Basketball Fundamentals: The Basics
By: Mike Meister
Basketball is a game that anybody can play. It can be practiced alone or played with others and all you need is a ball and a basket. While anybody can play, playing with proper fundamentals takes some work and practice. However, the results of that work lead to being a better player and having more fun.
Most players love to shoot, but shooting correctly is one of the most unnatural movements in sports. If you watch any basketball anywhere, from a youth game to a pick-up game to a professional game, you can see that there are many different ways that players shoot the ball. The biggest key to shooting, or any skill, is repetition. With enough repetition any type of shot has a chance to go in and this is what most players see. That if the ball goes in, they must be shooting well enough. However, shooting correctly will lead to much greater consistency and much better shooting. There are different methods to teach shooting form as well, but here I will explain the steps that I teach that improve shooting ability with great success.
- Start off with your feet even and your weight balanced. Be squared up to the rim. It is more common to be taught to have one foot slightly forward, but the straighter your entire body is, the more consistent you will be.
- Bend your knees and keep your body low. If your legs control your power, it is easier for your arms to do the same thing every time.
- While learning to shoot, place your index finger on the pump valve and spread your other fingers wide. You want to have your index finger straight down the middle of the ball while your thumb and pinky finger are in line with each other. If you have big hands, your thumb and pinky finger would be along one of the seams. If you turn your wrist so your palms are facing you, you can tell if your thumb and pinky finger are straight, even with smaller hands that don’t reach the seams. Keeping your fingers wide gives you more control over the ball.
- Once your fingers are lined up, bend your wrist back so you see the wrinkles in your skin. Then make sure that the ball is off your palm. The ball should sit on your finger pads and there should be space between the ball and your palm.
- With the ball in place, lift it up so that your elbow is bent and your arm forms an “L” and your wrist will be bent backward so that you can see wrinkles in your skin. You want to make sure that your index finger, elbow, shoulder, and foot are all in line and facing the same direction. Your elbow should be directly under the middle of the ball.
- Your off hand should be softly on the side of the ball. Both hands make a “T” this way, where the thumb supporting the ball would fit into the groove at the base of your palm on your off hand. This hand is just a support and a guide, but does not rotate or push the ball.
- Before shooting, it is important to aim at a target. Again, different targets are commonly taught. The typical targets are the front of the rim, the back of the rim, and the middle of the rim. Aiming for the front typically leads to shooting short, while the back leads to shooting long. Players will hit where they are aiming. It is also hard to aim for a spot that you can’t actually eye. I recommend aiming for a spot about 2 inches above the rim. This is a spot with nothing there, but is a point that you can still eye.
- To shoot, aim for the spot above the rim and don’t take your eyes off of it. Shoot as high as you can by extending your legs to jump while also extending your shooting arm as high as you can.
- The last part of your shot is your follow through. This is done right as your wrist gets to the highest point of your reach. For a proper follow through, snap your wrist forward as if you are trying to touch your forearm with your index finger. Remember, this is not actually possible. While you snap, keep your fingers wide (think of a surfer “Shaka sign” greeting hand signal). The ball should release off your index finger last, and when your index finger snaps forward, the other fingers will follow. Hold your follow through high above your head, with your off hand still in the same spot as it was when you were supporting the ball. Avoid moving your off hand away from the ball as it will cause you to turn.
- A note for your off hand follow through. You can keep it in front of your face, where it started, it can go up with your shooting hand and snap forward, or it can push into your shooting arm after the release. These depend on what is comfortable and helps keep your shot straight. In all three cases, your off hand never rotates. Your palm is always facing the same direction it was when supporting the ball.
Keys to consistency:
- Focus and Aim.
- Start low and jump as high as you can.
- Snap your wrist and keep your fingers wide.
- Hold your follow through until the ball hits the floor.
- If you shoot short, use more legs.
- If you shoot long, snap your wrist more and/or release the ball higher.
Mike Meister, Founder of Thunder Sports Institute in Phoenix, AZ has coached many players and teams from the youth recreation level up to the professional level across the United States, has been involved in running leagues, and has coached with Lindsay Strothers, Howie Landa, and Mary Hauser.