The Role of the Wrist-Snap
The wrist snap impacts so many different aspects of our release and our shot, and it is crucial that we understand as many of them as possible.
Let's start with what the wrist snap does to the basketball, and why it is important. I go into this discussion with kids that attend my clinics. "Why do we snap our wrist?" I'll ask. "To get the ball spinning," they will reply. "Correct, which kind of spin?" "Backspin!"
Then we get to the hard part. "Why do we want back spin?" Kids usually stumble along with some answers that sort of make sense, but not really. Then I'll do a demonstration. I mark a spot on the floor that is the "target" and we pretend that is the hoop. I then stand back of the target several feet and toss the ball forward, without any spin on it, and ask the kids to watch where the second bounce lands. The first bounce will land on the "hoop", but continue moving forward and the second bounce will be 3-4 feet away. I explain that because there was no spin, the ball that was moving forward will hit a flat surface and continue moving forward, thereby not having a second change to go through the hoop.
But if we can snap our wrist, we get the ball spinning backwards. I'll repeat the same demonstration, but putting backspin the the ball, and we watch as the ball hits the "hoop" and bounces much more 'straight up in the air', giving the ball potentially second and third chances to go in.
This is a big reason why we want back spin, but it isn't the only important factor of the spin and the wrist snap.
As coaches and players, we've all learned that we love pure backspin, the rotation of the ball around its horizontal axis. This isn't just about the shot looking pretty. It actually matters. When the last part of your hand to touch the ball pushes the very bottom of the ball straight in the direction of the hoop, the ball will spin purely. And more importantly, it will go STRAIGHT. If the last part of the hand to push the ball isn't pushing the very bottom of the ball, or it isn't directly at the hoop, then the ball will spin impurely, and will go off line.
So the spin of the ball will indicate whether we have released the ball in such a way that will consistently create an on line shot.
The last part of the equation is the funnelling motion of the wrist snap. The finger on the left push the ball slightly to the right, and the fingers on the right push the ball slightly left, and was we snap that funnel forward, everything gets pushed towards the middle. Without the wrist-snapping motion, the ball could come off the hand in any direction. Because of the wrist-snapping motion, the ball gets directed to middle of the hand at the last instance, and we get a more consistent release.
So there is a lot more that goes into the wrist-snap that just a pretty, goose-neck follow-through. But, man, it does look good too!