You have all heard the expression “super touch”, referring to a player who made a basket with multiple bounces on the rim or such an analogy. That’s really a sarcastic remark, because the innuendo is that the shooter planned it that way, but it was really a lucky shot or a series of lucky bounces etc. I want to elaborate on the “shot feel” and possibly shed new light on this aspect of shooting. You might know by now that I don’t give much credit to the importance of the feet in the shot other than bending the knees 6 inches and the feet should be shoulder width apart. I also don’t think there is a huge factor in whether the dominant foot is slightly in front of the other or perfectly square or directly below the shoulders.
We’ve all known this since before the “fishing basket” era. Since I’ve been doing shooting clinics, I don’t remember anyone telling me that the last thing they think about when the ball is released from their shooting hand is which part of the hand is dominating the touch and feel of the ball. By this I mean that players are just not aware of the importance of the correlation between the fingers and the release of the ball. Of course, I would say most players are completely oblivious to the placement of the hand or the alignment of the grip on the ball. I’m referring specifically to the free throw here where a player has time to do it, but when you watch players on TV pick up their rebounds or their so-called repertoire or routine before a free kick, you’ll be amazed at how little players even watch the ball and ensure the correct alignment of the hands on the ball before shooting. Go ahead, I challenge you to look and see if I’m right. Either way, it’s really important. That’s when he gets to the heart of the matter.
Since I just don’t believe you can rely on natural human makeup to be a great shooter, I think our natural makeup isn’t perfect enough to shoot a basketball or engineered precision. As a human entity, we are created perfect, but when it involves external activities, everything becomes subjective. We need the help of scientific and physical criteria to help the imperfect anatomical structure. The reason I know this is because I fit into this box myself. No matter how hard I tried to be a great shooter when I started out, I was never able to hit the efficiency numbers I do later in life because I learned to shoot mentally and physically. and not just physically.
The shooting begins in the brain. It is a question of spirit over matter. Treat on the product. Beginning before the end. Alpha before omega. You see the picture. It’s a fact that a high percentage of players think about taking the shot rather than focusing on the ever-important mechanics upon release. Now this is where the rubber meets the road. When we shoot the regular inflated ball, ask yourself what are you doing at the time of release. Why do you think most other players are different. They are not. Overall, we weren’t trained from a shooter’s point of view. We were trained from a coach’s point of view. And how many coaches were there shooters in college, or let me rephrase that. How many were great shooters in college or in the pro ranks. Not a lot. You see the gap we have to deal with.
You will notice the time I spend isolating the individual fingers and their involvement in the shooting process. Well I know that when I start teaching my methods and secrets a lot of players struggle to make that adjustment by shifting their thinking process from the basket to themselves. It’s a total reversal of what they’re used to. Some make an easy transition, but with others it takes longer and that’s understandable. One of the key, if not the primary, factor involved in shooting is hitting the forehand. And what guarantees the blow to go straight? The index does.
There is a really different feeling of shooting a flat ball and a fully inflated ball. It is difficult to explain. You just need to try it. If you are a player who has trouble connecting a sensation of the brain to the ball through your fingertips, you must try shooting with a flat ball. This is the sensation you will feel, or should feel. It is a natural tendency that when shooting a bullet, the shooting wrist tends to wiggle or at least to swing to the side. It is the combined weight of the middle and ring fingers that typically causes the sway. When shooting a flat ball, you will feel the indentation more pronounced than with an inflated ball. The extra time it takes for the indentation to occur will tell your conscious brain which finger is applying pressure to which part of the ball. It must be understood, felt and corrected. Ideally, the bullet should have uniform energy generated from the tip of the index finger to the broad base of the little finger and broad thumb. This broad base must remain so from the beginning to the end of the shot. While being aware of these 2 dreaded fingers (ring finger and middle finger), so as not to let them dominate the direction of the ball.
You almost have to see this whole process in your mind and get it into your subconscious before you can make it work in your favor. This is a case where you really need to get in tune with the super thin muscles. If you can feel your capillaries in the tip of your fingers, you are on the right track. A good shot is really a case of fine muscle domination, not heavy muscle control. Not only do you want to feel or control the energy generated by the ball, but you also need to know the amount of input to the ball that each finger is delivering. The amount of force generated by each finger should be responsible and measurable.
Knowing this gives you the real knowledge and feedback you need to repeat or edit the next photo. Because that’s all there is. THE NEXT PLAN. It all depends on mastering your physical faculties through total mental knowledge and understanding. Shooting is not just throwing the ball in the direction of the basket and hoping for the best. You can control the fate of each shot by pulling the trigger as you have effectively calculated the distances and direction as you now have a perfect knowledge of these mechanical and scientific principles.
The percentages you should feel are 90% on the index finger, almost zero on the middle and little fingers, and around 5% on the thumb and little finger. Just to give you an idea of incorrect finger placement, I attended the 2009 NBA All-Star Weekend and Jam Session where everyone can have hoop fun. There was a booth called “Get-a-grip” and there was a display of a giant basketball with a hand on it. Downstairs there were about a dozen balls with professional player hands engraved on the balls where people could match their hands with the grip on the balls. Well, the bad thing here is that every ball and every take had the middle finger in the center of the ball. My problem with this is that it promotes spotty follow-ups. The strongest part of the hand is the index finger when it is aligned with the inside of the forearm which forms an imaginary ruler or cannon.