How To Shoot A Basketball: Beginner's Guide To Proper Shooting Mechanics

shooting tips Jun 25, 2024
how to shoot a basketball

How to properly shoot a basketball:

Shooting a basketball accurately and consistently is key to being a great player, yet it's one of the hardest basketball skills to learn.

The jump shot in basketball is made up of many different parts -- your footwork and how you use your legs, how you hold the ball, how you raise the ball into the air and how you release it and follow through.

Your whole body is involved in your jump shot. If just one part of your shooting form is off or inefficient, it can hurt your entire shot and make you not shoot well.

So how do you accurately shoot a basketball? By optimizing each piece that makes up your form.

Everyone's shooting form looks different and there is no perfect form or perfect way to shoot, but there are characteristics of a good shot that most great shooters share in common. And that's what I'm going to share with you here in this guide.

So if you're a beginner or a youth basketball player looking how to correctly shoot a basketball, then this guide is for you.

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How To Hold The Basketball

To start, let's look at how to hold a basketball when shooting. Here's how the ball should be placed in your shooting hand (your dominant side).

Shooting Hand

1. Ball In Fingertips

The best way to hold the ball is by placing it on the fingertips of your shooting hand.

This means the ball is raised up on your hand a bit and it's not sitting in the palm of your hand.

If you're holding it correctly, you'll be able to fit a few fingers from your non-shooting hand in between the ball and your shooting hand palm. If the ball is sitting completely in your palm, you won't be able to squeeze any fingers into that gap.

By holding the ball on your fingertips, you'll have more control of the ball as you go to shoot the basketball.

Letting the ball sit in your palm is harder to control.


Ball on fingertips, fingers spread wide, hand in the middle of the ball

2. Fingers Spread Wide

Another tip to keep in mind when it comes to holding the ball in your shooting hand is to keep your fingers spread wide across the ball.

This will help you shoot with better accuracy on a more consistent basis.

3. Hand In Middle Of Ball

Lastly, place your shooting hand in the middle of the ball. With this hand placement, your shooting hand will be underneath the ball as you go to shoot it. 

This makes it easier to shoot straight and it helps you get ideal arc on your jump shot.


Guide Hand

As for your guide hand -- your non-shooting hand -- the only job of the guide hand is to help you hold the ball as you shoot it so that you don't drop it. 

A common mistake for beginners and youth basketball players is to shoot with two hands but this is not ideal.

The guide hand should not be involved in your release at all. 


Guide hand is on the side of the basketball

With this in mind, the best place to put your guide hand is directly to the side of the basketball.

Try not to put it under, in front, or on top of the ball as this will make it more likely to interfere with your release.

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How To Position Your Feet

Now that you're holding the ball properly, it's time to get your feet set. Your shooting footwork is an extremely important part of your jump shot.

In the past, shooters were taught to "square" their feet to the basket. This meant pointing both your feet directly towards the basket. 

Most shooting coaches now teach players to shoot with their feet turned diagonally.

I believe this is the ideal way to position your feet because it puts your shooting shoulder forward and in a straight line to the basket, making it easier to shoot straight.

If you are a right handed shooter, you want to point your feet diagonally to the left.

If you are a left handed shooter, point your feet diagonally to the right.

Also, to better achieve this "shooting shoulder forward" position, place your dominant-side foot, aka your shooting foot, a little further ahead than your non-dominant side foot.

Lastly, keep your feet shoulder width apart to maintain good balance.

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Use Your Legs

The power from your jump shot should come mostly from your legs.

When it comes to your shooting form, your lower body is responsible for getting the right distance on your shot.

On the other hand, your upper body is responsible for aiming the ball and getting good arc.

As you raise the ball up into the air, bend your knees.

As you go to shoot the ball up and forward, jump and straighten out your knees.

Keep your upper body and arms relaxed and let your legs create all the power for your shot.

*For youth players who aren't able to shoot the ball on a 10 foot hoop yet, it's best to lower the basket so that they can focus on using their legs to get their power and not overcompensating with their upper body.

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Dipping The Ball

To begin your shot, lower the ball slightly from your shot pocket (where you hold the ball before beginning your shot) towards your knees. This is called "dipping" the ball.

While not 100% necessary, most great shooters dip the ball as they start shooting because it helps create a little momentum for their shot.

It also contributes to the rhythm of their jumper.

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Keep Your Elbow In & Shooting Hand Underneath The Ball

After dipping the ball, begin to raise the ball into the air towards your head.

There are two keys for this part of your jumper.

Keeping Your Elbow In

Make sure you keep the elbow of your shooting arm in and facing the basket. It is easier to shoot straight when your shooting elbow is facing your target.

This is one of the most important aspects of ideal basketball shooting form.

Keeping your shooting elbow in helps you maintain a straight line from the ball, down to your shooting wrist, your shooting elbow and all the way down to your feet, improving your accuracy and consistency.

A common mistake for beginners is to let your elbow flare outwards as you raise the ball up. This makes it harder to shoot accurately.

The best shooters in basketball all keep their elbow in.


Shooting hand is under the ball with palm facing up, elbow is facing the basket 

Hand Under, Palm Facing Up

The second key to keep in mind when raising the ball into the air is to get your shooting palm to face upwards. 

If you aren't sure if you're doing this, record yourself shooting a few jump shots and watch it back in slow motion. 

Pause the video as you're raising the ball up and see which way your palm is facing. 

Your shooting hand should be directly under the ball. If it is, your palm will naturally be facing the sky.

Having your shooting hand under the ball in this first part of your jump shot will ensure you get proper arc.

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How To Release With Proper Follow-Through

The second segment of your shooting form is actually shooting the ball.

After you raise the ball into the air, it's time to shoot the ball up and forward towards the basket.

Here are some keys to keep in mind during this shooting motion.


Elbow Up & Fully Extended

The first part of releasing the ball properly is following through correctly. 

A textbook follow through is one where the shooting arm finishes fully extended.

Sometimes youth or beginner players finish shooting with a bent shooting arm.

Finishing with full extension will help you get good arc on your shot.

Another common mistake beginner shooters tend to make is to shoot more forwards than upwards.

In other words, their shooting elbow finishes forward. For younger players, this can be a result of having a lack of strength to shoot.

A player with ideal shooting mechanics finishes their shot with their elbow up high.

A good reference point is to use the level of your eyes.

When you finish releasing the ball, you want your shooting elbow to finish at or higher than the level of your eyes.

This is a good indication that you got your elbow high enough.

Getting your elbow up on your release is what gives you good arc on your shot.

The more arc you shoot with, the more chance you have for the ball to go in the basket.

More arc leads to a higher margin for error and a higher chance to go in. This tip alone can drastically improve your shooting.

When you shoot with poor arc -- what's known as a "flat" shot -- the ball has less of a chance of going in and you decrease your margin for error. 


Shooting arm is fully extended with elbow up high, wrist snapped forward and fingers curled down

Snap Your Wrist Forward & Down

In terms of your hands, as you actually shoot the ball, you want to snap your wrist forward and flick your fingers forward. 

With ideal shooting technique, your wrist will finish curled with your palm and fingers facing down. 

This will ensure you get good arc on your shot, shoot the ball straight, and have good backspin.

Earlier I mentioned that you want to hold the basketball with your fingers spread wide. Now as you release the ball, push the ball with your fingers still spread.

A common mistake that beginners make is to bring their fingers together as they shoot. This can affect the trajectory of the shot.


Avoid Guide Hand Interference

The last part of great shooting mechanics involves the guide hand.

As you shoot, avoid using your guide hand to push the ball. Only your shooting hand should push the ball. 

When it comes to shooting a basketball, you really are only shooting with one hand.

The guide hand is only there to help control and stabilize the ball throughout your jumper.

This means removing your guide hand from the ball as you go to release it.

You'll know that your guide hand didn't interfere with your shot if the palm on your guide hand is facing the same way it was when it was holding the ball.

If your guide hand interfered with your shot, you'll know because it will be facing a different direction than it was when it was on the ball.

Guide hand involvement with your jump shot may interfere with the trajectory of your shot and push it off-course, making it harder to shoot straight.

Before you begin to release the ball, take your guide hand off the ball by bending your wrist back and allow the ball to pass through.

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Where To Look When Shooting

Lastly, a common question in basketball is where should you look when shooting?

There really is no one correct answer to this question. It is a matter of preference.

Some players like to look at the front of the rim, some like to look at the back of the rim, others just look at the basket as a whole.

Play around with these different options during your shooting workouts and do what feels most comfortable for you.

Use these tips to improve your jumper with the ultimate goal being to shoot every shot the same way every single time. With lots of repetition, you'll become a great shooter in no time.

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