What Part of the Rim to Aim at When Shooting a Basketball
Have you ever wondered if there was a ‘correct’ spot on the rim that players should aim for when shooting a basketball?
I know I have… many times.
Admittedly, I’ve always been an “aim at whatever feels most comfortable for you” coach. But recently, I’ve been questioning whether that’s a good enough answer…
I questioned whether I was doing the players I was coaching a disservice by giving an answer that I wasn’t 100% sure I wholeheartedly believed in.
This question seems to be widespread judging by the many emails I receive from both coaches and players asking me the same question… “what part of the rim should be focused on while shooting?”
It seems we’re all a little confused about this question.
So I searched… books, websites, podcasts, twitter polls (I’ll get to that later), and I couldn’t find a difinitive answer that resonated with me.
The next step was to get the opinions of those I trust in the basketball coaching community.
I asked the opinions of 18 experts by sending them an email asking this simple question…
Which part of the ring should players focus on when they shoot the basketball?
Here are the responses I received back…
“Which part of the ring should players focus on when they shoot the basketball?”
Bryan Burrell – New Age Elite Sports
I believe shooters should always focus on the ring that’s in the middle.
Whether a shooter views the rim from the top of the key, wing, etc, there will always be a ring that’s placed in the middle of the rim that can be used as a target.
In my opinion, if you work on following-through correctly every time you’ll always give yourself a chance to make shots consistently.
Casey Dudek – CITK Hoops
I teach players to try to SWISH every shot and that the center of the rim is your target.
This narrows your focus and even if you miss your target slightly (short, long, left or right) it still has a chance to go in.
Collin Castellaw – Shot Mechanics
I think when it comes to targeting on your shot, it really depends on your comfortability. Some players like to aim at the front rim, some at the back of the rim, and some in the soft area over the rim.
I have both known and worked with many great shooters that use all of these methods. Like anything in shooting, sometimes there is no absolute one way to get the best results. One specific targeting system might work for one player and be terrible for another.
This the area on the back of the net where the small diamonds connect to the bigger ones.
This can be super effective because if you to hit your target exactly it will result in a swish. With the front iron or back iron method, a perfect shot can still result in a miss. I feel it also gets better results then aiming for the soft area over the rim because there is still a specific target to shoot for.
Damin Altizer – DR1VEN Training
Before answering the question, I did a quick poll on social media asking…
“What have you been taught as far as where to look when shooting?”
Of nearly 200 responses, 46% said back of the rim, 34% said front of the rim, and 20% said center of the basket — Clearly, the split on what’s being taught is significant!
For me, in training, it all comes down to consistent repetition creating instinctual reaction. As a shooter, the most important thing is said consistency and instinctual reaction rather than conscious thought.
If, when getting into the shot, a player is questioning, “Am I looking at the right spot on the rim?” chances are, they’re not a very good shooter.
Youth baseball pitchers aren’t taught to try and hit a stitch in the catcher’s glove, they’re taught to hit their spots by playing catch with the catcher; same goes for youth football QBs and WRs.
Minds aren’t strained when the thinking aspect is removed and it becomes simply playing the game. Shooting is much of the same. You score points by putting the ball in the basket; not by hitting the front of the rim, not by hitting the back of the rim.
In having players focus on consistently finding the basket as opposed to focusing on a tiny spot we make the game simple, and, in turn, have them reacting and shooting instinctually instead of deeply analyzing every aspect of their shot as they’re shooting.
The game of basketball is a thinking man’s game where, if you’re thinking, you’re probably not gaming. It’s about feel, flow, and rhythm; breaking it down to individual components, shooting is exactly the same.
Darrell Johnson – Cross Over Hoops
I teach players to focus on the nearest part of the rim until the ball goes through or makes contact with the rim.
I know there are several different theories on this particular topic and many great shooters, including Steph Curry, commonly watch the flight of the ball, but I think focusing on the target, the rim, is the most effective.
When shooting darts, would you watch the path of the dart, or focus on the triple twenty or bullseye on the dart board? The answer is obvious, you would focus on the dart board.
It’s the same concept when shooting a basketball, focus on your target.
Dave Love – The Love of the Game
One of the most important aspects of shooting is one of the most simple… where are you aiming? There are a lot of different ideas out there, but I firmly believe in one.
I encourage players to find the farthest part of the rim from them no matter where they are standing on the floor, or the back of the rim.
The reason is simple… we know we are going to get tired as we play. So if there is that guarantee that we are going to lose energy, I want to aim for the longer target and leave room to miss short.
You also want to make sure you are finding a physical target, rather than the “middle of the hoop.” Without a physical target, your eyes aren’t focussing on anything tangible and, therefore, can’t measure the distance accurately because they have no reference point.
In addition, I try to get the players I work with at the NBA level to lock in on as small a targets as they can, as early in their shot as possible. If you can find a small target then you give yourself a lot of wiggle room, where as if you aim for the for “the hoop” in general then you have a small margin for error before you get disastrous results.
The target I suggest is the furthest coil that attaches the net to the rim.
Lastly, don’t overlook the idea of trying to find that target as early in your shot, or shot preparation as possible. Don’t locate your target in the middle or end of your shot when you could have found it earlier.
I believe and teach that players should aim for the back half of the basket. I am a huge advocate that every ball go up and over the rim and I hate it when shooters miss short.
Short shots have no chance of going in, but a shot that is up and over the rim has the possibility to fall, even if there was an error on the shot.
If a player is going to make an error, I would like that error to count for 2 points.
Good shooters are never left, right, or short. Good shooters shoot straight shots that go up and over the rim.
Aiming for the back half of the rim gives the shooter the best chance to never be short. The majority of shots are missed short and that is why I teach to aim for the back half of the basket.
Jordan Delp – Pure Sweat Basketball
More important than the spot on the rim a player focuses on when shooting is the consistency with which he or she is able to lock onto that spot.
Whether a player is comfortable focusing on the front, back, or middle of the rim, be sure to stress to them the importance of finding that spot every time.
When I work on this with my players, we try to focus on the middle of the hoop. While a bit more ambiguous than the front or back of the rim, it allows players to stay consistent wherever they are shooting from (top, wing, corner, etc.) because that spot never changes.
Further, focusing on the middle of the hoop can help a player make shots even when they are slightly off their mark, as there is more room for error than with a shot targeted at the front or back of the rim. Aim small, miss small!
Kevin Mitchell – Pure Sweat Basketball
My recommendation would be to aim for the middle of the rim and imagine the basketball halfway down prior to the shot attempt.
As a skills coach and former player, I tried the recommended methods of aiming for the front or back of the rim but would end up short or long with many shot attempts.
What I teach through our concepts with Pure Sweat Basketball is if you aim for the front of the rim and the ball hits the front of the rim, you have accomplished your goal. If you aim for the back of the rim and the ball hits the back of the rim, you have accomplished your goal.
If you aim for the middle of the rim and the shot attempt is long or short, the basketball still has an opportunity of going in because the player is targeting the middle of the rim.
The important thing is shot mechanics, squaring up properly and balance through the shot attempt.
Mihai Raducanu – No Limit Performance
That is a great question and just like footwork, there are no right or wrong ways. A player should be given all the options in order for them to choose what works for them.
There are different ways of teaching what to focus on and some have proven more successful for certain players or teachers than others.
I tell those that I teach to look at whatever they would like as long as they are focused on something.
Recent and past research has shown that the longer we focus on a target the higher our chances are of hitting it. It doesn’t matter what you focus on as long as you understand what you need to do with the ball in order to get in the hoop.
Your shot is based on your rhythm and follow-through. Elbow above the eyebrow and five fingers pointing down.
You can look at the front of the rim and focus on getting the ball over the front of it.
You can look at the back of the rim and focus on getting the ball just in front of it.
You can look in the middle and focus at getting the ball in that specific spot.
However you choose to focus is irrelevant, just do it and practice your rhythm with various footwork off the catch and dribble.
Constant repetition of consistently well-performed movement will create a smooth shot.
Mike Costello – Pure Sweat Basketball
I always tell my players to pick whatever makes them comfortable, but to “aim small, miss small” don’t just look at the “front’ or “back” of the rim.
They need to pick out a specific loop or part of the net and aim for that every time.
If I absolutely had to pick, I would say aim at the back side loop holding the net up or a piece of the net on the backside.
That way you know that you have to get the ball up over the front and should never miss short if you hit your target. And if you do shoot short, it should still have a chance to go in.
None of them.
I was taught look at the front, the back, every way you can look at it, but every time I tried to do this as a player it made me think way too much and affected the rhythm on my shot.
I’ve asked several players this and I’ve never heard a great shooter that we work with tell me they actually focus on anything. And, when I say great shooters, I mean light out hitting threes on national tv in the Final 4. They just shoot the ball.
I think you get to a certain level and it’s just a feel that you have.
If I had to give an answer to a beginner, I’d say the middle of the rim. I’m not sure why you’d aim for the front or back of the rim if you’re trying to make the ball go through the hoop.
Randy Brown – CoachRB.com
Shooting is based on proper fundamentals, balance, and practice. A solid foundation to shooting the ball is a start, but the most important element is quality repetition.
By quality, I mean shooting thousands of shots with the same fundamentals that you were taught.
Hopefully, you were taught to shoot the ball the right way. If so, you will be a very effective shooter.
The topic of where to aim is overblown in my opinion. My take is to select an area to aim for and make it part of your shooting identity.
Through repetition, you find comfort in your stroke and muscle memory will take care of the makes!
Players should focus on the middle of the hoop. That’s where you’re aiming to shoot. It also allows the most room for error.
I also like the loop in front to shoot over, but not the back of the rim. The back of the rim is hardly friendly.
Great shooters miss a majority of their shots short or long, not side to side.
Sam Allen – PGC Basketball
There are hundreds of things that coaches/trainers can teach athletes when it comes to shooting. For me, a specific aiming point on the rim or basket is not one of those.
If you study all the great shooters, both men and women that have played our great game, you will see a variety of different types of shots. We hope to give athletes a few things to focus on from a mechanical and technical standpoint and get really good at those. Things such as footwork, balance, follow-thru and the mental side to shooting.
The goal is obviously to make the shot and if we can get some of the technical fundamentals automated in their habits, this next step is most crucial.
That step is the work, the daily disciplined routines of getting up hundreds of shots to become a great shooter. Through this deliberate practice and training is where players will develop the “feel” and muscle memory of making shots.
So, I guess what I am saying is the aiming can come more from a feel that is developed through thousands of hours in the gym.
As a player who worked tirelessly on my shot, I found myself in my early training years aiming for the back of the rim so I wouldn’t front rim my shots (I may have had a coach tell me this?).
As I became a more established player, I didn’t’ have necessarily a target point.
All this to say, over the years when working with players, I have taught players who front-rim a lot of shots to aim for the back of the rim. That has not been a part of my/our recent teachings.
Shooting and this topic is a fascinating discussion. I am interested to hear some of the other responses you gather and learn from them.
To summarize my thoughts for a moment, I think the “less is more” approach can be helpful to developing shooters and the target point would seem to confuse that process a bit.
Scott Fields – CoachScottFields.com
I will start off with an analogy a hunter would appreciate…
When hunting big game with a rifle, you don’t just aim at the entire area which is the entire deer, elk or moose. You don’t just point the rifle in the direction of the animal and pull the trigger. You pick out the vitals.
You slow down, focus, and raise the rifle and rest the butt of gun on shoulder and line up the rear sight, and place the bead between the rear sight and put bead on vitals, the heart or lungs. You aim at those vitals. Not the entire animal. Relax and squeeze the trigger. With practice and repetition, you will find success.
The backboard and rim are also an entire area. You don’t just push the shot towards the backboard and hope. The front of the rim, from whatever angle you are shooting from, is your target… or vitals from previous analogy.
Unless you are shooting from a 45 degree angle and then your target is the top corner of the square.
Example: To simplify and clarify, while shooting a free throw, straight in front of rim, the target is the front of the rim. While shooting from baseline, target is side of the rim. Eye the front of the rim from where you are positioned. Demonstrate this and show on court, or use diagrams. Eye your target, front of the rim, not the back of the rim, eyelet for net, or net, or backboard.
When shooting you must eye your target, and your index finger or middle finger will reach over the front of the rim on your goose neck follow through. The finger will reach over the front of the rim.
On the 45-degree angle bank shot, that same index finger or middle finger will hit that top corner of the square on the side you are shooting from.
Coaches: Video your shooters and athletes. This is a teaching point. Freeze the video at point of release. If the middle finger drifts right, off of your target, your shot will go right. The further the shot, the more the shot will drift. If the middle finger is left, shot will drift left as explained before.
From 18′ to 21′ the drift can be significant. Your room for margin of error will increase the more the distance. A good follow through with finger pointing to target and release point can salvage poor mechanics. If you don’t hit your target, you will not make your shot.
For younger athletes and shooters, I give this analogy…
It is like going in for the kiss. The lips are the target, if you kiss on the chin, temple, nose, or forehead, your boyfriend or girlfriend will think you are crazy if you don’t hit your target which is the lips. Same for shooting hoops…
If you hit the top of the backboard, side of the backboard, or air ball, people will think you are crazy.
Eye your target, hit your target, your percentage of shots made will increase. This is, and should, be taught in progression.
I know this is specific and detailed, but I wanted to give you not only the target, but why the target.
Tommy Hulihan – Tommy Hulihan Basketball
I think this is different for each player and don’t think there is necessarily a right/wrong place to look.
As a player, I looked right over the front of the rim. As a coach, I usually ask a player what he/she looks at and as long as they are looking at a specific area I think that’s fine.
I am most comfortable with “over the front of the rim” for a couple of reasons.
First and most importantly, I think a player can quickly “find” it compared to the “middle of the basket” or “loop” etc.. I think by looking right over the front of the rim the player will not shoot it short.
I feel that is more timing of release than where you are looking.
I feel by visually “finding” your target sooner a player will shoot a higher percentage thus that is why I prefer looking right over the front of the rim.
Wesley Kosel – HoopsChalkTalk.com
When it comes to shooting, I usually start by asking the player where he or she looks when shooting the basketball.
The player usually says something like “at the rim” or a specific location on the rim.
The advice I give is to find a spot on the rim that you are comfortable with. For me, it is the back of the rim. However, for others, it may be the middle or front of the rim.
I have not bought into the back of the rim being the best and only option, but it is the best option for me.
Young players shooting the basketball should get repetitions with as many shots as possible and experiment with different looks at the rim. Once the player has gotten enough repetitions, he/she will have a good sense of what his/her preference is for looking at the rim.
The key from that point is to consistently look at that same spot from then on. The best shooters all have very specific routines and techniques.
Twitter Poll Results
When I received the answer from Damin Altizer and read that he conducted a Twitter poll, I thought it was a fantastic idea and decided to run my own too!
I tweeted out this question…
“What part of the rim have you been taught to look at when shooting?”
And gave three options to pick from.
1. Front of the rim
2. Back of the rim
3. Middle of the rim
Here are the results…
Coaches and Players: What part of the rim have you been taught to look at when shooting? — Coach Mac (@BballCoachMac) December 11, 2015
Out of the 265 people that voted, it was nearly completely even between front of the rim and back of the rim, with a few that focus on the middle.
This means that, when shooting, 44% of players are aiming for a target that’s 18 inches away from the target that another 43% of players are aiming for. That’s crazy.
Couple of quick notes…
1. I should have included not focusing on anything specific as an option for the Twitter poll.
2. I probably should have said ‘middle of the hoop’ instead of ‘middle of the rim’ as some people may get confused and assume that’s the same as ‘front of the rim’.
So… What’s the Answer?
You’ve now made it to the end of the article…
You’ve read the opinions of 18 basketball experts, you’ve seen the results of a poll that was answered by over 250 players and coaches…
And you’re still probably wondering when this article is going to get to the part where I tell you EXACTLY where to tell your players to aim for on the rim so that they swish every shot.
Well, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. In my opinion, there isn’t a correct spot on the rim to aim for.
As you can see above, there are many coaches that have had success with many different methods.
I encourage you to do two things…
1. Reread the expert posts above. Most of them know more about shooting than I ever will. If one of their opinions resonates with you, consider adopting their principles. Check out their website and learn more about their thoughts on shooting.
2. Let your players experiment and decide. Allow your players to experiment with a variety of methods and then encourage them to pick the one that feels the most comfortable to them.
This is the method I use.
As coaches, I believe it’s our responsibility to introduce our players to the different options they have and then allow them to choose the one that they feel the most comfortable with.
Now it’s your turn…
What part of the rim do you believe players should be aiming for when shooting a basketball? And why?
Let me know in the comments…