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Although I am a huge fan of basketball, at 5'9" and with a vertical jump of a penguin, I'm not necessarily a "menace" on the court. However, I have managed to alter that stigma recently, thanks to a much-improved jump shot. In fact, if it wasn't for my jump shot, I probably wouldn't be able to stay on the court. Now that people have to play up on my shot, I can make up for my lack of athleticism/handles. When you're not the tallest person on the court, having a solid jump shot is a gamechanger.
However, it wasn't an easy road to get where I am now. I used to have, arguably, the worst basketball shooting form of all time, due largely in part to the bad habits I developed from years of not knowing what the hell I was doing. There were several different techniques I used to become a reliable shooter—some of which were common-sense, others, not so much. So if there's anyone to teach you how to improve your jump shot, it's me. Because, let's face it—you can't be much worse than I was.
Now, I'm basically Steph.
Get in a proper stance.
Whether you're building a skyscraper or fixing your broken shot, keep in mind, everything starts with a base. When perfecting your jump shot, make sure you keep a solid stance. To maintain the perfect basketball stance, face the basket, keep your legs shoulder width apart with your knees bent and fluid. From there, you'll be able to achieve maximum flexibility for your shot.
Hand placement is key.
Correct hand placement is the key to get this whole process moving forward. You're going to want to cradle the ball with the fingertips of your shooting hand, with your hand right in front of your face. Your off-hand should be on the side of the ball, but more towards the front of it than the back. This is, essentially, just a way to secure the ball before releasing, as you do most of the work with your strong hand. Regardless, hand placement of both hands is pertinent to shooting an accurate jumper.
Keep your elbows locked in.
This step is one that I had trouble with for most of my basketball "career"—keeping your elbows locked in. When you're shooting, you basically have to treat the ball like a catapult. In order to achieve maximum accuracy, the elbow of your shooting arm must be tucked in and stable. In an effort to fix my shot, I began using a Spalding Smart Shot during shootaround, which helped develop ideal elbow shooting position at a 90-degree angle. After a while, I just naturally began to mimic this movement, which directly correlated with my shot improving. It was definitely some of the best basketball shooting equipment I've come across.
Focus on the ball.
Another common mistake made by both young players and veteran sharpshooters in the midst of a shooting slump, is an acute focus on the rim, as opposed to the ball itself. The ri isn't going anywhere, you don't need to stare at it the entire time like the cameras do in the basketball movies.
For great shooting form, make sure you eye up the rim ahead of time and shift the focus to the ball. Once you have a feel for where the hoop is, you can go ahead and sling away, but just make sure your eyes are following the path of the ball the whole time. You'd be surprised how much of a difference this actually makes on your shot.
Well, they don't call it a jump shot for nothing. Unless you're a huge fan of the antiquated set-shot, jumping is imperative to the overall effectiveness of your shot. The higher you jump, essentially, the more contested shots you'll end up sinking. It's also just important from an overall accuracy standpoint.
When jumping, however, make sure you're not doing anything flashy—just go straight up and straight down. This directly correlates, obviously, with your vertical—something I admittedly struggle with. Despite my athletic limitations, I was, however, able to improve my vertical after using a resistance jump trainer like the one above. When I was fatigued, there would be times when I couldn't get off the ground at all, making most of my shots fall short. After using this thing for a few months, I was able to nip that problem at the bud. When you're learning how to improve your jump shot, there's no way to get around some heavy training.
Release at the top of your jump.
Now, for the release. This is just as important as every other step, you want to be mindful of when you actually shoot the ball.
This is relatively simple, but often times messed up. Make sure you actually release the ball at the top of your jump, as opposed to on the way down when all of your momentum is going towards the ground. This will make for a far more accurate—and consistent—jump shot going forward. If you have a hard time feeling your highest point, practice the shot until you can easily identify the moment when you're at the very top of your jump.
Follow through on your shots.
The follow through is arguably the most important aspect of perfecting your jump shot. Don't simply flick the balls out of your hands and call it a day—make sure you're following through completely. Hold your follow-through until the ball hits its target, in order to get off a clean, accurate jump shot. This is probably a good way to skyrocket up your varsity league shooting guard rankings. Well, unless of course, you're a stretch four.
Have the right gear.
When you're working on your jump shot, both on the court and in practice, have the right equipment. Having a good pair of shoes will keep you comfortable through long hours of training. Footwork is vital for your jump shot, so have the right gear to be able to perform your best. You're going to be exerting your legs and putting more pressure on your ankles than usual, so be ready for that.
You've got to practice—a lot.
When it all comes down to it, however, the biggest impact you can make in fixing your shot form is simply through intense practicing. Starting with some of the best exercises for basketball players is a good jumping off point, but repetition is the real name of the game here.
So whether you're participating in some basic shooting drills, practicing your free throws, or simply just shooting around, breaking those innate bad habits can only come courtesy of putting in the work. Also, make it a point to practice at different paces to keep yourself challenged. Practicing at a rapid speed works when you're newly learning the skill, but once you've got the basics down, try different practice the moves at different speeds as well.
Learning how to improve your jump shot is far from rocket science, but it will require hard work, dedication, and a lot of practice. Those, my friends, are facts.