Basketball Shooting Instruction Nobody Gave You

Suggestions for improving your basketball shot. Not the usual kind of coaching, but you'll find it's the way of the great shooters.

Let me ask you some questions, and then I'll respond. First remember that shooting is at a low ebb in this country, and we need to question all the coaching out there, including mine!

Do you Square Up? If you do and are not taking a two-handed shot, that's your first mistake! The best shooters do not Square their bodies to the target; they have an Open Stance! Check it out. An open stance is more natural and athletic, plus alignment with the eye and target is easier the more open you are, and it's more powerful because the body energy can drive the ball upward and forward, not just up. It's like a boxer stands to throw jabs, open, jab arm forward. Try it and see how such a stance is strong and stable.

SET POINT (where the Release starts from): 
Is the center of the ball in line with your eye, your ear, your shoulder, nose, other eye? For greatest shooting it's best aligned with the shooting eye. Then you know where the target is and you can fire off your Release exactly on line. Direction is thus not as much a challenge.

As you bring the ball up to the Set Point, is the center of the ball in line with eye and basket a long time, or is it so aligned only at the last moment, or not at all? If the latter, accuracy is compromised.

Is there a flow (a one-piece action) from the setting to the release that helps you with accuracy, or are you hesitating before shooting (breaking the flow) or bringing the ball up off line?

How would you describe your release action: throw, flip, push, or catapult? Most people these days flip the ball, and I feel this is one of the main reasons no one can shoot any more. I recommend an upward pushing action with relaxed wrist and hand with a solid, connected Follow Through. That's what our greatest shooters are doing. It defines them. Mediocre shooters throw or flip the ball, thus adding variables that are hard to control.

When you release the ball, is your arm action going to full extension at the same speed every time, or is the speed inconsistent or is the arm stopping short (called "short-arming") or moving around or pulling back quickly? Great shooters go to the "end of their arm" with full extension every time at the same approx. speed and thus have reliability and predictability.

What kind of spin are you putting on the ball? Is it pure backspin, or is there some sidespin creeping in? Maybe it's a dead ball, or all sidespin. If it's not medium backspin, you will know you are messing things up with the wrist, hand or fingers. A "push and flop," as I recommend, will give you beautiful medium backspin every time.

What do you do to control distance? Do you vary the Release? Or change leg action or the timing of when you release the ball? Or do you vary the angle or arch? I recommend the latter, because with a release action that's the same speed and force every time, your only decision in the moment of Release is the angle, the trajectory. That's an instinctive decision, not a thinking process. Shooting becomes less complicated.


I've been researching and writing about shooting for over 20 years. Almost every shooting coach I'm aware of (and regular coaches who attempt to teach shooting) teaches ~4-5 things that are not effective. Somehow in our history, coaches started teaching and demanding things that are not effective, not how our bodies are made. One of these is the first thing out of their mouths... SQUARE UP!

Squaring Up is appropriate... for two-handed shooting!!! It's not appropriate for the one-handed shot of today! But coaches still say it. (A few have told me they mean "Face Up," not "Square Up," and an open stance is implied.)

The only line (make it a plane) that matters is the one from your eye through the hand and ball to the basket. If that's achieved, direction is controlled and easy. If not, direction will always be a challenge.

Some of the other "Myths" of shooting I see include these:

o Flip your wrist

No, flipping puts control into small muscles.

Rather, use a pushing action with relaxed wrist and hand, and the benefit you get is a simple, effective and repeatable shot.

o Elbow under the ball

No, that prohibits the hand position from aligning on target.

Instead, focus on the hand, centering it on the eye-target line (and the elbow has to be out a bit to do that).

o Shoot at the top of the jump

Only if you are elevating over someone. It's a great weapon if you can do it, but it's extremely difficult, as all you have left for power are the smaller muscles of arm, wrist, hand & fingers. Much easier and more effective is shooting "on the way up!"

o Reach your hand in the Cookie Jar

No, if you have such an action, the wrist is engaged. Thus you would be flipping the wrist.

If wrist and hand are relaxed, they'll hang down a bit but not be in a forced, downward position. One sign of a great shooter is the hand flopping in the Follow Through.

o The arm should form an "L" at the Set Point

No, that applies only to those strong enough to have ball above the eyes, near top of the head.

Younger kids have to have the ball below the eyes, where the arm forms a "V," not an "L."

Stronger players who have the ball above the head a couple inches or more have an extended "L," not a true "L."

o Cock the wrist and hand back such that there's a reverse "C" formed

No, that encourages, even requires that you "un-cock" it as you release the ball, thus engaging those small muscles which are hard to control and repeat. Backspin is interfered with.

Instead, just let the hand fall back to approx. 50-75 degrees from vertical, from where you can push the ball upward and forward without engaging the "flippy" muscles.

Every one of the answers given above are what our greatest shooters do/did naturally: Chris Mullin, Steve Kerr, Diana Taurasi, Steve Nash, Sue Bird, even older "shooters" like George Gervin and Detlef Schrempf, and more recently, Stephen Curry, to name a few. My guess is that these players, as for me in my high school days, were self-taught. We didn't have coaches harping on us to square up, flip the wrist, etc., etc., so we developed naturally to what works best. And we all found the same stuff, as will you with this simple coaching.


I say this in all my clinics. Don't believe me! But also don't dis-believe me! Check everything out with your own experience! That will tell you if it's true or not. Not many people check out the myths; they just keep thinking they're the truth and keep performing or teaching the same way... and the result is what you see: poor shooting everywhere!

The answers are very simple, and they lead to a way of shooting anyone can do well with Free Throws, Jumpers, Set Shots and 3's, even runners and floaters. The elevated, athletic shots we see the more gifted players perform take more strength and coordination, and the best they get to is streaky shooting.

Scour my website for the articles, testimonials, video clips, etc., that support what I say. You CAN do this. Commit to it and keep things simple and you'll become the best shooter on your block/team!

Tom Nordland, shooting coach

Tom Nordland is a shooting expert and coach from California via Minnesota. His videos, coaching and writings are inspiring a Renaissance in shooting around the world as players and coaches are taught the things that really matter (and really "work") in shooting. His "Swish" and "Swish 2" are top-rated videos, and he's now working on "Swish 3," to be on Free Throws.

A great shooter as a youth, Tom was given a gift of seeing shooting like few have ever seen it. He sees the "essence" of great shooting and how to get there. The good news is that it's very simple. The few great shooters of today and yesterday mastered simple things, not complicated motions. Improved shooting is now possible for everybody in the game, and mastery is available to those who sincerely dedicate themselves to it. Visit Tom's website ( to read of his background and his articles and newsletters, and to view the remarkable endorsements and amazing testimonials for this approach to shooting. His videos and video clips show students of all ages shooting "lights out" with this approach, not just the coach. The videos come with a full, unconditional money-back guarantee. Order them and great shooting CAN be yours!