How to Shoot a Basketball – Pro Shooting Tips

How to Shoot a Basketball Like a Pro

Okay, so you’re a basketball kid who wants to learn how to shoot a basketball like the pros? Well, join the club with almost every basketball player ever – even the pros! If you’re new to basketball, you might see even the tiniest of hands throwing three-point jump shots, hook shots, and more. This is one of the hardest shots to make in basketball, and it requires a mixture of finesse. Most players spend most of their lives teaching themselves how to properly shoot a basketball, and with little tips here and there. In this guide, we’re going to give you some pro shooting tips that will help you realize that it’s not rocket science – anyone can be a professional shooter!

Why a Shooting Guide?

Every basketball coach wants you to do things a certain way. Some people think you should dip the ball, while some won’t. Others say to keep your eye on the rim and not the backboard, and some don’t even want you to face the rim. Other coaches may even direct you to granny shot the ball until you perfect your form, while others will make you work at your form and see your errors until they’re resolved. What’s important, is that they all help you to achieve the same result, so you should use this to your advantage and take the good out of all of them. That’s what this guide is going to do for you.

The Truths of Shooting Ball

There are a few facts out there that you need to always think about when it comes to playing basketball. This is because the game actually requires skill, not just luck and grace to be at your side. Some people think that they need to focus on other areas first, but the most important thing you can do in basketball is shoot the darn thing.

Aside from shooting, you need to understand that pro shooters aren’t just automatic prodigies. Shooting a ball is like playing pool – you have to actually develop your English using skills (the controlling of ball rotation) and your spring in order to properly make a shot. Basketball isn’t much different, and you’re not just going to wake up one day being Larry Bird – even he had to practice all of his life at making 3-pointers!

Some people hear the term play ball, and they think of playtime. What many people don’t realize is that when you’re working towards a shooting goal, you have to actually work at it. Practice makes perfect right? No, really – it does. That’s the most important thing that you need to realize is that you’re going to have to use and develop techniques that will work to help you be a better basketball shot. The play part is everything in between.

Where’s the BEEF?

The BEEF method is one of the first shooting methods that many children will learn. It’s not bovine meat, but an actual experience of balancing yourself, pointing and cocking your elbows properly, keeping your eyes on your target, and following through with your shot. The downside to this? It’s simple, and sometimes too simple. If you’re not a kindergartner, then you may not want to use this method. It’s literally just the basics BEFORE the basics of shooting. 

So, What Are the Next Methods?

The best way in a very detailed explanation to this is the steps to shoot a ball that we’ve made. Most people don’t realize that before they even get a basketball passed to them, that a pro is ALWAYS ready to shoot. Therefore, step one is to prepare for your shot before you even have the ball. This can help you and make the difference between having a clear shot and whether or not you’re going to get blocked.

  1. Start with your knees and hips bent a little bit, and show your hands in the cradle (to catch the ball, and give yourself an automatic shot pocket). You also want to think that you should be able and ready to shoot the ball as soon as you receive it. This is a mentality that takes time to develop, but this is why you may see that some pros will literally get a pass and then shoot the ball without blinking as their opponent never expected them to.
  2. Where you put your hands on the ball is extremely important and a big part of shot preparation. When you catch the ball, you should have your hands ready to take the shot. If you don’t, then you’re going to have to run the ball and then find another place to work up your shot preparation. When you’re receiving a ball, you should make your hand into a T. You need to put one hand toward the back and one at the side of the ball. All fingers need to be spread and you actually won’t completely palm the ball when you receive it on your balance hand.
  3. All coaches believe that balance is the key. What they’re wrong about though, is that they believe that most players and coaches truly think that it has to do with how your upper body flows. But if you don’t have the proper balance, something even Larry Bird has stated is the key between a pro and an amateur, then you’re not going to have a good foundation to start with for your shot.

A good foundation for balance is to put your primarily dominant foot towards the front so you can be ready to spring into action. And you want to have your weight balancing yourself in “pre-shot” position evenly, and have your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. This will help you get the proper thrust to launch the ball as needed.

The Pivot

This is another important aspect that you may notice in a shooter’s form. If you’ve ever noticed, a good shooter’s feet are never pointing directly in front of them. You’ll want the dominant foot to point at ten degrees to the inside. The back leg will be turned just a little more towards the outside. This will allow you to pivot properly when you receive the ball should you need to turn. And you should ALWAYS pivot on your back foot and not your leading one. This will help to ensure that you’re ready for a takeoff should you have to run the ball or pass it down the court. 

The Shot Pocket

You need to always keep your shot pocket in a relaxed, but steady position at all times. Usually, this is about the lower chest or stomach area. It’s where you will have your hands at, and this is a comfort-based area. So where ever this is for you may depend, be higher towards the chest, or more towards the waste. You can choose whatever is the most comfortable for you. But you always need it to be in a consistent place, so you can have a spot to raise your basketball before lining up into your shot. This makes sure that you will always shoot the same way (once you perfect your aim), and that you will have more rhythm for your shot. There may be times when you’re going to have to ignore your shot pocket, but they are few and far between. You’ll still shoot better if you do this step before anything else at all times.

Eyes on the Ball? Nope!

One thing that a lot of coaches have a different opinion on is where to aim your eyes. Some coaches state that when you follow through, you need to focus on the ball. Others will tell you to focus on the backboard square, and others will tell you to focus on the rim’s front or back – literally almost every coach has a different view on this. But their shooters develop into strong shooters regardless. The reason? You can choose a wide variety of options of where to put your target at, and you have to always keep it in mind and visualize it at all times. That’s what’s important. Your focus may shift from one shot to the next, but as long as you visualize your target when you’re shooting, you can still develop your shot, but it will be harder. As long as you always have the same target no matter what rim you’re working with, you’ll be able to become better at shooting towards that target.

Don’t Straighten Your Wrist

Some people think that you should shoot with a straight wrist – wrong! Most teenagers and younger players often have this problem, and that’s why they still need to work on their game. Shooting like this pushes the ball in a straight line rather than going up and over (then through of course). Therefore, there’s something you can do to fix this. In order to get a proper arch, you’ve heard often the term that it’s all in the wrist. With a flick of the wrist, the ball will roll off of your fingertips properly, and then make it easier to have a smoother follow-through. Some people think that you should follow through, and believe it or not, some think you don’t have to. Take a moment to watch the pros and see that they almost ALWAYS do.

When you put your wrist at a little bit of a bend (as close to a 75-degree angle as possible), you’ll also have a bit more spring to create the backspin (as briefly mentioned above). You should have a few wrinkles in your wrist. These wrinkles aren’t forever, and they don’t change with age – but they do help in terms of knowing that you’re bending your wrist back enough.

Elbows In

Some people have always said elbows out – and they’re idiots. You should have your shooting hand and your elbow almost directly under the ball. This will ensure that you’re going to provide the right form and shoot a straight shot. It also gives you that pivotal arch and angle at which to shoot the ball. Combined with the above (wrist bend), you will get a perfect arch in your shot rather than a straight shot that can break your game.

Put Your Balance Hand in the Right Place

Your balance hand, one that’s been mentioned numerous times in this guide, is actually just your non-shooting hand. If you’re a right-handed shooter, then this will be your left hand. If this is for left-handed shooters, obviously, it’ll be your right hand. The shooting hand is just the one that is directly behind and under the ball. Many people don’t realize that some people are comfortable either way, and can alternate their guide hand (this is what the pros, and numerous people call it because it helps you guide the ball and balance it in place) at will. Of course, this means that they switch from left to right with everything (posture, stance, hand position, foot position, etc.). This is something that the true pros can do, and it’s what separates the shooters from those who normally run the ball.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to use both hands as shooting hands. There are plenty of pros that only shoot from their dominant hand. And some even shoot from their non-dominant hand (some left-handed people shoot right-handed, but they ONLY shoot right-handed). If you position your guide hand in the right place, then there won’t be any pushing and you will keep your ball on target properly. You never want to push on the side of the ball or your shot’s going to go off-center.

Steady That Rhythm and Follow Through

This is kind of a two-in-one step to shooting. Why? Because it’s something that naturally occurs. When it comes to shooting with rhythm, it means that you are going to lift the ball from the shot pocket, knees and hips in the right position, elbow straightens underneath the ball, the wrist is snapped in the direction of the rim, the straightening of the hand at the peak of every shot, and when your final two fingers (this should always be your middle and index fingers) touch the ball as it exits your hands. At the height of your jump and the ball’s upwards pitch, you’re going to hold your form. This is called the follow-through.

A lot of people are highly encouraged to provide a proper follow through. This is actually not just for show as some people think, but it’s also how you can watch your shot and learn from your mistakes. Yes, the follow through is an essential part of every shot. This ensures that what you did is going to work, and if it doesn’t, you can analyze the data of where you may have went wrong and play it back later so you know whether or not you need to pitch your shot, or adjust one of the other steps of your shot to make it perfect.

If You Don’t Get It Right Away

Don’t be surprised. If you want to perfect your shooting techniques, it doesn’t just happen overnight for almost 99.999% of basketball players, whether they’re amateurs or even if they’re professionals. Everyone has to work on their shots, and even the pros miss shots sometimes, so don’t let it get the best of you. The term practice makes perfect is true because you’re going to have to take the time to make your shot in every different angle, situation, and scenario. In order to do this, you’re going to have to experience all of these things at literally every distance on the court. As long as you provide yourself with the benefit of shooting properly though, you will always succeed. Even when you miss a shot, use a mindset to treat yourself and learn from your mistakes. The only thing you can gain from failure is eventual success, and this is something that should always be considered and realized from the beginning. Part of achieving a better shot is also a growth mindset process, because without making mistakes along the way, you’re not going to continuously learn how to improve.

Conclusion – Shooting the Basketball

So, is this the proper way to shoot a basketball? Absolutely. But what’s also important is that you do what you have to do with comfort. If you feel more comfortable for example shooting with one hand more than the other, then by all means go for it. Just remember to apply all of the basic steps that we’ve provided. Of course, if you’ve never shot a basketball, you can still incorporate the BEEF method with all of the steps that we’ve provided to get a better understanding. And always make sure that you learn from any mistakes that you encounter. Mistakes is what makes you a better basketball shooter – don’t hold them in, and don’t ever give up, and you’ll be a much better shooter in no time (just don’t keep track of how many times you miss – but how much you make your shot).

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