7 Secrets to Basketball Shooting Success
Here I will share with you 7 secrets to basketball shooting success you may not be aware of. Ever wondered what makes a great basketball shooter? Ever watched an NBA or other hi-level league player make a consistent clip, game in game out, and wonder how the heck do they do it?
Before letting you in on the 7 secrets to basketball shooting success, I first want to say there are two different types of players making buckets. Shooters and scorers. What separates the two is often consistency, versatility, adaptability and shot selection.
A shooter is a basketball player who shoots the ball a lot to get points. They rely on probability more than skill. Their ability to get points each game varies as much as their shooting percentage (i.e. makes from takes). What they score in any game is unpredictable. We have all seen these players, they are the guys team mates quietly refer to as ‘black holes’.
A scorer however has the ability to score a consistent number of points each game. Their shot percentage is steady and points predictable. These athletes rely on skill and experience to score. Good shot selection, duplicable technique, an ability to get open are all contributing factors. So let us talk scorers, not shooters.
Preparation is king.
Too often when we watch the game and see a shot go in, we are focused on the result. The made bucket. But truth is, for a scorer, that shot’s success was determined at some other point in time. The best shooters know well before they put the shot up, they were going to shoot it. The average person will see a quick release shot and think it was a prayer. But a scorer knows, when they get to a spot where certain conditions are met, they will let it fly.
Have you ever seen footage of some of the best scorers the game has seen? Reggie Miller and Ray Allen were great at cutting to get open. Klay Thompson makes great shot decisions. Jordan, Kobe, Iverson and Curry adopted an array of skills to disadvantage the defence. Lebron uses versatility and Tim Duncan and David Robinson used great footwork. But all share one thing in common, and thus the first secret. Here it is: The defence is always wrong. Oh so you thought, each heading was the secret? Well sorry to disappoint but the devil is in the detail. So keep reading.
Scorers manipulate their opponents to gain advantage. It starts with hours of practise in the gym, replicating game situation footwork and shots. Repetition forms habits, coaches like to call them ‘skills’. It is these habits that kick into gear when playing opponents. When the defence goes one way, the scorer takes advantage. But also, scorers can lead the defender, to gain advantage, to have them react in a certain way. To fall for a fake, or have the defence end up on their back on a blow by (i.e a drive), or post footwork or seal. Not to get too scientific, but like martial arts or some choreographed dance, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Scorers are masters of their own body, and master manipulators of their opponents. Situational repetitive training builds muscle memory. Scorers therefore learn to trust their training.
Keep your eyes on the target.
The best scorers do something else, they keep their eyes focused on two things. When they do not have the ball, they work hard to always see the ball. They know losing sight of the one thing that results in buckets is counterproductive. And once they have the ball, they want to see the ring. Looking at the ring, or squaring up and looking at it creates an immediate threat. But there is another advantage, and this is why many scorers are also great team mates (passers). When you look at the ring, the vision is central, therefore you can also see all your team mates from any position on the floor using peripheral vision.
This means now the scorer is interested in manipulating two things. His opponent, and his team mates’ opponent. Players like Magic, Lebron, Westbrook, Nash and Bryant are all examples of scorers who see a few plays ahead. So here is the second secret. Scorers know patterns. Coaches call it, basketball IQ. But it goes one step further, I call it the “Nostradamus effect”. Great scorers seem to know the future. Scorers not only manipulate their own defender; they manipulate the next line of defence. If they arrive at that next line, and the conditions to score are not met, their action will often result in a great pass resulting in a score for a team mate. Scorers have an uncanny ability to see the ball, scan the floor, look for patterns and read the defence. Great scorers tend to be great passers, and great passes make better shooters.
Hold your follow-through.
This next secret is simple, so I will tell you straight up. Understand the WHY. To shoot a ball and see it go in or miss is not enough. Scorers assess their shot technique and selection and learn from poor execution or decisions. Having feedback on why you make or miss is as important as the execution itself. Coaches call this: Follow-through. Scorers know and analyse why they made or missed a shot and can make in game adjustments if necessary. But they do not over analyse, they trust their training, so there is no paralysis by analysis.
It is not uncommon for athletes in the so-called ‘zone’ to talk about “feeling the shot”. Scorers feel their shot. Their feedback system is internal and external. For most coaches they say to athletes, “hold your follow-through”. But very few tell their athletes what they are looking for or how to make adjustments. Where the elbow finishes, high or low, left or right? Was it short or long? What was the arc? Too much power, too little? Scorers understand shot correction. They know why they made or missed, this gives them an advantage over shooters who only ever see the attempts that go in.
Don’t sweat the technique.
Jordan was once quoted as saying, “you can practise shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, all you become is very good at shooting very bad”. There are several techniques being taught, but you rarely see two athletes shoot exactly the same, ever. We are all built differently. We call that Bio-mechanics. Shooting, like your body, is an individual thing. How you shoot, is uniquely yours. However, you must have a technique. That is, a method of shooting a basketball to be replicated and duplicated over and over again. This builds muscle memory.
Get up heaps of reps. Scorers put themselves into game situations in training and work to get up repetitive shots at game intensity. They duplicate the same moves over and over. Assessing how they can improve on the move and building consistency. They rely on their own feedback and the feedback of others. But in game feedback provides the greatest learning experience. And that is the next secret. Every game is still a training session. I say to athletes I work with, ‘every game is a training session until you make it to the NBA, and then it is still a training session.” A lot of athletes are working on shots to take in a game, but never go into the game and have a go at what they did in their training.
Scorers know to build an arsenal of offensive weapons they need to be scoring multiple ways. And they work on those weapons in game. Building this arsenal makes them hard to guard. The harder to guard means less predictable and versatile. This means harder to read therefore to defend.
Game like shots at game intensity
Ever watched a scorer work out? They tend to exert effort at a game like pace. When they first start to practise a new move (technique) they may slow and break down its execution. They mentally map the repetitive movement required to execute the skill. Then they increase it to a speed suitable for in game situations. It is this game like pace and intensity which results in impulsive reaction while playing.
And here in lies another scorer’s secret. Want to achieve something? Break it down into minor success. Scorers know, long term success is built by process. Scorers work on moves until they get them, always improving. For them, execution means efficiency. Just a side note, I saw a title to a video recently and I loved it – “20 years to overnight success”. The most successful people know, you have to work hard and grind your way to the top.
Practice contested shots.
Shooting open shots is one thing, shooting contested is another. Most athletes put up reps in the gym, but this is only a small part of the scoring equation. Putting up thousands of shots, helps build muscle memory, but not all basketball players build situational memory (i.e. game like experience). The best scorers practice game like shots under pressure with defenders. Analytics has shown a person shooting the ball in a game is 70% more likely to miss the shot if it is contested. Those odds would effect any player’s shooting percentage. Shooters prepare themselves for getting up heaps of shots.
Scorers prepare themselves for game situations. But there is something else which is part of the secret too, and that is shooting with purpose. Scorers set targets in training and try to achieve them, and once they achieve them, move the goal posts. For them it is about never settling for where they are. They possess a growth mindset, they can always be better, and need to measure success and improvement every step of the way.
Here I need to place a slight disclaimer. Analytics have provided empirical data on shot selection to suggest what is a good shot and what is considered a bad shot in today’s game. Data shows points in the paint and points on the perimeter are better options resulting in more points per possession. But let’s face it, all shots are there for the taking and most scorers are not going to give up an open shot anywhere on the court. (For more on Painfully Ill-advised Shots check out this article – PISS Poor Shot Selection)
It’s all in the elbow
What makes this one special is commonality. The one thing the most popular shot techniques taught have in common, is a straight elbow. The elbow is like a hinge on a door, it can only go one way. Consensus seems to be, the elbow must be under the ball and in a direct line with the rim. How and where the elbow finishes usually determines the arc and accuracy of the shot. Pro shot teaches ‘sweep and sway’ to add arc, while other techniques teach elbow above eyebrows. And herein is the final secret. A straight shot with a good arc has the most chance of going in. Check out: Cues for Better Basketball
Here is what analytics show regarding arc:
“Success favours a fairly high arch…. The hoop is 18 inches in diameter, and the men’s ball is about 9.5 inches wide (women’s about 9.2). So, if the men’s ball were thrown straight down from above — that is, at an angle of 90 degrees to the horizontal hoop rim, as in the classic Michael Jordan airborne dunk — there would be 4.25 inches of free space all around, a comfy margin.
But as the angle decreases and approaches the horizontal, the free space for a “nothing but net” shot gets much smaller. At 55 degrees, it’s about 2.5 inches. At 45 degrees, it’s down to 1.5 inches. And at 30 degrees, it’s basically impossible to get the ball straight into the basket, even with a full scholarship and more tattoos than a Hell’s Angels convention.”
I am sure there are other secrets, and some of these may have been known to you, or maybe you have some secrets to shooting success of your own. But whatever you do, don’t keep them secret too much longer share them in the comments below and help others on their journey to success.
Not everyone on a team can be a scorer, but everyone can improve the consistency at which they score. Preparation, having a technique, practicing at game intensity, with purpose in game like situations all add to increased success. One last word for those who work hard on game like contested shots in the gym. TRUST YOUR TRAINING!
Article written by Coach Rowe
Ozswoosh Academy Principal