Finger Placement When Shooting a Basketball

Basketball Player Throwing Ball

The art of scoring in basketball starts with learning how to properly position your hands on the ball before shooting. Correct finger placement is essential for accuracy and can help you become a consistent scorer. The most conventional way of shooting a basketball is by using an one-handed set shot. Though the name of the shot may suggest otherwise, both of your hands are involved in a one-handed set shot.

Shooting Hand

Your shooting hand is, for most people, your dominant hand: Your shooting hand should be your right hand if you are right-handed. The shooting hand does the majority of the work in shooting a basketball and is positioned behind and slightly underneath the ball. Each finger, from the tips down to approximately the second joint, should make contact with the ball when engaging in a shot. Ensure your thumb remains set relatively close to the index finger. It should not be pointing sideways. Your palm does not need to touch the ball. The ball should rest lightly on top of your fingers. Your wrist must be rotated backward to hold up the ball. As you hold the ball, your index and middle fingers should be directly in front of your face.

Guiding Hand

The guiding hand is, for most people, their non-dominant hand. The guiding hand lightly cups the ball at its side. Its role is to steady the ball as you go through the shooting motion with your shooting hand. All five fingers should make gentle contact with the side of the ball. Keep the fingers spread on the ball at a moderate distance. Don't wrap your thumb around the back of the basketball. When you hold the ball, you should not be able to see the back of your guiding hand, but rather its profile.

Shooting Motion

Once your hands are properly positioned on the basketball, you can engage in your shooting motion. Your guiding hand should in no way influence the shot. It merely allows you to release the ball in a straight line. While a proper basketball shooting motion involves the entire body, your shooting hand simply snaps forward, by bending the wrist. Your fingers push the ball into the air during your wrist motion. The middle finger should be the last finger to touch the ball as it is released to help apply backspin. Ultimately, you must decide if this technique feels right to you and suits your shooting style.


Layups are technically considered a type of basketball shot, and finger placement plays a major role in the effectiveness of a layup. In contrast to a one-handed set shot, a layup is made with one hand cupping the ball from underneath. As you drive toward the basket, your shooting arm extends upward and your wrist unhinges backward to remain parallel to the ground. This way, the basketball remains cupped in your hand. The ball then rolls off of your fingertips as you lay the ball into the basket or against the backboard.