Whose “Fundamentals” Are They Anyway? (A New Look at the Fundamentals of Basketball Shooting)

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What are the so-called “Fundamentals” of shooting? This reflection was triggered in late 2005 by viewing some of my collection of shooting videos, DVD’s and CD’s, including some new ones I recently got. (I thought to update it as of a year later, with some new insights.)

Though there is some consistency of thought, I find a lot of differences, too. And some of the things that many of these people agree on are totally contrary to what I’ve discovered in my own exploration of shooting. (If you’ve read my stuff for awhile, you know what I’m talking about.)

That the Fundamentals can be viewed so differently by different people shows how mixed up things are. Since shooting is at such a low ebb, I think we have to look at everything we considered sacred and be open to different points of view.


The Dictionary defines the word “Fundamental” to mean: “… of or forming a foundation, a basis; basic; essential; a principle theory, a law.” So it means things that are essential, things that form a foundation, in this case for putting a basketball into a basket. It’s the things that need to be understood and learned in order for a skill like shooting to have a strong foundation for success.

The general areas of the Fundamentals I see are:

– GRIP — your physical connection with the ball

– STANCE & POWER — how you position your feet and body and how you generate power

– VISION — how you see and relate visually to the target

– SETTING THE BALL, THE SET POINT — how the ball is brought to the Set Point, and the alignment and positioning of the arm, hand and ball before the final releasing action

– THE RELEASE, ARCH AND SPIN — how the ball gets to the basket

– THE FOLLOW THROUGH — how the shot can finish for a powerful connection to the target


Here’s a quick summary of the Fundamentals as described by other players and coaches.


… Some say the ball should be held by the finger pads of the strong hand only, not touching the palm at all.

… Some say the ball is held by the fingers and rests on the upper part of the palm.

… All agree the ball should on the finger pads, not the finger tips, and not be touching the base of the palm — that there should be a “gap” there.

… Some say the first finger should be in line with the valve stem, other say to straddle the valve with the first and second fingers.

… Some say the middle finger should be the last one to touch the ball as it leaves the hand

… Some say both of the first two fingers are last to touch the ball

… Some say it’s the first finger alone

… Basically everyone these days says the weak hand should be on the side of the ball, though one fine NBA player actually has it almost on the top of the ball. It’s how his dad taught him, he says.


… Most say you should “Square Up,” meaning the feet are pointing at the target (either parallel to each other or with the weak foot staggered back, the weak foot can turn, some say) and the shoulders should square to a line to the basket.

… I’ve even seen some great NBA shooters say, in their videos, to “Square Up,” but in actuality they don’t when they, themselves, shoot. It’s such a “given,” everyone seems to think they have to say it. Often on TV, I’ll see a shot made by a player stepping into an open stance and the commentator says “He squared up that time!” I guess just because it went in they think the stance “must” have been squared up.

… Many say that the shot should be taken at the “Top of the Jump,” though some say you should shoot “On the Way Up.”

… One of the best 3-pt shooters of all time has a video out now that stresses squaring up and the B-E-E-F Method, though I don’t think that’s how he shot when he played. By stressing the elbow part of that (elbow under the ball), his stroke finishes with his hand moving abruptly to the side, which is not an effective finish to a shot. Though I couldn’t see the spin his shots had in the video, I’ll bet he’s now getting side spin because of that outward motion.


There’s a lot of variety here.

… Some say look at the back rim, some the front rim.

… A few say to focus on one of the hooks yalla shoot  that hold the net.

… Some say focus on the whole rim, some say focus on the “middle” of the basket, one said focus “over the front rim.”

… Most say to keep your focus on the basket when you shoot, though at least one suggests you watch the ball as it leaves the hand and flies to the basket.


There isn’t much talk about setting of the ball, the movement of the ball from where you start or catch it up to the Set Point.

… A couple said to bring it up in a straight line with the forearm vertical, called the “shot line” by one.

… As to the Set Point, most people stress that it should be above the eyes and they then talk about the elbow and the angle of the arm, etc. This neglects all the kids under about 14-15 who are not strong enough to have a Set Point above the eyes.

… Also, many are obsessed with the elbow, saying it should be “under the ball,” or “directly under the ball,” or “tucked in.”

… A major new DVD on shooting by a top NBA player says, in the little booklet that accompanies it, to “Keep your elbow in,” but the demonstrators in the video, both NBA stars, do NOT tuck it in. Their elbows are out to the side about 7-10 inches.

… Several said the elbow should be pointing at the target.


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