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Teaching How to Shoot a Basketball

A comprehensive basketball shooting guide for beginner level high school players. 

  Shooting a Basketball in Six Steps  













Follow Through




Gather & Grip

[Turn Your Body to Face the Basket]


The first step to shooting a basketball is to lock eyes on the basket and square your shoulders and your feet so that you are facing it with your entire body. Squaring up to the basket sets the foundation for the following steps and if you square up exactly the same way on every shot, it will help you establish consistency in your shooting motion.

Shooter squaring up to the basket


Face the basket with your eyes, shoulders, hips, and feet before you start to shoot the ball. 
Shooter squaring up to the basket (side view)


From the side, notice how eyes,
shoulders, hips, and feet are all facing the basket before the 
shooting motion has begun. 
Some shooters naturally square their feet by pointing them directly at the basket, while other players find it more natural to aim slightly to the left of the basket so their shoulders are at a slight angle. (Left handed shooters sometimes point their feet slightly to the right of the rim)
Instead of taking an even stance, some shooters choose a stance with their dominant foot forward because it reduces tension in the shoulder, helps to keep the elbow in, and makes the shooting motion feel more natural.
Even basketball shooting stance


Slight basketball shooting stance


Staggered basketball shooting stance


Find the stance that is most comfortable for you, but no matter which stance you choose, it’s important to be consistent with it. If pointing both feet directly at the basket feels more natural, then square up that way on every single shot. If pointing both feet slightly to the left or right feels more natural, then square up that way on every single shot. The same goes for an even stance, or a staggered stance. Again, the important thing is consistency on every single shot.

Try It Out

Which stance feels more natural to you? Take 3-5 practice shots with both feet pointed towards the basket. Then take 3-5 practice shots with your feet slightly to the left or right of the basket. Which stance felt more natural?


Do you prefer a staggered stance? Take 3-5 practice shots with your feet slightly staggered. Did it feel easier to shoot?


Before moving on to Step 2, decide which stance is the most comfortable to you and practice squaring up.


[Get Your Balance]

As you square up to the basket, find and maintain proper balance before you go into your shooting motion. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart, your weight should be rested on your forefoot—not on your heels. Your knees should be slightly bent and you should not be leaning in any particular direction. If you’re on the move (running or dribbling) come to a jump stop and get balanced with your feet set before going into your shot.

Tip: Keep your eyes up as you square up and get set, ideally they should be focused on the rim throughout your entire shot. Some shooters fix their eyes on the front of the rim, while others fix their eyes at the back. Wherever you choose to look, be consistent on every single shot.

What Does It Look Like?


Set your feet on a jumpshot
Balance your weight on your forefoot -- which will naturally cause you to bend your knees and crouch slightly forward.
When you're balanced, you can go into your shooting motion quicker. 


Don't stand flat footed before a jumpshot
Don't stand flat footed either, it will slow your shot down because you can't jump or go into your shooting motion without shifting your balance. 
Stay off your tiptoes on a jumpshot


Don't rest your weight on your toes, it will make you less balanced. Poor balance will make your shot less consistent and it could cause you to travel if you fall forward. 
Find your center of gravity before shooting a basketball


In a balanced stance, your head, shoulders, knees, and feet are aligned.

Why Is This Important?

Squaring up and getting your feet set should occur almost simultaneously (at the same time) and shouldn’t take longer than one or two seconds. Squaring up and getting your feet set is the foundation of a consistent shot. When they are done consistently, they give you greater control over the rest of your shooting motion. A poor stance will lead to off-balanced shots -- which will reduce consistency and therefore reduce your shooting accuracy.


Until you are an advanced level shooter, never start a shot without first facing the basket and getting balanced. This can be difficult when shooting off the dribble or trying to get a shot up too quickly. Until you are ready to practice advanced level shots (like a hook shot or a fadeaway) take your time and square up before you shoot, then work on getting it down faster.


[Establish the Shot Pocket]

Anchor 1

Once you are squared to the basket and balanced, you can begin going into your shooting motion. Gather the ball a few inches above your waist on either your left or right side—whichever side your dominant shooting hand is on. The ball should be in line with your dominant foot.

With your shooting hand behind the ball, spread your fingers and place a firm grip on the ball using the pads off your fingers (where your fingerprints are). Bend your knees slightly and crouch forward while keeping your shooting elbow tucked in close to your side. Your guide hand should be on the side of the ball and have less of a grip than your shooting hand. This stance is commonly known as the “shot pocket” or “shooting pocket”.


What Does It Look Like?

Line up your shot before shooting


The ball is gathered on the right of center and remains on that line throughout the rest of the shooting motion. 
Get a wide grip on the ball before you shoot the ball


Get a wide grip on the ball with your fingers spread apart comfortably. Cock your wrist back as you line up your shot and keep it cocked back until it's time to release. 

Tip: When gathering the ball into your shot pocket, use your guide hand to bring the ball over to your shooting hand. Reaching across your body with your shooting hand to gather the ball and bring it back to your shot pocket will take longer to get set and can create inconsistent motion that will result in alignment being off as you go into your shot.


At this step, it’s important to understand which fingers you actually shoot the ball with on your release since those fingers will need to be under center of the basketball as you grip it. If the fingers that shoot the ball during your release aren’t under center of the ball, you will lose control over your shot and be less accurate.

Why Is This Important?

Aside from the shot release (which is coming up later) the way you gather and grip the ball is the most important step for accuracy because in order to be consistent (and accurate) you must have complete control of the ball from your shot pocket to the release. Proper grip on the ball will help give you the control you need.

Try it Out

Which fingers do you shoot with? Take 3-5 practice shots and decide which finger or fingers you release with. Try a few different variations to see which grip feels the most natural. This will be helpful later when you learn more about the release.


[Jump and Bring the Ball Up]

In order to elevate on a jump shot, you must first get low to spring yourself in an upward motion. Engage your hip, knees and ankles at the same time to properly spring into your jump. Use this upward momentum to elevate off the ground and provide power for your shot.


From a crouched yet balanced stance (with the ball in the shot pocket) bring the ball up the front of your body until your arm forms an “L” shape while keeping it six to eight inches from your chest. Your elbow should be tucked in and directly underneath the ball. Once the ball starts to break the plane of your forehead, you’ll go into your release. With your shooting hand, grip the ball the entire time with the pads of your fingers. The ball should NOT be resting on your palm.

What Does It Look Like?

Gather the ball in the shot pocket before shooting the basketball
The ball is gathered in the shot pocket before the jumpshot begins. The stance is balanced and the ball is line up with the basket behind the shooting hand. 
Bring the ball up your body when shooting a basketball
From the crouched and balanced stance, spring yourself straight upward while bringing the ball up -- keeping it lined up with the basket. 
Bring the ball up above your head before you extend your shooting arm
Continue bringing the ball up as you elevate, keeping it inline. Notice that the elbow stays tucked and the wrist is cocked throughout the entire shot. 

Why Is This Important?

Elevating on a jump shot gives you an advantage over defenders because you can rise above their contested hand. Elevation can also help you improve consistency when you jump first and then release while in the air.


[Extend Shooting Arm and Follow Through]

As the ball breaks the plane of your forehead, just before the peak of your jump, extend your forearm up and forward out of the “L” shape and towards the basket. Your guide hand should be placed on the side of the ball and should not influence any ball movement. It’s simply there to hold the ball in place as your shooting hand goes through the shooting motion. At the peak of your jump, flick your wrist and push the ball high, letting the ball roll off your fingertips as you flick it up and forward. Your shooting hand should finish high with your fingers positioned as if they’re wrapped around the front of the rim. Your feet should land in the same spot they left the ground from.


Tip: Once the ball is lined up with your lead foot and the basket (in your shot pocket stance) it should stay lined up throughout the shot and the release. Keeping the ball in line from the shot pocket to the release ensures that your shot stays on target as you aim.

What Does It Look Like?

Gathering the ball in the shot pocket
Before the shot, there's a balanced stance and the ball is in the shot pocket and lined up with the basket on the right hand side behind the shooting hand. 
Elevate on a jumpshot before you shoot the basketball
The ball has been brought up in a straight line. (This photo was taken from an angle) The ball has been lifted higher than the forehead and the arm is being extended out of the "L" shape and towards the basket. Be sure to elevate on your jumpshot. The higher the better!
Flick your wrist as you shoot a basketball
As you extend your arm, flick with your wrist and let the ball roll off the pads of your fingers as you push the ball high and forward. The ball should follow the same path it was on while in the shot pocket.


[Assess Your Accuracy and Adjust]

After each shot, there are several things to evaluate and this is one of the keys to perfecting your shot. If you’re not in complete control of where the ball goes, pay attention to the following details of every practice shot and it will help you perfect your form and improve accuracy.


The arch on your shot greatly affects the ball’s ability to go into the hoop. With less arch, the target (basket) becomes smaller because the ball comes towards the hoop at an angle. In other words, a flatter shot has a less chance to go in. The optimal arch on a shot is roughly 55 degrees and should peak at about the height of the top of the backboard.


To give a ball more arch, there are a few things to consider:


  • Check whether or not your elbow is tucked in close to your body so that you’re pushing the ball up as you shoot. Many young shooters have a bad habit of letting their elbow stick out which flattens out the follow through motion.

  • Check your follow through and release. As you release the ball, your arm should be at roughly a 55 degree angle towards the basket.

  • As you flick the ball, don’t put too much forward force behind the ball with the snap of your wrist or the push off your fingers. Instead, let the ball roll off of the pads of your fingers as you push the ball high from underneath.

Give the ball 55 degrees of arch

55 degrees

As you extend your shooting arm and let the ball roll off the pads of your fingers, keep your elbow in and push the ball high to give it roughly a 55 degree arch. 
With less arch on your shot, the ball is less likely to go in. With more arch on your shot can be less likely to control. 


The force you put behind the ball affects the ball’s ability to reach the hoop. If you shoot the ball with too much forward force it’s it will reduce your arch and cause your shot to be flat. When it hits the rim or backboard with too much force, it’s going to bounce hard instead of getting a friendly roll into the basket. Conversely, if you shoot the ball without enough force it may not even make it to the basket in order to go in.


If the ball has high arch but falls short of the rim, there is likely too much upward force and not enough forward force. If the ball flies forward at the rim or backboard with very little arch, it’s likely that there is too much forward force and not enough upward force.












Don't shoot the basketball with too much force.
Most forward force should come from the flick of your wrist and the fingers you shoot with. Make sure you flick the ball on the release with enough force to reach the rim with the proper arch, but not too hard to where your shot is flat. 
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