***This post is the second of a series discussing the importance of shooting and developing a good shot. Read Part I explaining shooting’s value in modern basketball.
The legs: shooting’s most important body part.
Hard to believe, I know. But it’s true.
Most think a shot’s strength and accuracy comes from the upper body: “The further from the hoop I am, the harder I have to push the shot with my arms and hands.”
Think of your shooting motion like driving a car. Your arms and hands – as we will discuss in a later post – are simply there to steer the vehicle. They create the backspin and decide the direction of the basketball. Like steering, your arms move in a controlled and constant way. Little force is involved – unless you’re Mr. Bean.
Your legs – your butt, your quadriceps, and your hamstrings – are the engine of the car. Their power gives a shooter balance and explosiveness – the same way an engine keeps a car driving fast and straight. Your legs determine how far or high the basketball travels after your release.
Legs and Balance
Balance is vital to a shooter’s accuracy and agility. It keeps their body square to the hoop. It allows players to pump fake and play-make when defenders lunge at them or to absorb contact when attacking the lane. Balance also keeps a shooter’s mechanics consistent in difficult situations like leaping in traffic, fading away, or launching a long three-pointer.
Balance comes from establishing a low centre of gravity.
Try standing straight up, feet together, and flat-footed. Now, have someone push you lightly. You’ll probably stumble.
Try again. This time with your knees flexed, feet hip-width apart, and you leaning slightly forward on the balls of your feet like you are a quarter-way to sitting down. It takes a lot more force to rock you.
You are hard to move because more of your body’s weight is lower to the ground limiting the effect of the push’s force.
The lower your shooting stance, the more balanced and ready you will be to shoot.
Look at Golden State Warrior, Klay Thompson’s, shooting stance:
- Klay stands about hip-width apart.
- His strong foot (the foot on his shooting hand side) is slightly ahead (1-3 inches) of his weak foot. Note: As we will discuss in later articles, your strong foot, strong knee, shooting elbow, and shooting wrist should all align.
- Klay stands slightly forward, putting his weight on the pads/balls of his feet (not flat, but like he is on his way to standing on his toes).
- He flexes his legs and lowers his bum like he is about to sit in a chair. Note: Klay is very strong, so he does not need to lower his legs as much. To get more balance and strength and shoot at further distances you can go lower. Like the Portland Trailblazer’s Damian Lillard does below:
Good spot-up shooters are in their shooting stance before they get a pass. Jump-shooters attacking off the dribble, attack low so they can elevate into their shot on a dime.
Legs and Explosiveness
Explosiveness gives your shot its power and strength determining the height, distance, and quickness of a shot. The more explosive a shooter is, the faster their shot and the further they can be from the hoop. This enables players to shoot off the dribble in traffic and to catch-and-shoot under pressure.
Conversely, a slow shot lets the defender cheat; a weaker shot requires shooting closer to the hoop. In both situations, you limit spacing and make it harder for you and your teammates to attack and play-make.
If you look at some of the best shooters of all-time – Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Steph Curry, Kyle Korver – they are not the most athletic players on the court, but their explosiveness – the speed and strength of their shooting motion – make them a threat at every range.
Explosiveness comes strictly from the legs. This is why good shooters are ALWAYS low and at the ready.
Again, lets look at Klay Thompson’s shot, this time in-game:
- Klay catches the ball with his legs already flexed. Note: Klay knows he will need the strength of his legs to get this shot off quickly and from this far of a distance.
- He rises from a low position (he does not waste time lowering down for more strength).
- Klay releases the ball at the height of his jump with his legs straight. Note: Klay’s legs are straight because all of his power has transferred from the bottom of his body to the top of his release.
- He lands almost two feet ahead of where he jumped. Note: Klay’s momentum of his shot carries him forward.
Have a look at Klay Thompson’s entire shooting tutorial and watch some of his in-game highlights to see his shot in action. You will see that wherever he is on the court (moving or still) he is always ready to shoot.
Practicing Your Shot with Your Legs
Shooting is all about getting up lots of shots with the proper form.
To start, shoot close to the hoop. Players often make the mistake of practicing three-pointers and other difficult shots before establishing good mechanics.
Keep it simple and practice intelligently.
Single-Hand Shot Drill (see the drill here):
- Take the basketball and stand two feet from the hoop.
- Hold the ball in one hand.
- Look at your feet and watch your legs as you lower and rise to shoot (does it look similar to Klay Thompson’s stance?).
- Shoot until you make five swishes (no rim) in a row.
- Take one step further back. Repeat. Note: If you find yourself losing your form, step back in. If you need more stability, bring your guide hand (your weak hand) back to the ball.
- Track how many shots it took for you to get five swishes at each spot.
- Next time, beat that score and increase your distance.
Over time, your legs will become more and more comfortable with shooting from a low position at different spots on the floor.
A basketball shot is a complicated process. It requires movement from your entire body and is not easy to perfect.
Strong legs will start you off in the right direction.