I promise, this will be my last post on shooting for a while. It's the end of the school year and I was sitting in the gym and watching a coaching friend running practices with his club team getting ready to go down to Seattle next week for a summer tournament. He was doing some shooting drills and he came upon a player that was struggling with her shot. He looked at her hand position and the first thing he said was, "keep that thumb pointed sideways".

After the practice, I asked my coaching friend about this idea of extending the thumb. His logic was that the thumb of the shooting hand needed to be extended further out so that the ball would sit more naturally on the fingertips instead of in the palm.

This got me thinking when I got home. The past couple of weeks, I was helping running a shooter's clinic/camp for the team I will coach with next year, and the coach there said the number one tip for better shooting was to not hyper-extend the thumb. The logic was that if you extend your thumb out, it can drastically affect the way the ball leaves your hand which consequently can lead to a side rotation of the ball. So, I set out to see what I could find online regarding this idea of the thumb position of the shooting hand.

And like my real life experience, 2 veteran coaches both of whom I have great respect for, with completely contrary philosophies on something so fundamental, turns out to be the same when I did my search. I found this article on Basketball BC, a recent one, that talks about extending the thumb, they talk about extending the thumb out far enough so that you can insert a finger in the hole that forms between the thumb and index finger and the ball.

After a little more research, I found this article on BasketballShootingSecret.com which taught exactly the opposite. The separation between the thumb and index finger must not be greater than the separation between the index and middle fingers,

My own personal opinion?? I lean towards not hyper-extending the thumb. My reasoning is a little complex and convoluted but try to follow me. For me it has a lot to do with how I teach throwing a football. When I teach a QB how to throw a tight spiral, I teach the opposite, I teach the throwing hand with a hyper-extended thumb. The reason why I teach that for throwing the football is, by hyper-extending the thumb, when you release the ball, the thumb will naturally close down to your palm and the index finger will pronate downward which gives the football its natural spiral.

So if you translate that spiral motion to a basketball, with the thumb closed down into the palm, and the finger pronated downward, the rotation of the ball will be a sideways spin (think of a football spiral) as opposed to an end over end backwards rotation that we desire in a basketball shot.

I am sure there are plenty of players using both methods, the old adage holds, there are many ways to skin a cat, and indeed there are many ways to shoot a basketball. That is why I love the game, so many nuances, so many different ways that a skill can be taught, and still arrive at the same end goal. I would love to hear thoughts from other coaches out there and what they teach and the justifications of why they teach it that way.

Anyways, have a great long weekend (Canada Day here in Canada, 4th of July for all the Americans out there).