Here’s how to improve basketball shooting skills and techniques

After retiring from coaching in 2000, I have probably officiated over 5000 games at all levels from 3-4 grade travel teams to College D-3 and I get to see a lot of poor shooting mechanics especially at the foul line. I have seen enough bricks (shots that bounce wildly away from after hitting the rim) to build several brick houses.

Having run shooting camps and written a book on shooting, it is very easy for me to pick up common poor shooting techniques that players make without being corrected.

Here are some of the common mistakes, especially shooting foul shots. Remember, foul shooting is the same in middle school as it is in the NBA. The foul line is 15 feet away from the backboard, you have 10 seconds to shoot and no one is hindering your shot.

Common Shooting Mistakes

1. Not having both feet squared to the basket.

The shooting side foot should be lined up with the middle of the front basket rim. Usually on main courts there is a little dot on the foul line and that is where the toe of the shooting side should be at. The non shooting side foot should be even with the outside edge of the rim about half way back from the line of the shooting side foot. The most common error is that foul shooters do not square this foot and it is pointing in all different directions. The further away from being squared the tighter the shoulders will be because if you dropped the ball and lifted up your arms and pointed them straight ahead naturally they would both point in the direction of the non shooting foot. This creates shoulder tension and when both feet are squared to the basket then this tightness is gone.

2. Players aiming at the wrong targets.

If they aim at a target at all, they will usually aim for just over the front of the rim or just in front of the back of the rim. This reduces the arc of the flight of the ball and reduces the margin of error of just about 1 inch either way aiming  to the front or the back. If you are aiming for either of these two targets, it would be better to aim for just in front of the back of the rim instead of just over the front of the rim. Because just like putting in golf, “never up to the hole, then never in.”

Players should be aiming for the center of the basket. This will allow for a higher arc and will give you a margin of error of about 8 7/8’s inches before the ball will hit the rim.

The rim is 18 inches in diameter and the ball is 9 inches in diameter, so the thing (the ball) you are trying to put the object (the basket) in is twice as big as the object you are trying to put it in.

The perfect shot in basketball is one that goes directly through the center of the basket. Now we have to do a little math to prove this concept of such a large margin of error in shooting a basketball. If the ball is 9 inches in diameter and the basket is 18 inches in diameter if the ball goes thru the basket dead center as in a perfect shot then there will be 4 and one/half inches all around the ball to the edge if the inside of the rim. This allows up to 8 and 7/8’s inches of margin of error before the ball will actually hit the rim on either side or front or back of the ball.

You aim for the bullseye in the basket, the center. You wouldn’t aim a bow/arrow or a gun/bullet above the target (front of the back of the rim) or below the target,(just over the front of the rim)  would you? No you would aim dead center at the bullseye.

3. Leaving space between the ball and the palm of the hand.

I see this very often as the player must have been taught this way or just thought this is the way the ball should be held. You cannot get the proper backspin when you do not hold the ball flat on your palm and players end up pushing the ball instead of snap releasing the ball from the palm of the hand with the wrist.

You cannot get the proper backspin unless you use the palm method which is holding the ball in the complete palm, fingers and thumb.

To prove this watch the difference in when the ball hits the rim in the palm vs, no palm method. Which one has a chance to go in after the ball hits the rim? The palm method.

The palm method allows for the proper backspin as the ball is snap released by the wrist. This method is not pushed it is released and it creates a higher arc and a softer shot.

When the non-palm method is used there is a great deal of muscle tension in the front of the wrist. To show this take the ball and hold it with the thumb over so that there is space between the ball and the palm. Now the take the non shooting hand and feel your own right front wrist, it will feel hard and very tight. Them slip the thumb over so that the ball is completely in your palm and then feel the front of the wrist with the non shooting hand. It will feel much softer and looser than with the non palm method.

4. Not Getting Enough Legs into the Shot.

Now comes probably the biggest problem in shooting regardless of what shot is taken, be it a foul shot, jump shot, power layup or 3 point shot. It is not getting enough leg depth into the shot.The only physical kinesthetic skill involved in shooting is releasing the ball when the legs are straight. You have got to bend your legs so that you cannot see your feet because the knees block the vision line to your feet. If the ball is released before the legs are straight then the ball will be overshot and if it is released after the legs are straight then the ball will be under short.

Bending the legs down and then straightening them up and releasing the ball with ball from the palm with a snap release of the wrist is the only physical skill in shooting.

Holding the ball correctly, aiming at the correct target and having the feet squared are just mechanics and take no physical skill, only mental discipline.