Catch and Release: How to Shoot a Basketball

See how basketball players progress from airballs to buckets with these fundamentals of good form.


Whether you’re a basketball fan or a basketball player, watching the pros make it rain probably inspires you to get outside and start shooting hoops. It probably also makes you wonder how they can be so accurate when they’re sinking shots from all over the court.

Sure, they have practiced for years. But where did they start? The basics of how to grip and release a basketball impact every shot, no matter how complicated it looks. Mastering the fundamentals will improve your game and give you a solid foundation for personalizing your technique.


Baseline Factors

Before you study technique, you should keep a few shooting basics in mind. They might seem obvious, but they are the foundation on which to build your skills. These are:

  • Shoot Straight

    • This basic rule gets the ball where you want it to go. It’s easy to forget in the heat of a game, but developing a technique for releasing the ball to fly in a straight line will immediately improve your accuracy.

  • Develop Your Arc

    • A swish is hugely satisfying and happens when the ball is above the backboard at the shot's highest point. The ball must drop into the net from above, so make sure you give it some height. Even if you don’t get a swish, the ball is more likely to drop into the basket from a high arc.
  • Cultivate Economy of Motion

    • By keeping your movements simple, you’ll improve your accuracy and your scoring. Square your body, grip the ball, raise it straight, release it, and follow through.

By keeping these factors in your head as you learn proper technique, you’ll quickly develop and improve your scoring ability.


Hand Placement

From grip to release, good form makes the difference between an airball and a basket. Starting with your hand in the correct place on the ball paves the way to a better shot no matter what your style is.

The air pump is in the middle of the ball, so use that as your reference. Your index fingertip, middle fingertip, or the space between them is where you should position your dominant hand. Keep this hand either on top or behind the ball closest to you. Allowing your hand to move forward on the ball adds extra rotation to your release, adds unnecessary movement, and leads to lower accuracy.

Next, position your other hand on the side of the ball as a guide. Your hands' positions should be about 90 degrees away from each other on the ball, with the dominant hand’s fingers pointing directly toward the basket.


Hand Placement Drill

Adam Taylor, from Taylored Intensity in Chicago, has extensive experience working for and with great NBA players and coaches. He performs player analysis and technique development training and employs his vast knowledge to help even the best players improve their game.

This drill will help your grip form become second nature so that you can concentrate on improving other areas of your game.

  • First, drop the ball as if it were a dribble in front of you.
  • Next, catch the ball with your dominant hand and elbow in the center of and directly behind the ball.
  • At the same time, place your non-dominant hand on the side of the ball.
  • Next, shoot the ball with your dominant hand.
  • Alternate with your non-dominant hand by dribbling a single bounce and returning the ball to your shot pocket and then shooting.
In this video, Adam shows off his perfect form by demonstrating his grip drill:


Shooting Form

In 2017, two accomplished college athletes, Charles George, and DeMarko Nash began a Chicago-based training company for players of all experience levels called ZTO Basketball Elite. These two instructors help build the players’ character alongside their sports skills and elevate them physically and mentally.

Charles George is a skill development specialist at their lab and has created a training video to demonstrate shooting form. This drill works whether you are on the court or at home, and here are the steps:

  • Align your body with either a basketball hoop or something that you can imagine is a basketball hoop.
  • Place your feet either hip- or shoulder-width apart, whichever is more comfortable.
  • Hold the ball from underneath and extend your arm straight in front of you.
  • Bend your knees and lower your body.
  • Bring your hand with the ball back toward your body and align your elbow under the ball. You can also align it with your hip.
  • Elevate into your shooting position and focus on your release follow-through. Your fingers dictate where the ball goes.
Watch Charles perform this drill in this video:



Each step from precise finger placement to full-body balance works together to give your shooting the power and accuracy to elevate your game. By following each step and remembering the basics, you’ll improve your capability, whether you are a casual player or a professional. Using this information from the pros will allow you to increase your productivity on the court and boost your confidence as a team player.


For more tips on improving your game, follow @tayloredintensity and @zto_elite on IG (and make sure you're following @wilsonbasketball while you're at it).

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