How to Shoot a Free Throw
15 March 2023
In a close game, sinking a free throw can be the difference between winning and losing. And as the only unguarded shot you get, it’s important to walk up to the line with confidence.
While everyone develops their own routine when shooting free throws, there are fundamental skills you can follow to help you establish your own rhythm. Follow these guidelines to develop your skills and create consistency in your free throws.
Line up properly
When shooting a free throw, your shooting arm should be aligned with the basket. So if you’re a right-handed shooter, your toes will be just left of the center of the line, with your shoulders either squared up or slightly turned to the net—however you’re most comfortable.
Establish your routine
Next, you want to find a routine that helps you get a good feel and grip on the ball. This is where players get creative. Maybe you want to take a few bounces, a quick spin, or a combination of both. Figuring out what rhythm works best for you is just a matter of practice. Whatever you choose, make sure you end up holding the ball with your dominant hand, fingers spread out.
Get in your stance
The power of your shot is going to come from your legs, so slightly bend your knees with your weight on your toes. Then, bend your shooting arm, with your elbow at a 90-degree angle pointing toward the rim and the ball about the same height as your head.
Eyes on the basket
Now that you’ve got the ball in position, don’t look at it anymore. Instead, focus your eyes on the rim. Once you’ve locked it in, stay focused. Don’t look at the ball, other players, or even the backboard. We always recommend aiming for the rim because it helps the trajectory of your shot.
Let it go
In one fluid motion, straighten your legs and shooting arm as you make the shot. If you need to jump, that’s okay. Just make sure you don’t cross the line as you do so. Be sure to follow through, snapping your wrist as the ball leaves your hand.
Practice, practice, practice
Free throws are all about repetition. Whether it’s before or after practice, get your shots in. The more you work at this, the more comfortable and natural it will feel, and the more consistent you’ll become. Like everything in sports, what you put in is what you’ll get out.
For more basketball tips, check out how to dribble a basketball.