The gym is packed, standing room only, and they’re all here to see you. You hear the whispers, but can’t make out what the crowd is saying. “Is he going for 40 tonight,” they ask. “How many threes do you think he’ll hit tonight, over 10 again?,” they question. “There’s just no way to stop a guy who has unlimited range and supreme confidence. The other team doesn’t stand a chance,” they boast. What if that was the pre-game conversation when people came to watch you play? It can be with hard work, skill development, and the proper mindset. Start by implementing these 6 tips and tricks and let the pre-game whispers begin.

1) The 90-90 Rule

This is step one and the easiest yet most often overlooked aspect of a player’s shot. While it may be taken for granted, there’s an opportunity to perfect this and gain an advantage. The 90-90 rule is referencing the upper half of your shot and encourages you to keep your elbow and wrist bent at 90 degrees. When your elbow is bent more than 90 it often causes players to push the ball and not shoot with a fluid motion. If your wrist isn’t bent to 90, it will be difficult to keep the ball in place without having your guide hand on the ball. It’s simple but most people miss this first step. You want to shoot the same way every single time and having this rule will help you to do so.


2) A Strong Foundation

You wouldn’t build a beautiful home on a weak foundation because no matter how beautiful it is, it won’t last. The home will eventually fall apart because the foundation wasn’t strong enough to withstand external forces and would collapse. This is the same with your shot. The 90-90 Rule is the start but if you don’t build your feet, legs, and hips, then you’ll never shoot the lights out. 75% of shooting comes from the waist down, so the key here is to know what your lower half needs to do in order to be successful. Shooting starts with your feet and you want all of the power that you generate from your strong base to transfer from your feet, to your knees, to your hips, to your core, to your shoulder and elbow, and into your wrist flick, creating a strong follow through. Your feet need to be quick, light, and stable. Your legs need to be strong, explosive, and balanced. Your hips need to be flexible, aligned, and powerful. Lining up your toe, knee, and hip towards your target will dramatically improve your shooting percentage. You want to develop this while doing stationary shooting and making sure your lower half is lined up EVERY TIME. Once you transition into on the move shooting, the room for error increases because you’re increasing the variables. It’s important to master catch and shoot first, then work on off the dribble, pin down, and flare screen shooting.


3) Dominant Eye

Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but they are also the tool used to lock in on your target. You want to identify which eye is dominant. Typically, left handed people are left eye dominant and right handed people are right eye dominant. What matters for you as a lights out shooter is your ability to see the target. If your form is such that the ball or your elbow or wrist is blocking your vision, then you need to adjust your form to maximize your dominant eye. There are a few schools of thought on where to look when shooting, but I’ll help to clear it up. When shooting a bank shot, look at the location on the back board that you need to hit in order to sink the shot. When shooting all other shots, you want to look at the front of the rim. Some people teach to look at the back of the rim but that has never made sense to me because often times you can’t see it, and it doesn’t give you an advantage. (Note that you NEVER want to “aim” when shooting. You want to look and let it fly). Locking in on the front of the rim with your dominant eye tells your brain where your shot is going and will dramatically increase your ability to make shots. Be sure not to look at the ball after your release, keep your eyes locked on the rim.


4) Long or Short… Never Left or Right.

This might be one of the oldest sayings in shooting instruction history but this may be your first time hearing this. You could have also heard this thousands of times but be sure to take in what I’m saying because you might be able to apply it in a whole new way. You can adjust when you miss a shot by either putting more legs aka power into your shot if the previous shot was short, or you can take a bit off by not flicking your wrist as strongly. What is nearly impossible to consistently adjust is when your shot is missing left and right AND long and short. You have too many variables to correct during practice or a game that you won’t be able to make the adjustments necessary to start knocking down shots. The idea is to limit the variables and to only miss long or short. This way, mid practice or mid game, you can see that you’ve missed 2 shots short, so you need more legs and a bit stronger wrist flick on your shot. You’ll now be able to assess your shot and make adjustments immediately because ultimately, you’re the one shooting, not your coach. Give yourself the ability to make immediate corrections by only missing long or short and adjusting from there. Limit the variables, make the adjustments, and make more shots.     


5) Elbow Pump… Follow Through

If you’ve ever been a private client of mine or in a shooting clinic with us, you will hear this over and over again. Why? I call it the shooters mantra. It’s something you can repeat and say over and over again… every time you shoot. Your elbow is like the piston in an engine that fires in order for the engine to produce power. If you have no clue what a piston is, be sure to search youtube so you can understand the analogy. Your elbow goes straight up and down, lifting it with your shoulder, and finishing with a strong follow through. Shooting is all about rhythm, being present, and not overthinking. When you’re focused on the present moment, you let everything else go and get into what’s called a flow state. You’re flowing and in rhythm and able to knock down shots. At the end of the day, simplicity wins, so keep it simple by knowing that your shot comes down to a strong elbow pump and follow through.  


6) Focus, Elevate, Release

Your ability to block out the noise around you and focus on your target is directly related to your potential as a shooter. The more you learn to focus and “lock in” the better you’re going to be. Focus, elevate, release is another mantra that you can think or even say out loud while training. Elevate means to jump as high as you can, making your shot harder to block as well as improving your power and range. The release causes you to follow through and it also encourages you to become present and let go of the outcome, knowing that once the ball leaves your hand, it’s either going in or it isn’t. The release not only reminds you to follow through, but also releases you from the make or miss. Legendary shooters don’t respond to makes or misses because that takes them out of flow and out of the present moment. Focus, elevate, and release to maximize your shooting ability and to be a player that can move on to the next play quickly.


Now that you know the tips and tricks, you have every advantage and have the ability to become a phenomenal shooter. In order to transform your shot, you’ve got to be hungry and diligent. Never settle! Even when you become the best shooter… in every gym! 😉

Stay relentless. Play the optimum way.


Article by Brandon Cochran

Co-Founder Optimum Basketball


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