What is “Perfect” Basketball Shooting Form?

By Joe Haefner

hopla11.jpgRecently, I received an interesting email about Dave Hopla’s shooting form. It was in response to listing Dave as one of the shooting experts that we interviewed in our new Basketball Shooting Guide.

The email stated that Dave Hopla did NOT have great shooting form in the picture that was displayed on our site (you can see the actual picture on the right).

Now in all fairness, this is not a good picture of his actual shooting form.  But this comment brings up a really interesting and important point about shooting the basketball.

Here’s my response that explains what I’m talking about:

You know what. I thought the exact same thing when I first started studying shooting. I thought Dave Hopla doesn’t have that great of shooting form, but after studying shooting for countless hours and developing our new Shooting Guide, I have came to a NEW conclusion on basketball shooting form

You don’t need “perfect” or even “great” mechanics to be a great shooter. You need CONSISTENT & REPEATABLE shooting mechanics. If your shot is the same every time, it’s easier to make adjustments.

While I do highly recommend using “good” shooting mechanics, you can also look at Larry Bird’s and Peja Stojaković’s shooting form. Anybody with some knowledge of how to shoot would quickly notice that they had bad shooting form, yet they are arguably two of the top shooters that the NBA has seen in the last 25 years.

Even though, they didn’t have good shooting form, they did have the same shot mechanics on every shot. Now imagine if a coach would’ve said to Larry after he won back to back 3-point shootouts, “Now Larry, your form doesn’t look good so we’re going to have to change it.” As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I think us coaches (me included) get a little obsessed sometimes with perfection not only when it comes to shooting, but other areas of the game as well. We want the players to have the perfect defensive slide or the perfect passing technique. We forget that basketball is an art. There is no perfect way to do anything. The real question is “Is the player effective?” which pertains to anything in basketball.

I’m not saying that coaches shouldn’t critique and help players make adjustments to become a better player, we just need to be careful and use logic and rational when doing so. If a kid knocks down 50% of his three point attempts, but his elbow sticks out while shooting, I’m not going to be the one to change it. Now, if you have a kid with bad shooting form that shoots 20% from the field, you should try to help the player make some adjustments to his/her shooting form. That’s where coaching comes into play and where the top coaches/trainers earn their money. They know when to leave players alone and when to offer advice to help them become a better player.

And back to Dave Hopla, the guy makes about 98% or 99% of his shots. I’ve never personally seen his speeches or shooting demonstrations, but I’ve heard they’re simply amazing and very few people in the world if anybody can do what he does. He’s had demonstrations where he’s made 350 of 350 shots while talking to the audience the entire time. If any of my players could do that, I couldn’t care less how he shoots the ball.

Some of the NBA’s best players such as Kobe Bryant have consulted with Hopla. He is also currently an assistant for Washington Wizards. So I do highly value what he has to say.

The end goal is to put the ball in the basket. It doesn’t matter how pretty it looks. I know Dave Hopla does a heck of a job, so I’m more than willing to listen to what he has to say.

Recommended Resources:

Baden 28.5″ Shooting Basketball

What are your thoughts about basketball shooting form?


  1. Steve — October 24, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

    I enjoyed this article and it reminded me of two of my favorite sportmans, Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd. Neither of them had much of a golf swing. Their swings were flat and jerky and never used by golf commentators to demonstrate perfect form. But both golfers had lots of success and played at the top of their game for many years. Their swings weren’t pretty but they were the same every time. Their preshot routine, address, positioning, back swing and follow through were the same each swing. This consistency made them great. Even today after all these years their swings haven’t changed.

    Form doesn’t need to be picture perfect and admired by everyone. What works for you is best for you. Thanks for the memories and reminding me that hard work and grooving your shot (swing) is a skill that separates the good shooters from the great ones.

  2. Kev — January 11, 2009 @ 4:39 am

    WHO IS david hopla – 350 out of 350 is awesome
    just wondering who he is…

  3. Jeff Haefner — January 12, 2009 @ 8:26 am

    Kev – Here’s a blurb on our website about Dave Hopla:

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  5. pablo — April 11, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

    Man, tha’s true. I’m with you. You gotta see Tom Nordlan in Swish, his technique is AWFUL but he just almost can’t miss.

  6. pablo — April 11, 2009 @ 9:04 pm

    Man, that’s true. I’m with you. You gotta see Tom Nordlan in Swish, his technique is AWFUL but he just almost can’t miss.

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  8. dollars — June 24, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

    teach your technique basic basketball plz…..

  9. Scott — June 26, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    Joe, To say Dave Hoopla does not have ‘great shooting form’ is silly to say the least- for two reasons. One- look at the results both personally and professionally. This guy is certainly one of the best at shooting the basketball personally demonstrating 350/350. Dave made an unbelievable 35,332 out of 35,979 shots during his lectures. That is 99.02 percent. (nuf said). As good as a shooter that Dave is he is even a better teacher. I have his 2 DVD’s and they are excellent. He is a great teacher of shooting the basketball effectively in a simple system to every level.

    You’re correct about the photo. You cannot take one photo and accurately assess a shooter. It seems to me the photo was taken well after the shot and his arms are heading towards the relaxed position- who knows how fatigued he was- he may have just finished 300 shots. I’d guess if you saw him in video or framed photo you’d gather what many have about the guy. ‘He is a great “clinician” of the most important skill in the game – shooting. And a great tactician is needed considering shooting % has been on the decline the past two decades.

    I also like and own Herb Magee and Tom Nordland DVD’s (I bought Nordland’s two Swish DVD’s after reviewing your information). Herb Magee for his ‘shooting through the guide hand’ and his thumb closing and 2 fingers adding the last soft touch to the flight of the ball. Tom Nordland for his “UpForce” and the ‘Pure Release’. Great stuff! They each have their thing which is why I appreciate your work in ‘Breakthrough Basketball Shooting System’ which brings the best of the best shooting experts wisdom into one good resource. A Basketball Shooting Holy Grail. You saved me lots of study time. I coach two AAU teams and am an acknowledged ‘basketball junkie’. My three sons and two teams and I have submitted to these teachings and they have improved markedly. Good work. Kindest Regards, Coach Moore

  10. Joe Haefner — June 26, 2009 @ 3:57 pm


    You’re probably right. To say that Hopla’s form isn’t great is probably silly. ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ are immeasurable, relative terms anyways. It was said more or less to prove a point that you don’t need perfect shooting mechanics to shoot the ball with a high percentage.

    Thank you for the kind words about the Shooting System!

  11. Basketball Equipment — October 7, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    Thanks for the information, have printed it off and will show it to some of my customers who ask questions.

  12. Ariel Rabe — July 16, 2012 @ 2:02 am

    In the shooting drills video of Larry Bird, the emphasis I think was with the normal movement of his shooting arm. From the time he gets hold of the ball up to the time of its release. Maintained is the shooting alignment. The alignment does not come from the middle, it comes from where the shooting arm or the arm itself normally moves or swings. Some shooters generally shoots with the ball coming from the mid-section of the body, different from Larry Bird’s way of doing long-ranged shots.

  13. Mark Fly — October 24, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    In the spirit of the pursuit of excellence: If a player can make 50% of their 3-pointers with less than optimal shooting form, what % could they make with optimal form – 60%, 65%? Don’t accept less than what they are capable of doing.

  14. Joe Haefner — October 25, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    Mark, my question would be… why aren’t there more 65% 3-point shooters then?

    Would you have changed Larry Bird’s form? Would you change Ray Allen’s form? Would you change Peja Stejakovic’s form? Would you have changed Reggie Miller’s form? Would you change Dave Hopla’s form?

    I have seen too many players who make a relative high percentage change their form to “optimal shooting form” and their shooting percentages drop, confidence plunges, and they’re never the same shooter.

  15. Ken Sartini — November 6, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    Joe -

    Its funny that you use the “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” – I used that for years and I said that at the last clinic regarding the one player. ( although I think he is young enough to correct the one flaw??? ) It was good seeing you and Jeff again.

    Mark – There isn’t a player in the Pros that can shoot 50% let alone 60-65%. The best 3 point shooter is Ray Allen at 43% and I sure wouldn’t change his shot…43% is considered pretty darn good shooting from the arc. I would take that any day from any of my players and I had some pretty good 3 point shooters with great range.

    I had two great 3 point shooters that used to have shooting contests to see who could shoot the best from long distance….. IN GAMES… they used to drive me nuts… but they made shots and I wasn’t about to mess with them… I did tell them to try and stay in our ZIP code when they shot. :-)

    I agree Joe, as coaches we try to do the best job we can for the kids we are working with and sometimes I guess it means stepping back… ( like the one kid in camp )

    This is a great article and I think that more coaches should read this.

  16. brent — April 25, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

    jim furyk has an ugly swing but in his prime, he was one of the best golfers on the planet.

  17. AL — December 20, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    Question: if a basketball defender from behind blocks the shooters jump shot with absolutely no contact made and referee sees this clearly is it still a foul?
    I think not. What is the true rule?

  18. Sammy — January 1, 2015 @ 9:21 pm

    Thank you so much, I’ve read your shooting eBook, and I’ve been using it for the past five days, and my shoot has gone from inconsistent, and of from the free throw line, to confident and smooth. I have also read your article on getting open and I plan on using it in my game tomorrow, and I gave AAU tryouts on twenty four days and I’m confident it will be great. Thank you so much

  19. Chuengoue Amos — June 2, 2015 @ 7:00 am

    It was very interesting reading your analysis; As a young coach, I want my players to have the best possible shooting, but I had not taken into consideration the fact that every player is unique or special.

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