Overshooting? Undershooting? Missing… to the left?

November 18, 2015 § Leave a comment


One of the more peculiar situations in shooting is when a shooter consistently misses to the left.

This is peculiar, since bad shooters typically have trouble controlling shot distance, not accuracy.

If you’re consistently undershooting, it might be because of tension in the legs. Let your legs relax and make sure you’re shooting with arc.

Shooting with more arc might seem counter-intuitive (as more arc generally means less distance), but it helps some shooters relax and makes it easier to follow through on your shot. Following through helps ensure better force transfer from legs to ball. Even if you don’t want to increase your arc, consider focusing on your follow-through.

If you still tend to be undershooting, it’s usually not because your legs are too weak (so don’t go do squats). It’s usually a problem with the core, where the force generated by the legs aren’t transferring up to the arms. It also may be due to having small hands, which also limits force transfer.

Work on core stability exercises — i.e. planks and not crunches. Here’s a challenging and fun suite of exercises if you have access to a gym: http://www.stack.com/video/1875312691/the-steve-nash-offseason-workout/.

If you’re consistently overshooting, you have a real problem. It could be that you’re too strong! Consider changing your shooting form. For example, you shouldn’t be shooting at the top of your jump. Take a small hop.

Also, consider shooting with more arc. Since over-shooters tend to already have larger hands and are naturally strong, shooting with more arc won’t increase force transfer (and thus increase distance) as it might with under-shooters.

Most of the muscular athletic freaks in the NBA struggle with shooting. Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin are three prominent specimen who come to mind.  They’re simply so strong they have to tense up when they release to avoid overshooting.

By the way, this is why strength, and not necessarily height, is usually the natural determinant of whether a player is a ‘big man.’ We don’t see many  Big men are too strong to be effective perimeter threats. That’s not to say perimeter guys aren’t strong, but big, men are a different type of strong (heavy, slow, and controlled, as opposed to explosive).

Of course, short guys who have ‘big man’ games unfortunately lack potential to make it the big leagues (but never say never).

Finally, what happens if you consistently shoot left? This is a rare case that isn’t really covered online as far as I can tell.

I have struggled with missing left for a long time. The problem is, if you square your elbow to the basket, and extend it, it naturally falls a little to the left of where it began. So when you’re shooting relaxed, the balls will tend to err left. If you try to force your elbow forward, there will be tension, which is never good for shooting.

The problem is your elbow and arm are too involved in the shot, and your power generation from the lower body is not sufficient. This results in the arms “pushing” the ball forward as part of the shot.

To change this, think of the elbow and arm merely lifting the ball in the air, and the wrist being the only upper body part exerting forward force on the ball. The wrist is one of the most stable (non-rotational) joints in the entire body and can achieve remarkable accuracy. To generate more force from the lower body, follow the same tips as under-shooters: relax, increase your arc, and follow through (which you are already doing with you’re focusing the wrist!).

A final note: I cannot recall seeing a player who constantly misses right; there is no natural body motion that really results in this. If someone does tend to miss right, I would wager it’s simply a blatant error in form.

Also — as with nearly all basketball shooting advice, these are very black-box-esque. Meaning, they have worked empirically, but lack evidence implying causation. If the tips are not working for you, abandon them!

TLDR; If you’re undershooting, relax, increase your arc, and focus on follow through. Work on improving core stability. If you’re overshooting, you may have a real problem: you’re too strong. Tweak your shooting form. If you’re shooting left, your arm is probably too involved in your shot. Focus on lifting the ball with the arms, and firing with your wrist. The rest of the strength should come from the legs and core.

A Story of a Shooter: The 10 Ways Our Shot Evolves

August 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

The following post is a romanticized, hypothetical story of a young shooter’s journey. I hope it conjures memories of all the dog days and high points of your own shooting journey. 

Basketball Journey

Think way back to when you first shot a basketball. You are ten years old. Shooting seems simple. Basketball is fun. If you can make a few shots, you must be good at basketball.

Ignorance is bliss. After you make your first few shots, Papa Zhu, says, “Now, son, let’s try a free throw.”

You step back to the free throw line. Air ball. Damn, son. You exert more effort, jumping off the ground. CLANK.

Papa Zhu shows you. “Son, you have to relax. Bend your knees, and follow through on your release.”

You do it as he says. Air Ball. In frustration, you tell yourself excuses. You say, I followed his directions perfectly, but I still missed, it must be because I was born weak. Born with inferior health. Not born to be a basketball player.

Papa Zhu has none of it. No dinner til you make three in a row. CLANK. CLANK. SWISH…


“Wanna run?”

You turn around. It’s this tall, lanky, older kid who goes by “Filthy Frank.” You are thirteen. School just got out and you’ve been squaring off with your little brother Michael on a dusty court at the park. You’ve been having a good day shooting, even knocking down some threes. Basketball is fun.

Ignorance is bliss. You smile and say to Filthy Frank, “Okay.”

The game commences. Filthy Frank hounds you. You dribble past him but have the ball poked from behind. He scores.

Next possession. Michael gets you the ball. Filthy Frank is again all over you. You throw up a shot, but it’s slapped away. You push Filthy Frank. “Man, you play dirty!”

“It’s called fucking defense man. Grow up.”

You get the ball again. Filthy Frank is smothering you, screaming all sort of profanities. He calls you a “fucking joke.” A carcass. A soft “piece of shit.” He even cracks a joke about your mom’s weight.

You shoot, air ball. Square one. You lose it. You walk away.

Filthy Frank smirks, “Nice defense, man.” He takes your ball home with him. You don’t say shit, because what can you say?

“Michael, let’s train.”

Filthy Frank


You are sixteen years old. You slip the ball between your legs and pull up for a three. BAM.

You have learned the art of a pull-up shot. You can shoot the ball off the dribble with ease. You pump-fake, your opponent jumps, and you pound the rock once to your right, and rise up for a shot. SWISH.

Coach Marshall nods in approval. An hour later, Coach Marshall begins to read, “Filthy Frank, Euthanizer Dave, Ed of Eden…”

After a final pause, he gives you a nod. You’ve made it. Varsity Basketball.


The game is blur. It’s whizzing past your eyes. “C’mon son, what the fuck are you doing!” Filthy Frank gives an expression of disgust. His lip is rolled like an ocean wave. You hate the ocean.

“Coach, I just wanted –”

“Man, don’t talk back to me! Give me a suicide!”

You run. You focus on the glutes, gliding across the court. You finish.

“Five free throws!”

So it is. You make all five. You look at Coach Marshall.

“Son, I’ll tell you this: I don’t know who taught you, you can shoot lights out. But let’s get one thing straight: this is Varsity Basketball. Shooting straight ain’t enough. You gotta be fast, you gotta create that little extra space.”

After practice, Coach Marshall pulls you and Filthy Frank aside. “Frank, work with this kid on popping his release on a few catch-and-shoots. Also, teach him that step-back of yours…”


Basketball Journey 3

Papa Zhu gives you a hug. “Son, I’m so proud. Are you sure you want to do this? These feels…”

You nod, you’re sure. You visited, and you felt at home. They thought you could be a star shooter for them.

You get Facebook messages from folks all over. Even Filthy Frank forwards you a message.

“Waddup Sniper!

Congrats big dawg, doing what u do. i would say i knew you had it in you fomr the start lmao.. but u kno, really, i’m proud of u man.

keep doing ur thang and get bitches, my homie. don’t get caught up in senioritis!! i’ll be watching u next year.

Filthy Frank”

You smile. Filthy Frank, what a guy. Life can be unpredictable, huh? He’s now studying astronomy in college.


“MOVE, MOVE MOVE! Sniper, this isn’t high school anymore. You’re not going to be open just standing there. And stop with those crazy turn around jump shots! At this level, even the average guy can block you unless you move yourself open. Take pride in being relentless. Your hear me, son?”

It’s been days of running, but somehow, it’s not enough. You burp, but the burp dreams of being something more. Your lunch splashes onto the hardwood.

Damn it. You wipe your mouth on your jersey. Salt in your mouth. You continue on, because you’re a tough motherfucker, a GI Joe.

“Look Sniper, and I don’t know if I should keep calling you that, cause you gotta earn it. Use the screens. Change your speed and direction. Make cuts to the basket. That’s how you get open.”

You nod. It’s going to be a long four years.


You sit in an empty gym. The lights are off. You close your eyes, and give the ball a dribble. THUD. You feel its pebbles once again caress your fingers.

You wipe off your sweat and stand up. You throw the ball in front of you, and then, with lightning speed, perform a shamwow. You shoes squeak across the floor.

You shoot a shot. SPLASH. Nothing like the sound of the ocean.

Now you shoot a few free throws. SWISH, SWISH, SWISH.


The ball bounces off the rim, and hits the ground with a thud. It slowly rolls away, until it hits the wall and stops. Silence.

This is your second home. You feel comfortable. The sights and sounds feel natural to you. You are respected; your abilities are validated by the scores of people who wear your name on your back. You’ve come a long way, and you’re a pretty damn good basketball player.

Ball is life. Ignorance is bliss.

A still from the Showtime documentary Kobe Bryant's Muse. - Photo: Kobe Bryant's MUSE/Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID: KOBEMUSE_gr_002.R


  1. Close stationary shots
  2. Free Throws
  3. Mid-range jumpers
  4. Three-pointers
  5. Pull up Jumper
  6. Stepback
  7. Catch and Shoot
  8. Fadeaways and Turn-around Shots
  9. Moving Without the Ball
  10. Meta

Passing for the ‘Sake of Passing’ is Good Ball Movement

August 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Kobe Bryant, prolific passer

Kobe Bryant, prolific passer

One of my friends never passes the ball to a stationary teammate. Once he gets the ball, you need to be moving — cuts, screens, hand-offs — for him to pass the ball to you.

This is, more or less, his idea of “ball movement.”

His point is not entirely unfounded. If your teammate is standing there, no more open than you are, why pass the ball to him? Wouldn’t it be a better use of time and effort to drive, draw defenders, and then pass to him when he’s more open?

In other words, does passing ‘for the sake of passing’ increase the expected point value of a possession?

Without delving into statistics, I personally am a big fan of swinging the ball (a closely related phrase to ‘passing for the sake of passing’). I understand my friend’s perspective in terms of opportunity cost — and he’s right to question it. He shouldn’t, after all, just accept it because ‘swinging the ball’ is oft-repeated by coaches.

The value of swinging the ball comes in many forms. First, it keeps the defense on its feet. The defense needs to watch both ball and man — this is much harder when the ball is not stationary. Check out the play below.

Tony Parker "passes" Duncan open.

Tony Parker “passes” Duncan open.

In this play, Duncan is fronted by his defender, and Parker can’t get the ball to him. Parker, however, is able to “pass ” Duncan open — Diaw has a much better angle at getting the ball to him.

From this, we see rapid passing of the ball — even to players who are in no position to score — increases the opportunities of getting an open shot. Having to keep track of both the ball (while staying with their man) alone puts significantly more stress on the defense.

Second, passing the ball is simply a great way to get everyone involved and builds team chemistry. I say this from experience, though I acknowledge this might be difficult to prove / placebo effect. My ‘proof’ is again in the psychological factor: passing the ball to someone but ‘disliking’ or ‘not trusting’ them serves as an internal conflict in your brain. And if someone passes to you, you’re more likely to reciprocate.

So in summary — I understand that passing to someone who’s not ‘open’ may seem like a bad decision from an opportunity cost standpoint. But think of it this way: when you pass (‘for the sake of passing’), you’re pressuring the defense and hoping, eventually, for a defensive mistake, which you can then attack at a higher success rate. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a lot of one-on-one basketball situations.

The Pump-Fake

August 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Top_10_NBA_Fake_Plays (1)

Basic Description: One of the most effective yet simple moves in basketball. A must-have move for every single player — no other move replicates its usage. Also known as a shot fake.

How to do the move: This move is simple to do, and hard to master.

  1. Go through your normal shooting motion. Legs bent, eyes on the rim.
  2. Once the defender rises or jumps to contest your shot, quickly bring the ball down and either blow by them or, in some cases, shoot (if they jump ‘past’ you, or if you want to draw a foul).
  3. If they don’t jump or rise, just shoot the ball. You’re open.

Keys to an effective pump fake:

  • Be a good shooter. Defenders will be more likely to jump.
  • Have a sudden shot. The suddenness will draw an involuntary jumping reaction.
  • Mimic your actual shot as closely as possible.
  • Quick reflexes. Sometimes you actually intend to shoot, and need to stop yourself suddenly. Often, these are the most effective pump fakes.
  • Your shooting form should involve a smooth bend-and-rise motion. Seeing you rise causes the defender to jump just as much as seeing the ball go up.

Training your Pump Fake: See here for great drills to train your pump fake.

Why the move works: A defender is most vulnerable when standing straight up. The pump fake is one of the easiest ways to get the defender standing straight.

When to use it: Whenever there is a realistic chance you will shoot (varies depending on your shooting ability), especially when the defender is in recovery mode.

This move is highly effective in a triple threat position. If you have a fast shot, you only need the tiniest of windows to shoot. Pump fake to see the defender gives you that window — if he does, shoot. If he doesn’t (i.e. he jumps in the air), drive by him.

Some coaches teach you to never bring the ball higher than chest level when pump faking — i.e. use a small pump fake. I find this true when the defender is in recovery mode, but if the defender is focused and in position, raising the ball higher is often more effective.

One of my favorite moves is to pump fake slowly twice, pause, and then quickly rise for the shot. The change-of-pace makes the defender think the shot is real, and not a pump fake, and completely jump out of their pants. Wide open, easy layup.

See the move:

Nowitizki beautiful pump fake.


Steve Novak pump fake — notice how sudden his ‘rise’ is


Jeremy Lin pump fake. His shooting stance is dead on, and his eyes are pinned to the basket when performing the pump fake.


Dissecting the Rick Barry “Granny Shot” Free Throw

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment


Rick Barry

Rick Barry had the fourth highest free throw percentage in NBA history of 90%. During his playing years, he was easily the best free throw shooter the game had ever seen.

To give an idea, Rick Barry joined the NBA in 1965. Only two players who entered the league before Barry had a career free throw percentage greater than 85%.

Rick Barry used an underhanded free throw shooting technique — aka the “Granny Shot.” In the video at the bottom of this post, you can see Rick Barry performing his free throw technique to legendary coach Red Auerbach. According to Auerbach, Barry’s form was the standard until ‘forty years ago,’ which would likely be the 1920’s or 30’s, depending  on whenever the video was made.

So should we all shoot free throws with a granny shot technique?

In a previous post, I talked about the four elements which make up a good shooting form. They are:

  1. Fast
  2. Tough to block
  3. Stable horizontal plane of motion
  4. Controllable power generation

For shooting free throws, we can eliminate the first two, since there are no defenders.

So initially, it makes sense that the ideal free throw shooting form may be different than the ideal shooting form in games.

I took a gander and tried out the granny shot at my local court last night. What I found was interesting.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The Euthanasia Warm-Up Shooting Drill

August 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Euthanasia Warm Up Drill

This is my favorite basketball shooting warm-up drill.

It’s very, very simple. Start at any dot shown in the diagram. Keep shooting until you make three in a row. Move to another dot. Repeat until you finish at all dots.

Shoot with regular form, like a free throw– don’t shoot with one hand only. Shooting with one hand trains control, which is good for layups, but does not train form very well, which is the focus of this drill.

After you finish the drill, consider doing it again, this time with the left hand, and one hand only. This will help train control for left hand layups. You can skip the two ‘corner’ spots this time (bottom two dots on the diagram).

The drill sounds simple, but it may take longer than you think. If you shoot on average 80% from each of those spots, you’ll take on average roughly 24 shots total to finish at all five spots, right hand only. If you shoot 50%, you’ll need 70 shots on average. And your shooting percentage at the five spots is probably lower than you think.

When you shoot, your goal is to not just to make it, but have the ball not even hit the rim. It should be so soft it “a kitten could fall asleep” — hence why it’s called the euthanasia drill.


What the Drill Trains

  • Consistent shooting form — if you want a consistent three point form, you need to start with a consistent form at close distances
  • Familiarity shooting from anywhere on the court (people who focus on free throws tend to be less accurate from other angles on the court)
  • The clutch factor: When you make two in a row, can you relax and make the third one as well?

What to Focus on During the Drill

These shots are so close to the basket, unless you’re a beginner, you probably don’t have to think too much about making the shots. Here are things you should focus on while shooting:

  • The ball should not touch the rim (trains arc)
  • Your form is pure. Think about your form from your legs all the way to your release.
  • You’re relaxed. Watch for tension in the shoulder and neck.

This sounds very simple, but sometimes, if you’re stuck on one spot for a very long time, you can get frustrated and start tensing up and losing your form. Stay focused and calm.

Estimated Length of Drill: 2-8 minutes. To calculate how many shots it will take you on average to finish at each of the five spots, use the following formula:

n=\dfrac{1 + a + a^2}{a^3}

where is the expected total number of shots, and a is your average shooting percentage from the five spots.

Dealing with Pickup Game Jerks

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

I play a lot of pickup basketball. Every once in a while, you come across a talented, proud, and often young player who lashes out at and blames teammates for every misfortune.

Everyone encounters pickup game jerks. Dealing with jerks is something we must all do, at one point or another.

A common response to dealing with jerks is “man up.”  “Manning up,” “standing your ground,” etc. is an effective tactic, but it is not at all natural and actionable for many. It’s like telling a fat person to “just eat less.” It’s like telling a smoker to “just quit.” Or telling a child molester to “just stop being a perv.” Simple to say when you’ve never lived their life.

Here’s a few actionable tips to help when facing a pickup game jerk. “Manning up” certainly is effective, but that’s not something you simply ‘switch on’ on a basketball court — that’s a life thing that must be addressed by digging deep inside and doing some drilling in the core.

1) Shake hands with all your teammates when joining the court. Call everyone by their first names. Ask for a favor, if possible (can you throw me a few passes?). Psychologically, asking for a favor makes someone trust you. Intuitively, this makes sense, as your mind hates internal contradictions: you can’t both hate someone and do them a favor.

2) Don’t say “my bad” over missed shots (this is the worst) or layups. Admit you’re wrong when you actually believe you’re wrong (bad passes, etc.).

3) There are generally two types of criticism: first, criticizing you for making a bad play, and second, criticizing you out of frustration. For the first, say if the jerk yells, “Man, what the hell!” after you turn the ball over, ignore it. Lead by example. Encourage your teammates after making mistakes. “Good take” is my favorite after a missed shot. Your teammates will gravitate towards you, not the jerk.

If he (let’s arbitrarily assume the jerk is male)  criticizes you out of frustration, be firm. Don’t apologize, don’t insist you’re right, and be calm.

“He’s yelling screen right, but he’s not helping on the screen!”

“Hey man, I can do that. Just talk to me. We can work together on this.”

4) Have fun. Criticizing a fun-loving, happy guy makes anyone seem like a jerk. It’s another internal contradiction: your brain feels uneasy criticizing someone it perceives as likable.

5) After the game, shake the jerk’s hand. Don’t practically put your hand next to his — make him reach out.

How do you deal with pickup game jerks? Do you ‘man up?’ Do you simply avoid them? I’d like to hear thoughts.

Are Stereotypes Okay in Basketball?

July 29, 2015 § 1 Comment

Lakers at Wizards 12/3/14

John Wall v. Jeremy Lin

Stereotyping happens all the time in basketball, in a much less censored manner than in virtually any other venue. We all can relate, no matter what race, gender, height, or age we are. Tall guys are pigeonholed into playing center. Girls are treated in a patronizing manner when playing against boys. White guys are shooters until proven otherwise; black guys are athletic freaks until proven otherwise.

Stereotyping is often perceived as an injustice in society (especially negative stereotypes), because it is, undoubtedly, hurtful. There is no denying its presence and effects in the game of basketball either — stereotyping is what turns off many teens who are not tall, black, and athletic from playing basketball.

I have friends whose experiences playing the sport have been so hurtful that they harbor permanent resentment anytime you mention the sport to them at all.

I do believe stereotyping is extremely hurtful, especially when we don’t acknowledge it. Stephen A. Smith and Rob Parker dismissed Jeremy Lin’s concerns about race, when he said, “Everyone looks at me and says, ‘I’m not going to let that Asian kid embarrass me. I’m going to go at him.'” Lin’s concerns — though valid — were sidestepped and the conversation instead changed to how Lin being Asian actually benefited him by getting him on Sports Illustrated and earning millions of dollars.

I think it’s important to acknowledge truth in stereotyping, that it exists, and that it is hurtful. I think that we should be cognizant of it when playing the game. However, I also strongly believe that stereotyping has a place in basketball, just as it has a place in society. Stereotyping should be used when it gives your team a statistical advantage. 

If you have to choose between a 6’0, 175 lb white kid and a 6’0, 175 lb black kid to join your team, having never seen either player before, you should choose the black kid. It is the better decision statistically.

When you “man up” against the opposite team, let the black kid guard the black kid, and let the Asian kid guard the Asian kid. It’s the smart decision, if you haven’t seen them play before.

Now, stereotyping is largely a byproduct of basketball being a very hierarchical sport. The hierarchical nature produces an opportunity — on the court, everyone is out to prove themselves.

There is no distinction like that of slaying Goliath. Under all our charming smiles, warm hugs, and cheeky quips, we all have a cold-blooded side that comes to life when we face a condescending opponent who takes us lightly.

Embarrassing him is not enough — we want to shame his ancestors and entire lineage.

Smearing his name is not enough — we want to do him so dirty he becomes sterile.

Eradicating his hope is not enough — we want to make him our marionette, rag-dolling his toasted limbs at every glimmer of hope, to the screaming adulation of onlookers.

What a feeling. The distinction of proving one wrong, no matter how fleeting, is what drives many (including NBA players) to continue to play the game. When you’re stereotyped against, play to prove one wrong.

Basketball is one of the few places where stereotyping still has a home, and there’s not really a better alternative. World Elo scores for basketball players? Maybe in the future.

Finally, I’ll say this one more time: only apply stereotypes when they are statistically advantageous to your chances of winning.

The Shammgod

July 29, 2015 § Leave a comment


Basic Description: A flashy, risky, higher level move. Rarely used in competitive games except off pick and rolls. Key to the move is the quick, blinding footwork. Called the Shammgod for one of its earliest ambassadors, former NBA player God Shammgod.

How to do the move: The move can be done with either hand, but assume we’re starting with the ball in the right hand.

  1. Give yourself some room; be at least three-point distance (give or take) away.
  2. You will now do two things simultaneously:
    1. Lightly “drop” the ball forward with your right hand. Some find it helpful to do this underhanded. Do not pound the rock into the ground — the reason you ‘drop’ it lightly is so you have slightly more time to pull off the move.
    2. Take a short, choppy step forward with your left foot.
  3. Shortly after the ball leaves your hand, you will again do two things simultaneously:
    1. Reach your left arm across the body to get the ball.
    2. Take a long step forward with your right foot. At this point, your legs should be split pretty far apart, and you should be leaning low, as if you’re going to drive to the basket.
  4. Quickly and suddenly “snatch” the ball back to your left with your left hand. You should now see an opening to drive and score.

Why the move works: The defender is distracted, and “frozen” by the blinding quick footwork. He is on his toes, and when you reach over to grab the ball, he overreacts and flies towards the ball, leaving an easy “snatch” and cutback for the offense.

Keys to the move: Quick and sudden footwork, hard lean towards the ball, extended legs and arm to appear as “long” as possible

When to use it: The defender is standing relatively upright, is giving you some space, and may not be entirely focused. For example, a point guard coming off a pick and roll will generally have space if the defending big man does not hedge. In this case, the defending big man must also account for the rolling offensive big man, so he can’t devote his full attention to the point guard.

This move does not work too well out of triple-threat stance, as defenders tend to be most focused then. You can try to shake the focus of a single defender by doing some other flashy moves beforehand (see below).

See the move:

The move from God Shammgod himself


Lamar Odom sick Shammgod


Shammgod with a counter cross (deadly!) — best shammgod I’ve ever seen (full video here)


Shammgod in the NBA — notice how it’s often used off screens where there’s more space

What is Good Shooting Form?

July 28, 2015 § 1 Comment

Wizards v/s Warriors 03/02/11

Steph Curry Shooting Form

For many of us, the first thing we learned in basketball is how to shoot the ball ‘correctly.’ I’m not going to cover basic shooting form in this post — there are plenty of great resources online which cover that.

Instead, I want to talk about what makes a shooting ‘form’ good. We are often told what to do when shooting, but we are not told why. The unquestioned accepting of coaching in this regard has led to specious shooting tenets, like ‘squaring your feet’ or ‘don’t dip the ball when you shoot.’

Let’s look at, more fundamentally, what a good shooting form entails.

Four Key Elements to a Good Shooting Form

Here are the four elements that a good shooting form must have:

  1. Fast
  2. Tough to block (location of release)
  3. Stable horizontal plane of motion
  4. Controllable power generation (minimize tension)

The first two are pretty self-explanatory. One way to think about is the faster your shot, the more often you’re open. A fast shot becomes increasingly imperative as the quality of opponent increases — it can be surprising to see what constitutes ‘open’ at NBA levels, where a defender’s hand may literally be hitting the shooter’s palm right when the ball is released.

Tough to block is also self-explanatory. This is why we don’t use underhand shots or shots from behind the head! In general, the higher the release point, the harder the ball is to block.

A stable horizontal plane of motion causes a shot to be accurate. If your shooting form causes your release to be fidgety, then your horizontal plane of motion is not stable. The elbow, along with the guide hand, result in an extremely stable horizontal plane of motion, and is one of the biggest reasons why the ‘correct’ shooting form works out well.

Controllable power generation deals with the muscle group that does the shooting — it should be easy to shoot with the ‘perfect’ amount of strength during each shot.

Consider this: in the close range, many NBA players shoot with their wrists. From three-point distance, many players shoot with their triceps. From half-court distance, many players shoot with their chests.

The legs are the primary muscles in all three cases, but the supporting muscles are important because that’s where you will feel tension.

Controllable power generation all comes down to reducing tension, and tension is minimized when the muscles you use for shooting are appropriate for the distance from which you’re shooting. This is different for different players — most NBA centers shoot threes with their wrists, while guys like Stephen Curry use a lot of chest muscle in their threes. The best muscle to use for your shot depends on how strong you are.


We all have different bodies, and there’s no one correct shooting form for everyone. I don’t like to teach shooting form — I like to tell players to shoot however they feel comfortable (as this reduces tension), and then probe their shot for weaknesses: Is it slow? Is it easy to block? Is it frequently inaccurate? Is there too much tension (there shouldn’t be, if they’re shooting comfortably, but sometimes there still is)? From there, we can alter their shot so it both feels comfortable for them, and is inherently ‘good’ (as opposed to only aesthetically or outwardly good).