egoistically impose their will on teammates and try to get them to center their game around him/her. This is how even the purest of scorers – like Kobe and Melo – cause team friction and chemistry issues.
As you become better at observing your court surroundings, you routinely start understanding your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. The more you understand, the more you appreciate, the better you can complement each other. The most successful teams aren’t the ones that have the best shooters, but rather the ones that have a combination of good passers, rebounders, defenders, scorers, glue guys like Shane Battier, etc.
When you synergize, you increase your own potential and your overall team’s potential. You make others better and your competition nervous.
The 2013 Bulls have been incredibly successful, relative to their pre-season expectations, because they’ve been able to synergize and make the most of each other’s strengths. The 2013 Lakers on the other hand, due to injuries and a lack of synergy, underachieved.
Synergy builds character and trust in each player and it is incredibly contagious. International players overall lack the athleticism that American athletes possess, but they focus more on synergy and therefore, end up seeing tremendous success. When the USA Men’s national team plays European/South American international teams in Olympics, we often struggle even though we have the best athletes in the world. We win most of the time, but don’t expect 30-40 point blowouts against the elite teams.
Synergy is one of the most transferable skills you can adopt, in basketball, in school and in life.
7). Sharpen the saw.
As you continue to progress and get better, it’s important you not only maintain your newly acquired skills but that you continue to raise the bar and push your own limits. You can bet your competitors are so never be satisfied. Do whatever you can to improve. Don’t chase perfection, as that’ll only lead to frustration. Instead pursue excellence by trying to be better today than you were yesterday.
For shooters, continue to ramp up your shooting training. Keep working to improve your accuracy and shot count. But don’t stop there. As you age, complement your shooting training with physical and mental training. Check out Lumosity and work on brain training exercises to sharpen your focus. Strengthen your arms, shoulders, core and legs. Work on your off-hand shooting, dribbling, pump faking and ball handling. All these small pieces add up and give you incredible competitive advantage.
Bad habits hurt your game and they hurt your team. Fancy passes, over-dribbling, lazy defense, failure to box out. These are common habits that destroy player and team morale. For shooters, bad habits include overshooting, taking bad shots, changing form constantly, practicing shots you can’t simulate in real games.
Some habit change are effortless, while others require more dedication, but the results of successful habit change pay off big time.
8) Know your Friend and Enemy.
The internet is both your friend and enemy. It finds information that solves problems to help you live better. It’s a source of inspirational and interesting stories. Same with the TV especially during the winter months. Computers, TVs, tablets, phones and all other screens and machines are tools that have proven effective in turning humans into lifeless tools. They drain your brain, make you lazier, kill your time and keep you from achieving your important goals in work, in sports and in life. Be suspicious of these silent killers.
You have 2 brains. There’s the human brain which inspires excellence and then there’s the lizard brain – a self-defense mechanism – which inspires fear. Your human and lizard brains are also your friend and enemy because at any point, you can choose to destroy one with the other. Pick wisely.
The lizard brain has the right intention – to shield you from harm – but it has no right to impose its’ will on you. Fear is real but it can be channeled and controlled so it doesn’t prevent you from achieving your goals.
**Bonus Tip:** Find your voice, listen and act.
The more you commit to basketball, the louder your inner voice becomes. It’s the voice that hints you to push harder, to play smarter, to keep your composure and to ball fearlessly. Every player has this voice guiding them but most choose not to listen. They’re too busy blaming others, too busy talking trash to opponents, too busy showing off. Your game will only go so far if you focus on the trivial.
Instead, find your voice, listen and act. You will go farther in basketball.
Why your best efforts at Habit change fail and how you can overcome
The brain fascinates me with its’ ability to learn new habits. It’s crazy. Bad habits – like become a Facebook addict – form so quietly and effortlessly. On the other hand, good habits – such as training regularly – are much harder to develop even with strong willpower.
That’s a good thing. If it’s hard to do, you’re on the right track. You’re not the only player who faces habit challenges. Everyone does. The players who take the challenges head on and push through these self-imposed limits by the lizard brain excel more than others. Get yourself an Evolution basketball and go to work. You’ll eventually overcome the anxiety.
Your lizard brain is pre-conditioned to steer you away from fear, pain and discomfort. It makes you procrastinate, it discourages you, it distracts you from doing real work with cat pictures, Facebook updates and reality TV. The lizard brain doesn’t value these things more than your human brain, it just seems them as easier and safer.
It’s clear to see how the lizard brain can form bad habits and hurt a scorer’s game. It can force you to chuck long contested jumpers instead of driving for easier buckets. It can prevent you from taking physical contact when going up for layups. It can paralyze your decision making in crunch-time. It makes you take shortcuts, it makes you lazy, it makes excuses and it ultimately makes you a weaker player than you actually are.
When you try to form new, meaningful habits, the lizard brain fires up excuses to stop you at all cost. Here’s a list of the most common excuses. Fortunately, each one has a solution and it’s only a matter of willpower and persistence to put the lizard brain back to sleep.