A free throw shot is the second easiest shot that you will ever get in a basketball game, after a wide open layup. Despite it’s simplicity, so many people struggle with making their free throws. Whether you are a beginner and you’re just developing your shot, or you’re a bit more intermediate and just looking for some extra tips to get a higher percentage, below you will find 6 steps to become a better free throw shooter.
1. Use Good Shooting Mechanics
A simple, but classic and effective acronym to remember is B.E.E.F. This stands for Balance, Eyes, Elbow ,and Follow Through. These are 4 aspects that you can focus on to help improve your shot mechanics. Make sure that you are balanced when you take your shot; have a good center of gravity, bend your knees, and don’t lean in any direction when you shoot. Your eyes should be focused in the direction of the rim. It doesn’t really matter whether its the front, or the back or the middle – find what works for you and stick with it. Have the elbow of your shooting arm cocked at about a 90 degree angle, and have it directly beneath the ball. Lastly, the follow through is probably the most important part of any shot. Extend your arm fully, at an angle so your shooting arm’s elbow ends up a few inches above your eyes. Flick your wrist, as well, to create good backspin on the ball. It doesn’t matter as much which finger(s) it rolls off of last though (ie. Index finger, middle finger, both fingers, or 4 fingers down). Just like before, figure out what works for you, and stick with it.
2. Master Your Technique
Now that you have a few basic concepts to focus on when shooting your free throws, its time to create that muscle memory. When you step up to the free throw line, you should have a set routine that you do every time – try to keep it simple though. To create the muscle memory to master your technique, it will take lots and lots of repetition. Film yourself shooting free throws and analyze your shot. Compare how you shoot to how NBA players and any other high level basketball players you know of shoot, and keep working until you get a good looking shot down.
*I just want to make a note right here. You should film as much of your training and your game play as you can. It’s an extremely effective way to improve, because you really have no idea what you look like until you see footage of yourself. You have 24 hours in a day, and you should only be training for a few hours max. So how do you spend the rest of the day? Stretch, eat & drink healthy, and STUDY THE GAME. Study how you play, and study how professionals play.
3. Realistic Practice
Shooting 100+ shots in a row for repetitions is great to do when you’re first developing your shot, or if you’re having a non-intense workout that day. But other than that, you NEED to be practicing realistic repetitions. In a game, you never shoot free throws while you’re 100% fresh. There’s a good chance when you go up to the free throw line that you’re going to be at least a little winded. Also, you’re never going to shoot more than 3 at a time, and most of the time you will only be shooting 1 or 2.
Realistic practice would involve you doing some sort of high intensity drill (ie. a set of Suicides), and as soon as you complete that drill step up to the free throw line and shoot 2 shots. Don’t sacrifice your form just because your’e tired – it will take extra concentration on your part. Integrate this into every single drill you do, by shooting 2 free throws after each set, and you will definitely start noticing an improvement with your in game free throw shooting.
4. Swish To Sign Out
This is something that Stephen Curry did when he was younger that has helped him become such an elite shooter today. At the end of every workout, Steph would not leave the court until he had swished 5 free throws in a row. No rim, no backboard – it only counted if it was all net. Now starting out, swishing 5 free throws in a row is going to be a little advanced (if you don’t believe me try it out for yourself), so what you can do is start out by swishing 1 or 2 or 3 in a row, depending on your skill level. From there, work yourself up to hitting 5 swishes in a row before leaving the gym.
5. Take Your Muscle Memory To Another Level
One thing that Michael Jordan did when practicing his free throws, was practice them with his eyes closed. His logic behind it was that your free throw should be the exact same every time you shoot it, so once you’ve lined yourself up for the shot, you don’t need your eyes – your body should know the exact movement it takes to score your free throw. So if you think you’re already a pretty good free throw shooter, take your muscle memory to another level and practice shooting them with your eyes closed
One thing that an Olympian had once told me was to close your eyes and visualize yourself making 100 free throws every single night before you go to sleep. The concept of visualization has actually been proven before by an Australian Psychologist named Alan Richardson. He held an experiment that took a group of basketball players, divided them into 3 groups and tested each player’s ability to make free throws.
Group 1 practiced free throws 20 minutes every day. Group 2 would only visualize themselves making free throws, but no actual practicing took place. Group 3 didn’t practice or visualize.
The results? There was significant improvement on the group that only visualized; almost as good as the players who actually practiced.
So add visualizing free throws into your daily routine!
These are 6 Steps To Become A Better Free Throw Shooter. When it comes down to it, a free throw shot is an extremely simple shot, and the second easiest to make in the game of basketball (next to an open layup). So don’t overthink it, just shoot and score. Keep it simple. Hopefully you can implement some of the tips above into your training to help you take your free throw shooting to the next level.