(Editor’s note: Marvin “Automatic” Johnson is a former University of New Mexico basketball star who now serves as camp director for Southwest Basketball Camps. This article is part of series of articles Marvin wrote, offering tips to young players.)
Last time, we covered the fundamentals of shooting the set shot. The fundamentals of shooting free throws are the same as the set shot, so let’s take a moment to review the basic points of shooting.
Remember, if you’re left-handed, do the opposite.
- Right foot should be pointed at the basket.
- Left-foot should be about six inches behind the right foot.
- Feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Knees should be bent.
- Right hand should be directly behind the ball, with fingers spread.
- Left hand hould be on the side of the ball.
- Keep the ball on your fingertips.
- Look between both arms at the back or front of the rim.
- Shoot the ball with an arch, like a rainbow.
- Snap your wrist so your fingers end up pointing toward the floor.
Now to specifics about free-throw shooting:
Once the official gives you the ball, you have 10 seconds to shoot. That’s a long time, so take your time. If you’re on the line and the official tries to give you the ball, do you have to take it? No, you don’t. You see, you have complete control. The 10 seconds start after you accept the ball from the official.
Once you accept the ball from the official, you should have what is called a free-throw routine. You might bounce the ball on the floor one time and shoot it. Not “this time I’ll bounce it one time, the next time I’ll bounce it twice.” That’s not good. You should have the same routine every time you shoot a free throw.
You might bounce the basketball three times, spin it in your hands, take a deep breath, then shoot. Just find a routine that feels comfortable to you. This will greatly improve your concentration and help you mentally filter out all other distraction.
Concentration and focus on the task at hand is an important part of free-throw shooting. To be a good shooter, you must get your mind involved.
To prove that point, consider a study that was done that had to do with free-throw shooting and being mentally focused.
In the study, two groups were formed of players with the same skill level. Group A shot free throws for 30 minutes per day for a four-day period. Group B went to a quiet room and visualized they were shooting free throws for 30 minutes per day over the same four days.
On the fifth day, the two groups had a free-throw shooting competition. The group that imagined they were shooting free throws beat the group that actually shot free throws.
To get your mind more involved in shooting, imagine yourself shooting the ball perfectly over and over again. Along with actual practice, you will develop a good shot.