How to Shoot a Basketball

How to Shoot a Basketball

Knowing how to shoot a basketball correctly is the most important skill you need to master in order to play the game. Using the right form helps you score more points, so take the time to learn how to shoot before you hit the court. Read about the fundamentals, then find a basketball and practice, practice, practice.

Part 1 of 3: Using the Right Stance and Grip

1. Face the basket and place your feet shoulder width apart. Point your feet in the general direction of the basket. Your feet should be slightly staggered, with your dominant foot, referred to as your “shooting” foot for these purposes, slightly in front of your non-dominant foot. Take a comfortable and balanced position. There is no perfect stance; the important thing is to find a stance that helps you launch your best shot.

  • Bend your knees slightly. Locking your knees makes it easy for you to get knocked off balance. Bend your knees comfortably so you’re in position to jump as soon as you have the ball.
  • Some people prefer a closed stance, in which their feet point squarely at the basket, while other prefer an open stance, with their feet pointing slightly toward the side of the basket opposite their shooting hand. For example, if you’re right handed, an open stance would mean pointing your feet slightly toward the left side of the basket.
  • Keep your stance in mind as you learn the art of shooting and begin to practice. Once you find the stance that suits you best, use it every single time. The goal is to get so used to the stance that you don’t have to think about it before your feet take the right position to let a great shot fly.


2. Position the ball in your shot pocket. You shoot the ball from your “shot pocket,” located on the shooting side of your torso a few inches above your waist. The ball and your shooting eye should form a straight line to the basket.

  • Holding the ball too high or too low greatly affects the accuracy of the shot. Make sure the ball is positioned right in the pocket, a comfortable launching point just above your waist.
  • Position your elbow so it’s under the ball, not cocked to the side.
  • Learn to position the ball in this same place every single time you get ready to take a shot. When someone passes you the ball, they should aim it right for your pocket. If you don’t catch it there, you must position it there before you shoot.


3. Grip the ball correctly. Position your shooting hand so that your fingertips are perpendicular to the seams in the ball. This hand is responsible for launching the ball. Place your non-shooting hand on the side of the ball to act as a guide for the shot.

  • Leave be a little space between your palm and the ball, so the ball will be able to roll off your fingertips with ease. The ball should sit on your finger pads.
  • Spread your fingers wide so you have greater control over the ball.



Part 2 of 3: Taking the Shot

1. Push the ball upward with your shooting hand. Move the ball in a smooth motion from your shot pocket to eye level before launching it.

  • Don’t let the ball go behind your head or off to the side; shoot it in a fluid, forward motion.
  • Your non-shooting hand serves only to guide the ball to keep it steady while your shooting hand exerts force.


2. Straighten your knees and jump. Use your legs to help propel the ball by jumping upward while your shooting hand launches the ball. Move your legs, torso, and arms together in a coordinated fashion to take the shot.

  • Don’t jump forward or backward. Your feet should land in the same position where they started.
  • Don’t lean forward as you jump, either. If your body is balanced, you will jump straight up as you shoot.


3. Release the ball. Just before you reach the height of your jump, release the ball with your shooting hand aimed at the basket. Straighten your elbow and snap your wrist so that the ball arches, rather than moving toward the basket in a straight line.

  • As you release the ball, your guiding hand should fall away.
  • Roll the ball off your fingertips toward the basket. You can tell whether you shot it properly by looking at the backspin; if the lines of the basketball spin symmetrically, you positioned the ball properly.
  • When the shot is complete, your shooting hand will resemble the shape of a swan; your arm is arched elegantly toward the basket, with your hand loosely cocked downward and your fingers pointed toward the hoop. This is called follow through.



Part 3 of 3: Perfecting Your Technique

1. Develop muscle memory. Basketball is a fast-paced game, and you won’t have time to think about the mechanics of shooting while the clock is running down and your opponents are trying to steal the ball from you. It’s important to practice shooting as much as you can, so that taking a shot – from the stance and grip to the jump and release – feels as natural as skipping and riding a bike.

  • Practice free throws. Free throws, or foul shots, are taken from the free throw line, located 15 feet from the basket. It’s a good distance to practice from, and since it’s located in front of the backboard behind the basket, the ball will usually bounce back to you and you won’t have to chase after it as frequently.
  • Practice from other angles. Shoot from all sides of the basket and from a variety of distances, using the same form every single time, whether you’re shooting from the 3-point line or closer to the basket.


2. Learn how to use the backboard. The backboard can be a useful tool, especially for shots you take close to the basket. Aim for the middle of the target square, which will help the ball drop straight down.

  • Your aim will be slightly different when you use the backboard. Practice shooting for the basket and shooting for the backboard until you can intuitively feel the difference.
  • Use the backboard when you shoot layups, which are taken off the dribble rather than from a standing position.


3. Practice in a game setting. After you’re comfortable shooting on your own, get some friends together to have a basketball scrimmage, or join a league so you can play some games. Shooting during the pressure of a game is a little harder than doing it by yourself in your backyard, since you have to catch passes, dodge steals and be aware of the strategy your coach and the other players expect you to employ. However, if you practice the right form and develop good muscle memory, you’ll be racking up the points in no time.



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