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Basketball Shooting Mechanics
Basic basic shots include the one-handed set shot, free throw, jump shot, three-point shot, hook shot, layup, and runner. These shots share some basic mechanics, including sight, balance, hand placement, elbow alignment, shooting rhythm, and progression. The best way to develop your shot is to focus on just one or two mechanics at a time.
Focus your eyes on the basket, aiming just over the front of the rim for all but bank shots. Use a bank shot when you are at a 45 degree angle to the backboard. A 45 degree angle falls within the distance between the box and the center hash mark on the lane line. The distance for the bank angle – known as the 45 degree funnel – widens as you move out. For shooting a bank shot, aim for a top corner near the box on the back board. Look at your target as soon as possible and keep your eyes focused on the target until the ball reaches the goal. Your eyes should never follow the run of the ball or your defender’s hand. Focusing on the target helps eliminate distractions such as shouting, waving a towel, an opponent’s hand, or even hard foul.
Being in balance leads to power and rhythmic control in your shot. Your base, or the position of your foot, is the foundation of your balance, and keeping your head over your feet (base) controls your balance. Spread your feet comfortably shoulder width apart and point your toes straight ahead. Pointing your toes straight aligns your knees, hips and shoulders with the basket. The foot on the side of your shooting hand (right foot for a right hand shot) is forward. The toe of your back foot lines up with the heel of the foot on your shooting side (toe-to-heel relationship). Bend your legs at the knees. This gives your shot vital power. Beginner and tired players are often unable to flex their knees. To compensate for the lack of power from not using their legs, they tend to throw the ball from behind the head or push the ball from the hip. Both actions produce errors. Your head should be over your waist and feet. Your head controls your balance and it should be slightly forward, with your shoulders and upper body leaning forward towards the basket. Your shoulders should be relaxed.
Hand position is the most misunderstood part of shooting. It is essential to start and finish your shot with your shooting hand facing the basket (behind the ball). Placing the non-shooting hand under the ball for balance is also important. This position, with the shooting hand facing the basket (behind the ball) and the non-shooting hand under the ball, is called block-a-tuck. It leaves your shooting hand free to shoot the ball, rather than having to balance and shoot the ball. Place your hands fairly close together. Relax both hands and spread the fingers comfortably. Keep the thumb of your shooting hand relaxed and do not spread to avoid tension in your hand and arm. A relaxed hand position (like a handshake) forms a natural cup, allowing the ball to contact the pads of your fingers and not the palms of your hands. Place your non-shooting hand (balance) just below the ball. The weight of the ball balances on at least two fingers: the ring finger and the little finger. The arm of your balance hand should be in a comfortable position, with the elbow pointing slightly back and to the side. Your shooting hand is turned towards the basket behind the ball, your index finger directly on the center point of the ball. The ball is released from your index finger. On a free throw, you have time to align your index finger with the valve or other marking on the center point of the ball. Developing fingertip control and touch leads to a soft, accurate shot.
Hold the ball comfortably in front of and above your shooting side shoulder between your ear and shoulder. Keep your shooting elbow in. When your shooting elbow is in, the ball is aligned with the basket. Some players lack the flexibility to place the shooting hand behind the ball facing the basket while keeping the elbow in. In this case, first place your shooting hand behind the ball facing the basket, then move the elbow as far as your flexibility allows.
Rhythmic Shooting Motion
Shoot the ball with a smooth rhythmic lifting motion, at an even speed. Shooting involves synchronizing the extension of your legs, back, shoulders, and shooting elbow and the flexion of your wrist and fingers. The initial power and rhythm of your shot comes from the downward and upward motion of your legs. Start with your knees slightly bent. Bend your knees and then fully extend them in a downward and upward motion. Saying the key words down and up from the start of your shot to the release of the ball will trigger the movement of your legs down and up, providing rhythm and power to your shot. Your legs and shooting arm work together. As your legs go up, your arm goes up. As your legs reach full extension, your back, shoulders, and shooting arm extend in a smooth, continuous upward direction. It is essential to keep the ball high with your shooting hand towards the basket. Use the down and up movement of your legs for rhythm rather than lowering the ball for rhythm. Keeping the ball high fosters a quick release and also gives less chance of error. As your arm rises, the ball is tipped back from your balance hand to your shooting hand. A good guideline is to tip the ball back only until there is a wrinkle in the skin between your wrist and arm. This angle provides quick release and consistent progression. Direct your arm, wrist, and fingers straight toward the basket at a 45- to 60-degree angle, fully extending your shooting arm at the elbow. The final power and control of your shot comes from flexing your wrist and fingers forward and down. Release the ball off your index finger with a soft fingertip touch to give spine to the ball and soften the shot. Keep your hand balance on the ball until the release point. The amount of force you should apply to the ball depends on the range of the shot. For short distances, the arm, wrist and fingers provide most of the force. Long range outside shots require more power from your legs, back and shoulders. A smooth rhythm and complete progression will also improve long distance shooting.
After releasing the ball from the index finger, keep your arm up and fully extended with the index finger pointing straight at the target. The palm of your shooting hand should be turned down and the palm of your balance hand should be turned up. Keep your eyes on your target. Exaggerate your follow up. Hold your arm up in a full follow-up position until the ball reaches the basket, then react to the rebound or go into a defensive position. Holding your follow through until the ball reaches the basket is not only good mechanics, but it also makes you look and act like a shooter and builds confidence.
Wissel, Hal (2004) Basketball: Steps to Success, 2nd edition, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL
Available at www.basketballworld.com
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