If you can’t shoot accurately and regularly, you’re either new to the game or you haven’t learned it as much as you’ve learned the other areas of the game such as ball handling, passing, rebounding and defending.
If you want to learn the basics (phase 1), start with self-discovery by challenging yourself to shoot, one shot at a time, in fun and easy ways. It’s the equivalent to brainstorming, where you get all this raw material down, start working on the good and start correcting the bad. Like brainstorming, your shooting form and habits originate from you, not a textbook.
Once you acquire the natural, genuine enthusiasm for shooting and you know it’s a skill you plan to work on for a long time to come, you can focus on breaking it down to the bio-mechanical, aka the boring, details. That’s what we’ll do here.
Overview: Why It Helps to Break down Shots in Steps
Firing off a shot is a process that happens in under one second. Some professionals like Jason Kapono and Steph Curry can launch shots in ~.3 seconds. Regardless of your timing, you need to know that a lot of tiny links need to connect in the chain, in order for you to put the ball in and through the basket.
Unless you practice learning these links and building the chains repeatedly with each shot, you won’t develop an automatic jump shot that you can fire off without manual thought in milliseconds.
If you want to go from beginner level to intermediate to good and then great, you will need to master the art of building chains with repetitions. The process is the same whether you’re taking a layup, a free throw, a bank shot, a mid-range pull-up or a 3-point set shot.
That means that once you get the process down, you don’t need to learn each and every shot from scratch. You just need to adapt your mind to the process for distance, for angle, for arc, for force, for backspin, etc. The more you then practice, the better you will adapt your natural form and increase your accuracy as a well-rounded shooter.
Let’s look at the start-to-finish process by focusing on each link (step) in the chain, individually.
Step 0: When you catch the ball or you pick it up off the dribble just before you start the shooting motion.
Step 1: When you catch or pick up the ball, crouch down with bent knees and plant both of your feet in an angle directly facing the rim.
Step 2: Square both of your shoulders and feet to the rim.
Step 3: Secure the ball by tucking it by the waist (shot pocket). Grip it so that your fingers are wide apart and both hands firmly grip the ball using mostly just the finger pads and as little palm as possible.
(A thing that Steph Curry uses to prevent the ball from sticking to the palm is the ShotLoc. You could try it, it’s only $20.)
Step 4: Your body and the ball are now in a position to lift off and launch. (Since you’re in the triple threat position, you can also dribble-drive to the basket or pass to the closest open teammate, if your defender recovers and is in good position to contest your shot.)
Step 5: Look at the rim and lock your eyes on the target. Line them up as to focus on the inch right above the center of the rim.
Step 6: Raise up your whole body up for the shot and line up the shooting elbow with the center of the rim, directly underneath the ball. Your non-shooting arm should guide and support your shooting arm.
Step 7: One the way up (whether you’re a high jumper, low jumper, or no jumper), launch the ball with the shooting hand (arm fully extended) with a good flick of the wrist, taking the guide hand off the ball just a split second before it. It happens so quick that it feels simultaneous, but the guide hand should come off first so that you’re always using just 1 trained shooting hand to fire.
As you rise, the upward force from the legs gives the ball the power and distance. The legs allow you to maintain the shooting form of your upper body beneath or beyond the 3-point line.
7a. As you flick the wrist, be mindful of the dominant fingers that power the shot. Some shooters use the whole hand equally. (The ShotLoc trains 4 fingers). Tim Grover trains his athletes to shoot with the thumb, the index and middle fingers (The Splytter). Pick one that best suits you and stick with it; don’t alternate with every shot.
Step 8: Follow through! The easiest link in the chain to forget connecting because at this point the ball has already left you; it’s too late for your body mechanics to make a difference, right? False.
Ask any good shooter or golfer, most of them will tell you the follow through is the most important step. It corrects any bad mechanics that took place as you fired the shot. It reinforce proper backspin. It aligns you for the landing. It completes your shot and adds rhythm to the shot at the end, giving you the best chance to make it. You know those lucky “bounces” that go in? To the naked eye of spectators, it’s luck. To the shooter who knows his mechanics, it’s the follow-through.
The dominant fingers you shoot with should trigger the follow-through snappy motion (reaching hands in a cookie jar)
Step 9: Land upright on the way down. This is why most shooters can’t hit fadeaway shots and off-the-dribble jumpers: they don’t go straight up and they don’t come straight down.
Step 10: Affirm your confidence. This is the final link that builds chain after chain after chain with every shot.
If you miss, troubleshoot your shot and realize where you went wrong and quickly forget the miss. Stay confident and ready to shoot the next open shot with rhythm, balance and confidence.
Final point: Only in practice and through self-assessment can you slow down, zoom in on and evaluate your ability to build the above links in your shot chain. Most players don’t know these even exist. They just practice shots and think repetitions alone are enough to improve. Early one, yes, but as you hit plateau after plateau over time against greater competition, you’ll need to break your shots down.
Realizing these tiny links exist helps you take the necessary steps to make the chain stronger and more effect will create incremental improvement in every shot you take.
Alternatively, Check out the BEEF Concept, which is simpler to memorize.
Next step: Once you break down, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, get to work. Try these drills and workouts to practice repetition.