Read an Excerpt
Shoot Like The Pros
The Road to a Successful Shooting Technique
By Adam Filippi
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2011 Adam Filippi
All rights reserved.
BUILDING PROPER TECHNIQUE
Like most basketball fundamentals, shooting begins with the feet and ends with the hands. So I will begin talking about their roles and positioning first, then address correct alignment, follow-through, and how proper rhythm keeps it all together. During mechanics training your goal should be to eliminate any mechanical flaws and find consistency to develop an automatic shooting technique. You will focus mostly on form shooting, stand still shooting (set shooting), free throw shooting, and slowly progress into jump shooting.
Balance: The Foundation of Your Shot
Just as a house's foundation must be strong enough to hold up the rest of the structure, the foundation of shooting a basketball begins with balance. Without a balanced stance, you will not be able to react quickly and will not be able to gain proper leg and arm power for your shot. You must stay compact with all body parts connected: legs, arms, shoulders, hands, head, and core.
Feet should be shoulder-width apart and pointing at the basket. If your feet are too close to each other, you will have no balance; if they are too wide, you won't be able to react. Weight should be equally distributed on both feet. Get your shooting toe (right or left, depending if you are right-or left-handed) aligned with the basket (see Figure 1.4). Some players tend to have their other foot pointed elsewhere. This causes hips to not be squared to the basket. You want both feet and 10 toes to the basket. Your legs must be flexed at the ankles and knees (don't overbend) because they provide the initial force in the shooting motion. Avoid keeping your weight on your heels. Keep your eyes on the rim.
Your shooting toe is aligned with the goal, pointing in the correct direction (shot line). You must compensate for the fact that you hold the ball on your strong side (right or left) as that shoulder will be slightly forward — although everyone says, "shoulders squared," that really isn't a natural position if you are holding the ball on one side. Therefore your lead foot should be slightly forward to balance your upper body. The back (nonshooting) foot's toe should be aligned with the instep of the shooting foot (see Figure 1.5). Don't let this slightly staggered foot stance twist your hips — they should still be as squared as possible to the rim.
You must eliminate any excess motion of arms, legs, and ball. You don't want to bend your legs too much or move the ball too much: unnecessary movement leads to increased chance for error. Hold the ball in your shooting pocket: the stomach-chest area closest to your center of gravity from where all movement begins, below shoulders, on your strong side (right or left). Keep elbows in — close to hips and shooting wrist already loaded (see Figure 1.6). You will find proper balance holding the ball in this region of the body, with your legs bent and ready to react. The combination of correct shooting pocket height (with wrist cocked) and proper use of legs provides the power to initiate the shooting motion. This concept is a very important aspect of your triple-threat stance.
Head and Shoulders
You must also be compact with your head. Leaning too far ahead, behind, or sideways — out of your base of support — will cause you to lose balance. Feet and legs should provide a good base, with shoulders relaxed and not leaning back. Keep your head up with your eyes on the basket.
Hands: Correct Placement and Grip on the Ball
Hand placement is the most delicate part of your shooting form. Hand size and finger length affect your shot and positioning on the ball. We must address both shooting hand placement and balance hand placement. Find a comfortable grip on the ball: during the shot motion, your arms and hands should be in controlled tension — not too tight and not too soft.
The goal of the shooting hand is to make the ball go straight as you line up with the basket. You must develop correct, stable hand position to control the ball. You have to "feel" the ball: spread your fingers naturally and get a good grip. Don't try to palm the ball because this will cause too much tension — avoid too wide of a "V" between index and thumb. Don't keep your fingers too close because the ball will lay on your palm and you will have no control — avoid too tight of a "V" between index and thumb. You should be able to balance and control the ball with a good shooting hand grip, right above your shooting eye, approximately 90-degree angles at wrist and elbow (see Figure 1.7). Only your finger pads and thumb touch the ball. You should be able to fit two fingers between the ball and palm to make sure there is no contact. When you snap your wrist to release the ball, don't close your hand because your rotation will be poor. Keep your fingers open — natural spread, no tension — with index and middle sending the ball in the correct direction.
Shooting Fingers: The "Shooting Fork"
The last fingers to touch the ball on its release determine the final force applied, direction, backspin, and "touch" on the shot. Not all players finish their shot the same way. Some may not even know which finger touches the ball last. Do you point at the basket with the index finger? Middle finger? Index and middle fingers? I insist that players release the ball off the two shooting fingers — index and middle, forming the "shooting fork" — especially since most people's middle fingers are significantly longer than their index fingers (see Figure 1.8). Position your two fingers in the middle of the ball forming a tight "V" (less than 1" between fingertips; the space in between should be the center of the ball. Practice using the ball's valve stem as point of reference — see Chapter 3: The Free Throw). The "two-shooting finger" technique provides the best control, backspin, and touch on the ball. However, this is very personal and there is no exact rule; you should choose for yourself depending on your feel on the ball. Whichever you choose, only three fingers (thumb, index, and middle) have a purpose in shooting the basketball. The two outside fingers (ring and pinky) are in contact with the ball only for stabilization and should not add any force to the shot.
Your shooting wrist should always be cocked back (almost a 90-degree angle with forearm; see a slight wrinkle in the skin), ready to shoot when you get in your "basketball stance." Even when you show your target for a pass, have your hands ready with wrist already cocked (see Figure 1.9). This might be difficult to do if a pass is poor and you have to reach for the ball, but get your hands in position immediately: wrist cocked, ready to shoot. Don't try to cock the ball back as you raise it above your eye going up for your shot because this negative motion might cause the ball to slip backward out of your hands.
You might hear the nonshooting hand referred to as the "help hand," "guide hand," or "off hand" (I do use this term). The best description, in my opinion is "balance hand," as its only purpose in shooting is to provide stability while raising the ball during the shot motion. The hand then must gently come off at your release point — the forehead area, above your right or left eye. This hand should not play any part in the release of the ball. It must give no force and no direction to the ball. Remember, you want a clean shot release. The balance hand should be on the side of the ball, not under and not in front (see Figure 1.10). Balance hand influence is probably the most common flaw in shooting mechanics; turning your thumb so that it pushes the ball and providing side spin, for example. It doesn't help the shot; it doesn't guide the ball anywhere. Don't let the balance hand put pressure on the ball and make sure it comes off as the shooting arm extends to thrust the ball. You can practice this motion, making the shooting hand and ball slide up and through the off hand without allowing any friction/dragging. Remember to end the shooting motion with the balance hand and fingers pointing up, opening the gate for the ball as the shooting arm extends. As with the shooting hand, the balance hand has no palm on the ball. Also, don't let the nonshooting arm and hand drop as your shooting arm extends because this movement will cause an imbalance/twist or jerk in your upper body, thus affecting the ball's direction.
Most Frequent Flaws Caused by the Balance Hand
Balance hand turns and thumb (thumbing) pushes the ball, causing side spin.
Balance hand is in front of the ball, not allowing a clean release. Open the gate! Finish with fingers up to the sky.
Balance-hand fingers drag on the ball. You could be taking the hand off too late or it is providing too much pressure on the side of the ball.
Balance hand is under the ball, almost touching the shooting hand and exerting unwanted force on the ball.
Balance-hand palm is in contact with the ball.
The alignment principle is easy to understand and hard to disagree with. Still, many players let one component fall out of line, which consequently affects the other alignment parts. This results in what I refer to as a broken alignment. Very common example: if your shooting elbow is out of line (a flying elbow) this will change your hand position on the ball, and your wrist and shooting fingers will fall out of the alignment. This will result in a misdirected shot. Keep in mind that the absolutely perfect shot delivery is an ideal. There are some subtle variances among the great shooters, but the farther you stray from strict alignment principles, the less likely you are to become a consistently good shooter.
Shooting alignment components are the following body parts — right side if right-handed, left side if left-handed:
Your shot line is determined by all of the above components being aligned in the same vertical plane with the strong side hip, eye, and the middle of the basket (see Figure 1.11).
Proper alignment determines your shot line to the middle of the basket.
Your shooting toe must point to the rim.
Your shoulders should be perpendicular to your shot line.
Your shooting hand must be positioned correctly, with your "shooting fork" in the middle of the ball and already pointing in the direction of the rim.
Elbow in — your elbow should be under the ball as much as possible. You must be comfortable, so if it is slightly out of line, that's okay, as long as it extends within the alignment as you release the ball.
Ninety-degree angles — body and arm, forearm and upper arm, wrist and forearm all must be at approximately 90-degree angles. (You are not a robot and need to feel comfortable.)
Your hips should be squared to the basket. If they turn and your shoulders remain squared, your elbow might not be able to get through due to friction with your side and might be forced to "fly out."
At your release point, your shooting hand should be under the ball, not behind the ball.
Don't raise the ball behind your head — your shot will be either too flat or too high.
When in your basic basketball stance (triple threat), keep elbows in near your sides. Be compact.
Follow-Through: Finishing the Shot
To finish your shooting motion successfully, you must have proper follow-through. This final part of the shot begins as you have brought the ball up to your release point, above the eye as your legs straighten. Now you must smoothly extend your arm and snap your wrist (see Figure 1.13). These final two motions of your shot will give the last force (both upward and forward), direction, backspin, and arc to the ball. Let's break down the follow-through components:
Extension — The arm extension, coordinated with the legs and feet extension, provides the upward force.
Wrist Snap — The hand and finger flexion provides the forward force. Hand and wrist should be somewhat relaxed. You don't want a tense shot, but not a weak shot either. The snap can't be too sharp, because should you hit the front rim, it will probably bounce off instead of rolling in softly.
Direction — The two shooting fingers, index and middle, will give the ball the correct direction as the wrist snaps. Fingers must point down at the end of the snap. I like to say, "put the two shooting fingers into the rim."
Backspin — The two shooting fingers are the last parts to touch the ball and they provide the backspin that can give that added "touch" on the rim.
Arc — A good and high shooting arc comes from a good follow-through. It's the result of the upward and forward forces, plus backspin. The ideal angle of your shot should be in the 50- to 55-degree range, allowing the ball to drop into the basket from the sky down. Avoid pushing the ball: make sure you are within your shooting range and have correct shooting pocket and release point positions. Make sure your shooting elbow extends at eye level.
Eyes — Always focus on the rim as you follow through. Don't follow the ball's trajectory as you might move your head; any kind of head jerking (whether forward, back, or side) will affect your follow-through negatively. The only time you will be following the ball's rotation is when you are learning and analyzing shot mechanics.
Body Balance — Neither retract nor fall forward with your head and shoulders during the follow-through. End up in balance on your toes in stationary shooting and free throws (not in jump shooting) with your body just slightly forward as you finish your shot.
Confident shooters hold their follow-through (see Figure 1.14). They are so focused on the act of shooting and the rim that they might keep their hands up all the way back on defense. Holding your follow-through is a good habit not only for making shots, but also because it leaves evidence in your form. If you miss, you can look at your fingers and see that maybe the ball was released off the "ring and pinky" fingers, or you gave a right/left direction and not straight at the rim, or you didn't snap your wrist all the way down.
Also, a good follow-through can often fix mechanical errors in your shooting form.
We've discussed and analyzed each segment of the shooting motion: feet, knees, elbow, arm, hand, and fingers. The binding force that keeps all the elements together in a fluid motion is rhythm. Legs, arms, shoulders, hands, head, and core must be connected in order to produce smooth mechanics. Rhythm is created through the coordination between your leg motion and your arm motion, allowing a fluid and comfortable shooting technique. Efficient leg and arm motions generate the needed power for your shot, so you don't have to search for additional strength with compensations (in Chapter 5 you will see how the core stabilizes the two motions). Your movements should be power-producing and excess-motion-saving.
Your legs begin the shot motion, providing the initial push. You must not raise the ball as you flex your knees, but keep it in your shooting pocket. When players raise the ball as they flex their knees, this can chop rhythm and momentum and slow down the motion. Remember that the coordination between your legs and arms is the key to a smooth motion. You want to be ready, in your basketball stance, with legs loaded, and have every element go up together. All angles open up in a fluid sequence. Shooting wrist and finger flexion (follow-through) ends the rhythmic motion. Head and shoulders must be relaxed. At the end of the shot, your body should be inclined very slightly forward, never falling back (negative motion).
Excerpted from Shoot Like The Pros by Adam Filippi. Copyright © 2011 Adam Filippi. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.