Shooting Fundamentals

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Shooting Form

"BEEF" Acronym


Balance is one of the most important elements to a shot. Not only is this important form your upper body shooting form but also that you are centered with your weight and momentum evenly distributed. We will discuss balance of momentum in more detail in the Footwork section. The ball should be:

  • Resting on the fingertips, not on the palm.
  • On the catch the player should learn to feel for the seams in the basketball. Having the fingertips in the seams helps to have a nice backspin rotation on the shot.
  • The shooting hand should be loose as the shot will be powered with the lower body and directed with the upper body.


A player's eyes should be trained on the basket at all times. Losing focus can be one of the biggest difficulties in making or missing a shot. For example, we often tell free throw shooters to not lose focus on the rim as they go through their free throw routine.


The shooter's elbow should be straight and in the center of the body. Often times inexperienced players will assume that they need to power the strength of their shot with their arm and this is not the case. The power of the shot comes from the legs and base while the form comes from balance and correct form in the upper body. Centering the elbow becomes difficult when the players shot level is too low. The ball should rest on the fingertips just above the shooter's line of vision.

For example, a player should never be missing a free throw left or right. If they are it means they are shooting with improper form. A great drill to work on this from day to day at all levels is Form Shooting.


The shot should be released with the fingertips following through providing a backspin on the shot. If the shot has a side or whirling rotation that is often a sign of improper shooting form. Some players over time learn to catch the ball and slide their fingertips into the seams of the ball as they are gathering it into the shooting pocket to provide the most potential for backspin.

Shooting off the Dribble vs Off the Pass

The difference between shooting off a pass versus off the dribble has a lot to do with the momentum and direction a player is moving. A player moving without the basketball has freedom of movement and the ability to square to the basket while a player who has the possession of the basketball is limited in ways by the focus on control of the ball.

A player shooting off the pass is repeating a motion that they have performed over and over again. Muscle memory is absolutely a factor as repetition allows a player to shoot the basketball out of instinct instead of having to go through a process of what they should be doing mentally. This is most notable in the case of a player being more wide open and they expected causing them to notice that and lose the instinctual motion of shooting. The player over-thinks the shot and ends up missing it due to being taken out of their natural repetitive rhythm.

Shooting off the dribble presents more challenges as the momentum of taking the dribble in a certain direction often causes a player to have a lack of balance. A player may practice a shot at a spot on the court off the pass thousands of times but a shot taken off the dribble has an infinite amount of variables that can be difficult to duplicate.

Becoming a better shooter off the dribble

While the footwork and balance of being a spot up shooter can be consistent no matter what your placement on the court, shooting off the dribble is a different matter. In order to be a quality shooter off the dribble it will take time to gain a comfort level through repetition of motion. There are examples of players who naturally have a balanced shot where they can shoot with comfort at any time or place but this is very rare.

The following are some examples of learning how to shoot off the dribble via drill training:

  • Rip through, one dribble and a jump shot.
  • Dribble push, crossover and jump shot.
  • Attacking the lane off the dribble, pull up, jump shot.
  • Ball Fake, one dribble, pull up for the jump shot.

These are just examples of an a large quantity of situations where a player can shoot off the dribble. If a player can become proficient at making (for example) a ball fake, going by the defender through a strong one dribble penetration, and pulling up for the open jump shot it will become a move that they can utilize through muscle memory in a game situation. No matter what the move, shooting off the dribble requires that a player establish a balanced position before elevating for the shot.


Having Active Feet

When discussing shooting footwork with players it's important to discuss staying active on the court particularly when coming to the person possessing the basketball. A player who makes a flash to an open spot on the floor with hands ready and open in the shooting pocket may not be seen or the player with the ball may not have an immediate open lane to get the ball to the open man. In this case it's helpful to take several rapid steps in place to continue to pace of foot movement and have a quick transition into stepping into an open shot.

Even for a Spot Shooter it's important to have feet ready to step into the shot. One preferred quality of a good shooter is someone who continuously finds the open spot on the floor through constant movement. It's also true however that a shooter who stays put on the weak side of the court helps to stretch the defense and also provides an avenue to swing or skip the ball.

Stepping into the Shot

One of the most significant components that is often overlooked when it comes to shooting is stepping in to take a balanced, squared shot with the footwork ready prior to actually receiving the pass or beginning to enter the shot motion off the dribble. Often problems with a player's shot will come due to a lack of balance when in motion. A player can walk into the gym every day, shoot 1000 shots, and have a great percentage in practice. The difficulty comes in replicating the movement and pace of releasing a shot in a game situation where the angle and trajectory of a player's movement is unpredictable. Learning to practice and utilize the same footwork techniques in repetition will prevent a lack of balance when shooting and help to lessen the decay of form from fatigue over the course of a game.

Footwork off the Dribble

Shooting off the dribble almost always comes as a result of using the dribble to move to an open space on the floor. This open space is created either through a lack of defensive awareness of the space or through a movement that has allowed the offensive player to unbalance their defender.

One of the biggest issues that comes up which is often unnoticed when discussing shooting off the dribble is the fact that players will often see open space in front of them as a sign that they should attack. An open shot at 12 feet is better than a contested shot at 6 feet. Using the dribble to create a shot should move a player from contested space into open space or from outside their shooting range to a more reasonable shot as their skill level allows.

Footwork off the Pass

Off the Pass, Moving to the Ball
Off the Pass, Moving away from the Ball

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