Basketball Skills: Improving Your Three-Point Shooting

The three-point shot is one of the deadliest weapons in basketball. This article gives you tips on how to work on your long-range game.

The three-point shot is one of the most exciting and dangerous weapons in basketball. A good long-range shooter can wreak havoc on opposing teams by stretching the defense away from the basket, opening up the lane for drives and passes to the post. Moreover, a three-point gunner is always a threat, no matter where that player is on the court. And, of course, three points is always better than two. Developing a consistent three-point shot will go a long way to improving your game, raising your scoring average, and helping your team win more ball games.

A good jump shot involves a number of different factors, so simply standing behind the three-point line practicing long-range bombs is not going to be as effective as improving the individual components of what goes into the entire process (although, of course, practice is crucial). A jump shot involves jumping ability, hand and arm strength, accuracy, and form.

One often overlooked way to improve your three-point shot is to work on your leg strength. Remember, most of the power and momentum for your shot is derived from the legs; stronger legs means you can shoot from further out with more control. Not only that, but strong leaping ability will enable you to rise above your defender and get a clean look at the basket. Improving your leaping ability does not necessarily mean extensive weight training, although weight training can help. Instead, try one of the many programs designed to improve your vertical leap. These often involve plyometric or isometric exercises, wind sprints, and simple jumping exercises you can do anywhere without special equipment. Some companies even make special basketball shoes designed to strengthen the fast-twitch muscle fibers that control your jumping ability. Of course, before embarking on any of these programs, you should consult a trainer or physician.

Another key to a successful three-point shot is hand and arm strength. This doesn't mean you have to be a body-builder or be able to crush walnuts in your fist to be able to shoot long-range, but control and distance of a shot is largely determined by the hand and wrist. Simple exercises such as squeezing a tennis ball while watching television will help build strength; practicing shooting from long distances will also accomplish this.

Obviously, accuracy is the most important part of a three-point shot. The best way to improve your accuracy is through practice - just like playing an instrument or riding a bike, enough practice will train your body to shoot threes on its own. A good drill is to mark nine spots around the three point line, about twenty degrees apart. Take ten shots from each spot, and then move to the next station. Set yourself a goal - say, making at least half of your shots - and then keep working your way through the stations until you hit that goal. Then set another goal, and start over. The important thing is to keep practicing. If you're not shooting well, and are getting frustrated, keep practicing. If you're tired, keep practicing. If you get bored, keep practicing. There's really no way to get around this.

Another way to improve your accuracy is to practice with an oversized basketball. These balls are slightly larger than regulation basketballs, but made of the same material and of the same weight. The idea is that if you can get a bigger ball into the hoop, a smaller ball will be that much easier. Remember, though, it is important to get a ball that is the same weight and of the same material as a regulation ball - if you don't, a game ball is going to seem overly light and strange in your hands. Other tricks for improving your accuracy include shooting with your eyes closed (it seems silly, but doing this can develop court-sense in addition to shooting ability, and will help shooting with a defender's hand in your face), and picking one spot on the rim or backboard to aim for every time you shoot. Most good shooters aim for the front or back of the rim every time - it doesn't really matter what spot you pick as long as you consistently aim for that spot.

Finally, good form will go a long way toward making you a three-point marksman. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart and your shoulders squared to the basket as you prepare to shoot; make sure to release the ball at the pinnacle of your leap to get the maximum benefit from your legs and to shoot in one fluid motion. The ball should roll off your fingertips, and describe a rainbow as it arcs toward the hoop. A line drive shot or a shot that arches too high has a much less likely chance of getting a friendly bounce on the rim, and is far more difficult to control. Although when you are first learning how to shoot, proper form is preferable, human bodies are all unique, which means that not everybody feels comfortable shooting the way you're "supposed to." Some of the great three-point shooters in the history of the NBA, such as Larry Bird, had unusual deliveries that worked splendidly. The best idea is to begin with a traditional shot, and then tweak it as seems comfortable for you. Your teammates and opponents aren't going to care what you look like as long as you keep making shots.

So get a basketball, head down to the playground and, practice, practice, practice. Before you know it, everyone will want the "shooter" on their team.

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