Index Finger On The Middle
When I started as a shooting coach I spent most of my time looking at players feet. I believed balance was very important (and still do), and it was relatively easy to see.
As I improved as a shooting coach, I was able to see more of the shot and my beliefs started to shift a little bit. I still believe in balance, but now if I had to pick one part of the shot as being the “most important,” I would say it is the index finger of the shooting hand.
I want the index finger of the shooting hand to be on the middle of the basketball as much as possible when shooting. Unfortunately, the “middle of the basketball” is a hard concept to explain. Really, any part of the ball could be middle of the ball but for this purpose I want you to think of the middle of the ball as a line that runs around the ball entirely along the target line, and vertically straight up from the target line. If you can put your index finger on and along the target line, then you stand an excellent chance of the ball always being on-line with the hoop.
People will ask “why not the middle finger?” The answer is simple. The middle finger isn’t the middle of the hand when we take a good grip on the basketball. When we take a proper grip, the hand is spread out and the thumb is wide. Because the thumb is wide, the middle of the hand shifts from the middle finger to the index finger. Not for everyone, but most people.
Test it for yourself. Take a wide (but not palming grip) on the basketball with your shooting hand. With your non-shooting hand, measure the distance between the tip of the index finger and the tip of the thumb, then compare it to the tip of the index finger to the tip of the pinkie. For most people, those measurements are near exact.
Why is that important? If you are able to get the middle of your hand on the bottom of the basketball at your shot pocket, and lift straight
up, the ball will go straight. If you get the middle of your hand slightly to one side of the ball and lift straight up, the ball will go slightly in the opposite direction. It is just simple physics.
If you look at most shooters when the ball is at their set point, or shooting pocket, their index finger will be on the bottom of the ball. It is very uncomfortable, and in most cases unrealistic, to try to get the middle finger on the bottom of the ball.
Some coaches will argue that many good shooters have the ball coming off their middle finger when they shoot. I’m not going to dispute this at all. It is such a quick, precise motion that there is a lot of variability in this. If you look at most middle finger shooters, they tend to get two negatives adding up to a positive. What i mean by this is… middle finger release point shooters tend to start with the shooting hand slightly to the right side of the ball (pushing the ball slightly left) at their set point, then as they lift they pronate their hand/wrist so that the middle finger is on the bottom and their hand is pushing slightly right to cancel out the initial move. It is almost impercetible to the naked eye, but can be clearly seen on slow motion video taken from behind a player. They start off pushing the ball left, and quickly over-correct to push it slightly right. You can do it, you just better have great hand eye co-ordination.
Instead, start on the middle and lift straight up the middle of the ball.