Before I start I would like to let everyone know that this is NOT a comprehensive guide and nor am I a professional shooting coach/anything of the like. I can't guarantee you'll see the same results I did but I can guarantee one thing: You will improve your shooting if you read this entire thing and apply it to your next shooting session.
My story is an extreme case. Last summer the people I played with would back off me and let me take jumpers all day. I was that guy which the other team's captain would yell to his team, "Let him shoot!" and that really, really pissed me off.
Yesterday I played with the same people for the first time in a long time. I had an absolute scoring tear. Making mid-range jumpers and long 2s like it was nothing. Contested shots, uncontested. Swish. The dude guarding me just looked at me and shook his head, "How the hell?..." I was playing like Carmelo Anthony on those special shooting nights. So how did this transformation occur? I'll tell you.
Shooting is all about form. You're a bad shooter? 99% chance you have at least one flaw in your form that's holding you back. One little adjustment might just be the only thing holding you back. But probably it's a combination of two or three.
Adjustments I made to actually start making shots consistently for the first time in my life --
Release. It should be off your fingers, and ultimately off of your index finger. The ball should not touch your palm when you shoot. Releasing off of your index finger not only helps your arc but also improves accuracy and provides backspin.
Arc. Arc. Arc. You're not shooting directly at the basket. You're shooting at an imaginary ring that makes its way into the basket. Studies have shown a 45% angle is optimal, but hell if you're going to measure that out. Also, don't have too much arc or you won't be able to control the distance of your shot.
Follow through. Hold. It's crucial for muscle memory. Your wrist should always be snapped down after every shot and held until it goes in. Remember, hand in the cookie jar.
Your elbow shouldn't stick out too much. A little bit is in fact very normal, don't let anyone lull you into thinking it has to be completely inward. However if it sticks out too much that's a detriment to a straight shot.
Stop thinking about your shot during the game. That's for practice, not in the game. Think you need to make an adjustment? No. Stop. You're thinking and thinking ruins everything. Focus. Concentration is everything. Once you've committed to the act of shooting block out everything else besides the ball and the basket.
Look at the rim before you shoot. Even if it's for a split second, knowing where the rim is will greatly improve your accuracy. Always know where you are standing relative to the rim so if you get the ball you can just raise up and shoot.
Visualization is everything. You have to see the ball go from your wrist into the basket. Some people like to look at the back of the rim and it works for them. I personally like to look at the whole thing but that's just me.
Jump. Elevate. I can't stress this enough. So many players don't jump for their "jumpers" and end up missing or getting blocked.
Shoot on your way up Your shot should be one motion that comes together. Don't jump and shoot at the top of the apex, you're making it difficult on yourself. It's best to shoot at least one inch before the apex. That way you also give the defender less time to block your shot.
Be consistent. Every shot should be the same. You should land at the exact same place you started as well.
CONFIDENCE. You have to be an ultra-confident shooter at ALL TIMES. No excuses. Missed your last ten shots? Who gives a shit, that next one is damn well going in and you know it. You've done too much practice, the shots have to fall one time or another. That next shot is going to in.
Stop fearing failure. Too many basketball players try to think about the worst possible scenario, e.g. missing all their shots in a game or missing a game winning shot. Stop trying to play for others and play for yourself. In life you either succeed or you learn. There is no failure. Make the shot? Awesome. Miss it? Who cares. This is very, very important. The best shooters are very relaxed and just straight up focus on the basket. A "no-***** given" mentality is key to disassociating yourself from your misses. Leave the emotions for Improv class.
Shoot before games. All the greats did it. Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant/Ray Allen all shoot around 3 hours before the game. This is extremely important. For pick-up games I recommend 50 makes at least.
Stretch before and after games. Most people won't do it because they think they don't need to or because it's "not cool." Don't be like them, they're losers who are going to wake up the next day in bed feeling sore in every area of the body whereas you'll be up in the gym at 6AM getting buckets.
Get a shooting buddy. You need an outside perspective on your form and release. Take turns rebounding the ball for each other (~20 minute sessions each) and keep shooting.
Practice different in-game shooting situations. Off the dribble. Coming off screens. Pull up. Pivoting in both directions.
Create a shooting mantra. A three-word phrase listing everything you need to do. Repeat it to yourself five times after every miss and before every shot. Examples include "Line up, raise, flick" or "Jump, arc, finger." It all depends on your weaknesses.
Practice shooting with one hand, just your shooting hand. Once you can make your shots with that hand then add your other hand back in to guide your shot and protect the ball.
Practice, practice, and practice some more. Not only will you build muscle memory but work ethic builds confidence, removes fear. Never stop improving your form, improving your release, getting better mentally. Keep getting feedback and apply as needed. Don't overthink it.
Shooting success is based off of 3 things: Form, practice, and mental toughness. Master that trifecta and you're on your way to torching your local court like you were playing at Madison Square Garden.
I'd like to leave you all with this message: Not everyone can become a great basketball player. But anyone, with proper attention to form and a disciplined approach to practice, can become a great shooter.
Don't stop shooting my friends. Let it fly.