Basketball Shooting Mechanics

Watching an elite basketball shooter work is like witnessing poetry in motion. These basketball marvels execute the maneuver so fluidly and gracefully that it doesn’t seem far-fetched to believe they were born with a basketball in hand. But make no mistake: Great shooters aren’t born, they’re made.

But what does it take to consistently knock down the big shot? The answer may be surprising. Becoming a great shooter doesn’t require height, speed, or even a killer vertical. The one thing all elite shooters have in common is a solid grasp of proper shooting mechanics.

This guide outlines basic shooting mechanics for a basketball set shot. Examining the motion in terms of its basic components highlights the significance of each.

From the Bottom Up

Beginners and veterans alike often overlook the importance of footwork and balance when shooting, but developing proper shooting mechanics begins with the feet.

To establish a strong and balanced base, position your feet shoulder-width apart with the dominant foot placed slightly in front. Additionally, your knees should be slightly bent. A solid foundation allows the shooter to generate power with the legs instead of having to rely solely on the upper body. Relying on your legs as the primary power source allows you to avoid fatigue and helps with consistency.

The Anatomy of the Shot

If the legs are the engine that drives the shot, the arms are the mechanism responsible for steering. When a player’s shot is off the mark, more often than not, the reason can be traced to a flaw in the upper body shooting mechanics. Here is a breakdown of the most important parts of the shooting motion:

Hand Positioning

A player’s hand position has a significant effect on the end result. Therefore, flawless technique is a must. The shooter’s dominant hand does the majority of the work, so it should be positioned directly in the center of the ball. The other hand is used only to balance the ball. Many coaches refer to the non-shooting hand as the “bookend” to better illustrate its position and function.

Hot Tip: The Off Hand

When first learning how to shoot, it is helpful to allow the off-hand to fall to the side during the shooting motion in order to train the body not to rely on it.


The shooter doesn’t so much hold the ball as cradle it. The ball rests on the pads of the fingers, never touching the palm. The fingers should be spread far enough apart to get good coverage on the ball. The greatest amount of space should be between the index and the middle finger. These are the two most important fingers when shooting as they determine the direction of the shot and help to create backspin.

Elbow Position

The elbow should be positioned directly underneath the hand and pointed straight towards the basket. Allowing the elbow to drift out of alignment, even slightly, will significantly affect your accuracy. This tends to be the most common mechanical flaw among beginning shooters.

Bringing it All Together

Now that you’re highly versed in basketball shooting mechanics, it’s time to put your knowledge to work. Using the methods outlined above may feel awkward at first but you’ll be a shooting machine if you stick with it. You won’t be dreaming about knocking down the game winner, you’ll be doing it!

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