A Pro’s Guide to Shooting the Basketball

Shooting a basketball is one of the most important skills to develop.  Yet, often from a young age, we start collecting bad habits while overlooking the art of shooting a basketball.  When it comes to shooting, form is the key.  Many players neglect working on their form because of a lack of patience.  Young players, in particular, get into the habit of practicing a majority of their shooting from the outside, which causes them to compromise their form in an effort to get the shot to the basket.  The most common error made when shooting is the elbow being out to the side.  Keep your elbows in and practice shooting with one hand.  Start working on your shot from the inside-out and, once you get your form down, work your way to the outside.

Confidence is one of the most important factors when it comes to shooting a basketball, and confidence is earned through repetition.  A shooter needs to have faith that his shots will go in.  You also need to be able to visualize your shots going through the basket

Record your progress.  Keep track of how many shots you make because, while it’s great to feel yourself getting better, it’s far superior to know how exactly much better you are getting.  Confidence leads to success and success leads to confidence.

No matter how many shots you miss, you must always believe that you will swish the next shot.  Not just make it, but swish it.  Shots are made before they are ever put up.  Some players put up a shot just hoping that they don’t miss.  Why even bring missing the shot into your train of thought?  Think about swishing the shot you are about to take because that is the only shot you have any control over.

Changing targets is one of the biggest problems that players have when shooting from different places on the court. If you are trying to swish a shot, your target should always be the center of the basket.  The only occasion you should change your target is when you shoot a bank shot, and your target becomes the top of the square on the backboard nearest to you.  Greatness is achieved through consistency, and to become a great shooter, you should maintain the same target, regardless of where you are shooting from.

Some players shoot well from the field, but struggle from the free throw line.  This is in most cases because the player has too much time to think while they are standing at the free throw line as opposed to shooting a jump shot.  Many players are better shooters in the flow of the game when they can just react to what’s happening and don’t have the curse of having too much time to think.

The height of the rim and the size of the ball should be adjusted based on age or size of any young player learning how to shoot.  This is common practice in Europe, where an 8-year-old is taught to shoot at a 6-foot hoop with a mini basketball, and gradually progresses from that point, with the focus being on form rather than playing on a (professional) regulation hoop.  The sooner a player learns proper form, the more successful he will be as his basketball career continues.

To become a scorer, you need time and space to get your shot off.  The most effective way to create time and space is through the use of screens.  Make sure you are using at least one, if not multiple screens when trying to get open.  The best shooters in NBA history made their careers by using screens and constantly moving to create openings to get their shots off.

The primary difference between being good and great is that great players put in the extra time.  Ray Allen, one of the oldest players in the NBA and arguably the greatest pure shooter of all-time, gets to the gym four hours before game time.  Kobe Bryant is the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.  Michael Jordan’s work ethic was legendary, starting what became known as The Breakfast Club, where he and some teammates would meet before practice to (what else) practice.  To become great, challenge yourself every time you practice, keep track of your shots, and put in extra time at the gym.

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