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“Shooting Homework: Watch the NBA Three-Point Shooting Contest!”

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 15, 2007

SteveKerr in the NBA Three-Point ContestOne way to improve your basketball skills, and in this case, your basketball shooting skills, is to watch what the great players do and how they do it. The NBA All-Star weekend and game have nothing to do with basketball, far as I can tell, save the piling-on promotional aspect, except, EXCEPT the Three-Point Shooting Contest. There the players have to shoot the ball (under pressure, time pressure) like you have to shoot the ball in a game. Well, in a game, I guess you don’t have a rack right next to you and you do have a little more time after each shot to do something like follow-through, but the participants still have to employ good fundamentals to have success. Those fundamentals are what you as a player who wants to improve your shot should look for.

After grabbing the ball off the rack, does the player do anything to achieve good balance? Balance being critical; you can’t be leaning left, you can’t be leaning right. Is there a small one-two step? A tiny hop to adjust feet? How do they get the ball to their “shot pocket”? That spot that aligns elbow under hand, hand under ball? Do some players have the left (or off) elbow up higher than others? Do all the players have elbow-in, or are some getting away with it out? Is the head still on release? Where is the release point? In front of the middle of the head? Out to the side more? (Two-eyed shooter?) How about the extension of the shooting arm? Does it go straight out to 180 degrees? Just less? What about the follow-through? Is it consistent among all the shooters? What is the off-hand doing, and the off-arm? Does that off-hand flick out? (Bird, Kerr, Szczerbiak.) Or does it stay stone still, left hand fingers pointing straight up after the release?

Shooters can shoot the ball different ways and have success. The key is to find the common elements among all great shooters and try to incorporate those elements into who you are as a shooter and into what your shot is already like.

Now, I gotta go buy one of those racks, actually five of them, right? Five red, white and blue balls, too. (The other twenty are in the back of the station wagon). Get ready for next year.

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7 Responses to ““Shooting Homework: Watch the NBA Three-Point Shooting Contest!””

  1. Dan Ziminski said

    I will watch closely. One thing I’ve always wondered… Is there a proper hand position on the ball when setting up to shoot? I would think that having the proper grip would be very important, yet I rarely hear it mentioned.

    The advice I have heard is conflicting. First I heard the thumbs should point to form a “V” on the ball in the shot pocket. But I’ve also heard your thumbs should form a T (with the left thumb being the top of the T).


  2. The “T” is what I’ve always taught and heard taught. (The first person I heard say that was Bruce Webster, 600+ wins at University of Bridgeport, home of Manute Bol, among others.) As you say, the left thumb (for a righthanded shooter) forming the top of the “T”. One of the things that accomplishes is getting the left elbow up which, in turn, brings your right elbow more in and under the ball.


  3. John Klein said

    I hope Shawn Marion’s not entered in the 3 point contest.


  4. John Klein said

    Viewed from behind it looked like Jason Kapono had a John Stockton off the shoulder shotput thing going on. It didn’t look like that from the front, though. If I could have the jumper of any of the contestants it would be Kapono’s, and not just because he won. I think his compact stature most resembles that of the average adult recreational player. In other words, he’s not a 7 footer like Nowitski who seems like he has a more casual (slower) release that he can get away with because he’s tall. And God bless Nowitski for having the shot he does because as a big guy, his shot could just as easily look more like Bill Laimbeer’s. If I was putting together a shot a la carte from the players last night, I would take the footwork of Kapono and the high finish of Nowitski. The hop Kapono does reminds me of a shooting drill from the elbow we used to do at the NTL practice sessions in NY. In a real game, I suppose the 2 foot landing gives him more flexibility to use either foot as his pivot foot if he ends up shot faking and driving.


  5. Dan Ziminski said

    A couple thoughts from the 3 point contest:

    Mike Miller had the purest technique in my opinion. He shot a two-eye shot with his shooting arm and elbow clear of his vision. His left elbow came up high to keep his right elbow directly under the ball. His left hand stayed put while his shooting arm snapped out. He held a perfect follow through after. Poetry in motion. This is how we should all shoot.

    Every other shooter (except Terry) seemed to shoot a one-eye shot, where their shooting elbow and arm came in slightly in front of them.

    Damon Jones has a similar shot to Mike Miller, although he has a one-eye shot. He also uses his arm strength more for his shot with a small jump. I think thats why he started fast and finished missing.

    Kapono had a hitch in his shot where he brought the ball from his left to his right on the way up. He finished with his left hand flicking out, Wally Szczerbiak style. Strange motion, but obviously it works for him. His follow through was very nice.

    Dirk also has his left hand flick out on his shot and shoots a one-eye shot, with his shooting elbow in. He also turns his body into the shot instead of staying square.

    Gilbert Arenas has great form, but his release seems to be palmy, instead of shooting with the index and middle fingers. His left hand stays still (Indiana style) on the release. His set up is great, with his left elbow high to keep his right arm square. His shot (except for the release) reminds me of yours Steve. He shoots a one-eye shot with lots of legs for power. Thats probably why his range starts from half court in. I loved his one-handed shooting at the end.

    Jason Terry shoots a two eye shot, but his right elbow drifts out a little and his release is very high, over his head. Not a good showing for him.


  6. I was a fan of Kapono’s, too. When a good shooter shoots well, his/her shot looks good. Even recreational shooter’s shots that go in come from a form that looks better. I have fed balls, lots and lots of basketballs, to shooters in drills and it becomes easy to develop the ability to just look at the shooter, not even look at the flight of the ball, and predict whether the ball is going in. That’s also a reason we liked Kapono. I, too, really, really liked his little set-up, readjustment hop. In individual shooting lessons I give, I try, on the second or third warm-up drill we do, from just beyond the foul line, to get the shooter to do just that. In addition to all the requirements of form, shooting a basketball is feel, and the “feel”ing begins with the feet.

    It was interesting, too, how some of the shooters had the ball rack on their left side and others on the right. It shows their preference for shooting off the left hand dribble or shooting off the right hand dribble (a fact that is always noted in scouting reports).

    Nowitski and Terry were the least appealing to me. I think if those same six players did that contest over and over again, the others, Arenas, Miller and Jones, would all win their fair share. When you lose rhythm at some point in a one-minute drill, it’s very hard to get it back before time is up.


  7. jim v said

    disappointing that ray allen wasn’t in the 3-point contest. watching him shoot is akin to watching a thoroughbred run, or a hawk fly – effortless, as if millions of years of evolution have been leading to that sweet smooth stroke. steve nash also has nice form but not on the ray allen level. anyway, my take on some of the contestants;

    arenas – liked his strong base and squared up shoulders, plus his entire body seemed perfectly still as he rose up and released.

    terry – not a big fan. seemed to be shooting at a point high up in the air, rather than the hoop

    nowitzki – not as smooth or square as arenas, seemed to have a bit more extraneous motion in the shot. but who can argue with the results?

    miller – all i could think of while he shot was “god, i wish he played for phoenix. he could get a dozen wide open jumpers a night.”

    kapono – again, squared up, smooth and with a little off hand help for the ball. i wonder if his little hop gets him into trouble in games. or does he hop before the ball gets there….


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