Basketball Sports Science – The Three-Point Shot
Photo of Brian Halligan

You may think that when taking a three-point shot that it's just a matter of stepping up to the line and firing the ball. If it goes in, then it goes in, and if it doesn't, you hope for an offensive rebound so that you get another chance.

But there are actually ways to shoot a three pointer while increasing your accuracy when doing so. Three point shooters who employ these functions have double the chance to score on their shots than someone who just shoots the ball up and hopes for the best.

The Angle Rules

The most successful three-point shooters release the ball at an approximate angle of 48 degrees, give or take a couple of degrees on either side. The ball is always released slightly over the head, giving the shooter a chance to keep their eyes on the basket at all times and aiding with their aim.

The Shortest Distance

As you know, the further away anyone is from the basket during a shot, the less chance there will be of the ball going down, which is why a three-point shot is the lowest percentage basket to make. But if you can get closer to the basket, you'll have a better chance of scoring.

Now you might be asking yourself about how to get closer to a basket when you have to shoot from the line and can't go over it. The answer is simple really, just make sure every three-point shot is made while jumping.

Mathematics teaches us that the shortest distance between two points is in a straight line. By jumping up and shooting, you are actually closing the distance between you and the hoop, giving yiou a better chance of making the shot.

There is also another aspect at work here. By jumping, you are transferring extra power to the shot through your legs and your body, allowing your arms to use less force and thus being able to better stabilize the ball at the launch point. A stable ball makes for a more accurate aim and, coupled with a shorter distance to the net, makes for a greater chance at sinking the shot.

Backspin To Win

Virtually every highly successful three-point shooter imparts backspin on the ball at about two rotations per second. This does two things:

Firstly, it slows the ball down on the way to the basket, which means less kinetic energy so that the the ball won't bounce around much if it happens to hit the rim instead of swishing through the net.

Secondly, if the ball is slightly overshot and does, in fact, come into contact with the rim, the backspin will make the ball bounce backwards and down, right through the net.

Learning these three point dynamics when shooting the ball will help to make any player more accurate and more successful every time they shoot the ball.


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