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To Be a Great Shooter, You Need To Be a Straight Shooter

When talking to players who are having problems making their shots, I often ask, “How do you miss?” I need information and I also need to understand if the player thoroughly understands his/her shot.

Most do not. Accurate shooting is all about finding out how a player is missing and then fixing that area. Follow basic basketball Shooting tips and improve your game.Be a Straight Shooter

It’s similar to a doctor. When you go to the doctor, normally he/she will ask, “What seems to be ailing you?” In other words, “What is wrong?” If I ask a player, “What direction are you missing?” and he/she doesn’t know I will say, “When you find out, let me know.

Then we can start.” Coaches need to study each player’s shot and understand how each player is missing. In short, there are four ways a player can miss–Short, Long, Left, and Right.

Today we will focus on how to fix side misses.


Bad shooters miss to the side. It’s that simple. Watch a poor shooter that struggles with accuracy and you will notice he/she misses to the left and right CONSTANTLY.

I have a saying that I use in all my camps: “To be a great shooter, you must be a straight shooter.”

I have never seen a great shooter that constantly misses to the right or left side AND I probably never will.

Side misses are EASILY the worst way a player can miss. Why? Because the shooter will rarely make it if the ball hits the side of the rim first.

While a player will get bounces when missing a long shot, rarely will he or she make it when it bounces off from the side.

If you want your players to become better shooters, let’s focus on making them become “straight shooters.”


I see thousands upon thousands of bad follow-throughs each year. I have seen all types of shooting follow-throughs from Hook ’em Horns, to Hang Loose (The Hawaii greeting) to the High Five, and finally to the Arthritic Grape Fruit Squeezer.

If you have followed my basketball champs blog, I am fond of the one down, three up release also called “The Finger.” I learned about this a decade ago by attending a Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples Center and watching Kobe Bryant use it in warmups and the game.

Kobe of course “borrowed” the finger from Michael Jordan The index finger is the straightest and strongest finger.

Whichever finger(s) on the follow-through that is down the most is the finger(s) that dominates the shot. Teaching the index finger to players is simple and will get your players a straighter shot.

The premise of the finger is simple: where the finger goes, the ball goes. If the finger goes to the left or right of the target, the player will make it 1% of the time.

If the player puts the finger above the rim and through the rim, the player will make it 50-70% (depending on the ability level) of the time.

If the ball rotates off the ring finger or the pinkie, the ball will travel to the side every time. This can occur either by using Kobe’s finger or using the “cookie jar” method (four fingers down).

In other words, a player will miss to the sides often if the ball fails to rotate off the index finger.


If you keep your index finger straight, the shot will be straight. Players miss to the side quite often because the index finger will pull to the side. I am amazed at players who don’t understand this concept.Basketball RELEASE TO THE SIDE

Recently I had a player from London ask me on Facebook, “Coach, I keep missing to the right of the rim because my finger (release) is pulling to the right.

What should I do?’ Instantly I wrote back, “You put the finger through the rim.” “But Coach, how do I do that?” He asked.

“You put your finger above the rim and through it.” For some people, this is hard to understand and yet it is so simple.

I love the acronym KISS which stands for: Keep It Simple Stupid. I have recently adapted the KISS theory to now stand for “Keep It Straight Stupid.”


Young, inexperienced, and the worst shooters are prone to having their arms pulled to the side when shooting. Usually, when this occurs the player not only misses by inches but sometimes my feet.

It is imperative that a player not only keeps his or her finger and wrist straight but his arm as well. When a player pulls the arm to the side, he or she has a zero chance of making it unless that player is shooting in a tornado.

In other words, a player MUST keep the arm straight to the basket if he/she wishes to be a straight shooter.


Accurate shooting starts with straight shooting. If your players can’t shoot straight, they basically can’t shoot. Think about the 100% of shots that your players miss.

What percent do they miss to the side? Ray Allen will miss 1-2% to the side. Great shooters will miss less than 5%.

Good shooters will average 10% and average shooters will miss 20% of their shots to the sides. Anything more than 20% is simply unacceptable.

Lastly, PLEASE don’t scream to your players, “Make it!” I hear horror stories about coaches doing this daily.

Focus less on the makes and more on players shooting the right way. Make sure your players shoot straight and you will see a great increase in your shooting percentages.

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