7 Keys to Making Free Throws

This year in the NBA, teams are scoring 17.5% of their points from made free throws. That stat alone stresses how important they are. Most coaches think that getting up extra reps after practice is enough, but if you don’t have the proper mechanics and a comfortable routine, you’re just creating bad habits that will rarely help you improve. Here are seven keys to mastering your free throws:

The first key is having a comfortable, balanced stance. You have no excuse for not properly aligning your feet, because the center of the free-throw line is marked with a nail. Find the nail, align your shooting foot on it then get in a comfortable, balance stance with your knees flexed.

The second key is to control breathing. There are a lot of players that make free throws in practice, but struggle in games, because their heart is racing and they are letting emotions get the best of them. After aligning your feet, start to control your breathing and relax and get comfortable.

The third key is having a routine. Your routine can’t be spontaneous and should be the same every time. You have ten seconds to shoot the ball, so make sure your routine allows you to get comfortable before shooting. My routine was pretty simple, so I would always take a deep breathe once I caught the ball, then I would take three dribbles with my right hand, then I would take one more deep breath and say “Come on” to put confidence in my mind before starting my shooting motion.

The fourth key is getting a perfect grip on the ball. Once you finish your routine, make sure your hands are properly glued to the ball. Your hand should be spread wide directly under the center of the ball and your balance hand should be on the side. Also, most shooters like to find the panel so they can shoot the same perfect shot every time.

The fifth key is locking in on the target. Aim small, miss small. If you lock in on a small distinct target, you’ll avoid distractions and focus all of your energy on hitting the target. I don’t like when people say “aim at the front rim or back rim” because if you hit your target, you miss.

The fifth key is rhythm. You want to flow from your feet through your follow through in one, smooth free-flowing motion. Use your legs to generate power, make sure your hips bend evenly to ensure proper balance then flow into your shooting motion.

The sixth key is ensuring that your arm, wrist and finger finish at the target. I like to say the ball will go where your wrist and elbow direct it to go. Get your hand positioned directly in the center of the ball, then click your shoulder, extend your elbow above your eyebrow, snap your wrist and finish with your pointer finger at the rim. If you do all of these things, you’ll never miss a shot to the left or right.

The seventh key is being comfortable and confidence. When you step up to the line, you have to know that you’re going to make it and then you have to get comfortable. Don’t fear missing and don’t let the crazy fans distract you. It’s time to go make an unguarded shot that you’ve made thousands of times in practice. After all, free throws are supposed to be free!