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).

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