Improving Basketball Skills: How to Shoot a Basketball

No matter how many rebounds a team grabs, or blocks and steals they accumulate, basketball boils down to one thing: scoring more baskets than the opponent. Therefore, shooting is considered the most important basketball skill to develop. In this article, we will consider the different types of shots in basketball and the basics of how to shoot a basketball.

Most Common Types of Shots in Basketball

1.) Jump Shot

Klay Thompson doesn't believe he's in a shooting slump
Randy Vasquez, Bay Area News Group

When you hear the term “shooting” being thrown around, this is usually what it’s meant. A jump shot is the type of basketball shot used for mid-range or long-range attempts.

To shoot a jump shot, balance is the first most important thing. To achieve this, the feet must be shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly, and the shoulders square to the basket. You make one fluid leaping motion, releasing the ball at the apex of the jump.

Pro tip: In executing a jump shot, fingers and elbows should be pointing square to the basket.

2.) Layup

Kyrie Irving
AP Photo/Winslow Townson

A layup is a type of shot done close to the basket, most often using the help of the glass or backboard. To do a layup, a player runs on one side of the basket and lays the ball up off the glass. It is a high percentage incursion and considered the most basic shot in basketball.

3.) Dunk

Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James is The "Dunk King"
Anthony Gruppusso, USA Today Sports

The dunk is the highest percentage shot in basketball, converted over 90% of the time. It is a shot that required players to jump high and slam the ball over the rim.

4.) Floater

Tony Parker San Antonio Spurs Autographed 8" x 10" Floater vs. Houston Photograph | San antonio spurs, Tony parker, San antonio
via Pinterest

The floater, also called the runner or a tear drop, is a shot often done by smaller players in the lane. It is a high-arching shot over taller defenders and requires incredible skill and accuracy to pull off. If mastered, the floater is essentially unstoppable.

5.) Set Shot

Luis Scola's 19 points leads Pacers past Bulls, 91-79
Brent Dinkut

A set shot is a mid or long-range shot taken from a stationary position. In essence, it is like a jump shot without the jump. A set shot is relatively rare in modern basketball.

Tips on Shooting the Basketball

To eliminate confusion, this article will focus mainly on the mechanics of shooting a jump shot. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on the rim. Like a predator locking in on its prey, a shooter should focus on the rim at all times. This will improve your chances of hitting the shot. At times when a hand is on your face, you’d still know perfectly where the basket is if you develop the habit of focusing on the rim.
  • Balance. Balance is critical when shooting. Even NBA players can be off many percentage points shooting off-balanced jumpers. To be balanced, it’s important to have your legs underneath you, which means, it must be a shoulder-width apart. Also, it is ideal to have your feet pointed towards the rim and the knees bent slightly to add power to the shot.
  • Do not shoot with your palms. The ball should rest on your fingertips and not on the palms. Your shooting hand must be under the ball and not behind it.
  • Follow-through. As soon as the shot is released, what follows is a quick extension of the elbows and a flick of the wrist. This is called the follow through and very critical mind developing fluidity in a shot.

Basic Drills to Improve Shooting

The only way to improve shooting accuracy is by getting the fundamentals right and constant practice. Here are some drills to improve your shooting:

1.) One-Arm Shooting Drill

This drill works exactly as it sounds. Shooting the ball with one arm makes you more conscious of your follow-through. This will also help you flick your wrist every time you shoot.

In doing this drill, you may start shooting 5 shots near the basket. After that, take a step back and make another 5 shots until you get somewhere where you’re not comfortable.

2.) One-Arm Shooting Drill with Guide Hand

The natural progression of the one-hand shot is with the guide hand. At this point, you don’t need the guide hand touching the ball. Instead, the focus is the proper form. The guide hand should not be behind or in front of the basketball and the fingers should be pointed upwards. Using this form, try to make 10 shots from five spots, preferably near the basket.

3.) Shoot ‘Nothing But Net’

The goal of shooting “nothing but net” shots is the improvement of your focus. Every player is different, so you should figure out what’s best for you. Do you need to focus on the basket? the back rim? the backboard? Make it a point to drill half of your conversions as nothing but net.

More Basketball Shooting Tips

  • Do conditioning drills to improve your shooting. How would that be? Well, shooting in a real basketball game needs a lot of energy and more often than not, you have to run around to get yourself open. If your conditioning is not at a high level, it could affect your shooting performance.
  • Always start at a closer distance. Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and Steph Curry all start closer to the rim and work their way up. Starting close makes you focus on your technique and allows you to get into a good rhythm.
  • Always focus on your arc. Did you know that a 45-degree arc on your shot raises your chances of making the shot five times compared to a 35-degree arc! That alone could be a game-changer right there.
  • You should also record and analyze your missed shots. Are you missing more to the right or to the left, or front and back? If you know why you’re missing shots, it’ll help you zero in on the problem and gives you a better chance to fix them.
  • Incorporate game movements and game speed in your practice. Simple shooting drills on different spots help you develop rhythm but shooting in game speed using game movements makes it more realistic. Practice shooting off screens, cuts, or coming from both directions.

Conclusion: How to Shoot a Basketball

Basketball is the most important skill in basketball, but it can be practiced and mastered. The tips above will definitely help any beginner master the fundamentals of shooting, plus more tips on how to shoot a basketball.