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Five Basketball Myths about the Jump Shot
by Brian McCormick, CSCS, M.S.S.

Shooting gets more complicated every year; not the actual shooting, but the over-analysis and information saturating the marketplace. Through working with dozens of players and listening to the instruction they have received, I have compiled my five biggest myths in shooting a basketball.

  1. Bend your knees. Sure, a shooter must start in an athletic position; however, anytime a shooter misses short, the coach screams "bend your knees." More often than not, the degree of knee bend is not the problem. Most of the time, the way the athlete bends or the explosiveness of the extension in the shot is the problem. I work with a player who used to bend his knees more and more as his coach told him, but he did not bend correctly, so every time he bent further down, he was more and more off-balanced and thus missed the shot short. Shooters do not need to bend their knees so their thigh is parallel to the ground; instead, they need to bend back and down, creating better balance, and then explode up as part of their shot. It is the balance and rapid extension many players lack, not the knee bend.
  2. Finish with your "hand in the cookie jar." When I was young, coaches always said to finish your shot with your hand in the cookie jar. However, this is unnecessary; when players visualize the "hand in the cookie jar," they close their hand with fingers together, as though grabbing a cookie. Instead, players should keep their hand open and relaxed through the whole shot, which imparts more force on the ball and keeps the ball directed at the target better.
  3. Let the ball roll off the fingers. When the ball "rolls off the fingers," it exits the hand weakly. Instead, shoot your hand all the way through the ball. When the ball leaves the hand, the hand should be pushing up and through the ball to exert more force on the ball.
  4. Shoot at the top of the jump. When athletes shoot at the top of the jump, they actually waste the energy created by the jump. Rather than imparting the energy and force into the shot, they shoot with the upper body and push the ball. A shot taken at the top of the jump is like stepping onto a step and shooting without bending your legs or jumping. Shooting at the top of the jump simply means shooting from a higher release point; however, it also means shooting entirely with the upper body. When close to the basket, this is advantageous, as the height of the release is more important than the force. However, when shooting an outside jump shot, the power is more important than the height of the release; therefore, shoot "early in the jump" or "on the way up" to maximize the force generated and imparted onto the flight of the ball.
  5. Put your middle finger in the center of the ball. It seems logical to put your middle finger in the middle of the ball. However, centering your index finger helps with the alignment of the ball, hand and elbow. The proper alignment increases the ease of shooting straight through the ball as opposed to shooting with some unnecessary movement.

These are five quick myths that undermine athletes shooting. Instead, start in a balanced position and explode with the lower body, shooting early in the jump; also, center the index finger on the ball and shoot all the way through the ball, keeping fingers relaxed and open throughout the shot. These simple changes will increase a player’s accuracy.

McCormick is the performance coach for TrainforHoops.com and the author of Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development available at www.lulu.com/brianmccormick.

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