Most everyone, ever, is taught to focus on the rim when aiming for a jump shot (obviously). Most are also taught to keep focusing on the rim while the ball is in flight. But not everyone. Some watch the rim, but as soon as the ball leaves their hands, they observe the arcing sphere. Dirk Nowitzki famously looks at the ball.
It’s a question that’s intrigued me. I recall during the 2012 NBA All-Star game, Andre Iguodala, mic’d up, asked Luol Deng if he looked at the ball or the rim. Deng said rim. Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller later discussed the topic on Inside The NBA. Both said they look at the ball in flight once it leaves their fingers. Internet searches—with mostly message board discussions providing the results—confirm memory of this Miller-Kerr conversation. (Miller even went so far as to claim that answers amongst NBA players would be dispersed 50/50—rim vs. ball in flight; a very Miller-like, outlandish claim.) Other good shooters said to look at the ball in flight: Steve Nash and Kevin Love.
I personally keep my eye on the rim. Some coaches will tell you that switching focus to flight can add unnecessary motion, as you would tend to raise your chin to follow the path of the ball. My shot was never consistent enough to be affected by such nuance (or, rather, there can be dozen of other inconsistent ticks in motion for the average shooter). I just figured that it’s best to provide the highest amount of concentration possible on the ultimate destination. Plus, that’s how I was taught.
Recently, I polled several members of the Knicks, Sixers and Wizards on, once the shot leaves their hands, if they are staying focused on the rim or if they follow the flight path of the ball.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Steve Novak: Rim
James White: Rim
White said he didn’t always look at the rim. When he was with the Denver Nuggets in 2009, then assistant Jamahl Mosley (now an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers) got White to change his ball-watching ways. Mosley told him that when you look at the target (the rim), instead of the ball in flight, you’ll get more arc on your jumpshot.
Iman Shumpert: Back of the rim
Jason Kidd: Rim
When Dirk’s method of looking at the ball was brought up, Kidd said, “That’s a great shooter in Dirk, maybe I should start doing that.”
Ye Olde Veterans Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas: Rim
With 80 years on this earth between them, both Camby and Thomas snickered and said “rim,” as they relaxed before the game (Camby in street clothes and Thomas in warm-ups), taking a break from sending rookie Chris Copeland on errands for the crushed pretzels and warm Gatorade provided by the Verizon Center for pre-game consumption.
“Did you ask ‘First Ballot’?” Camby asked me, motioning in the direction of Kidd, who added another 40 years to the total age of the three veterans sitting in a row — yep, 120 years.
” I look at the ball,” said Kidd, lying and winking.
Damien Wilkins: Rim
Wilkins: “I actually go back and forth. Sometimes I look at the rim, sometimes I look at the ball, but most times I look at the rim.”
Royal Ivey: Rim, the back
Evan Turner: Ball
“I start off obviously looking at the rim for a shot, but somewhere mid-air I look at the ball,” said Turner. “Once it probably gets closer to the rim, I’m looking at the flight of the ball.”
Turner indicated that his jump shot is still a work in progress, but that he tries to aim for the back of the rim because doing that helps his shot be less flat. Also, he said that over time he’s changed the placement of his off hand on the ball, moving it more to the side, as opposed to the front.
Cartier Martin: Rim
Martin said that he’s tried looking at the ball at various points when he’s working out, and that he kind of liked it, but that it was too different to get used to.
Emeka Okafor: Rim
“If I look at the ball, I’ll miss.”
Okafor said he used to look at the ball in flight when he was younger and that now he sometimes catches himself doing it by accident.
A.J. Price: Rim; specifically, the back of the rim
Martell Webster: Rim
“Because I have possession of the ball, I don’t need to look at it. I don’t need to look at the ball, I know where it is,” said Webster. “I’m looking at my target. My target’s the hoop, so I keep my eyes on the hoop the whole time.”
Webster said he dedicated the summer before his 7th grade year to working on his jumper with his AAU coaches and that his technique hasn’t changed since.
Trevor Ariza: “Kind of both of them.”
“I watch kind of both of them. I’m just trying to see if the ball had enough rotation on it … and the spot where I want it to hit, I watch that, too,” said Ariza. He further explained, “I don’t too much watch the ball, but when the ball gets into my vision from me watching my spot, that’s when I look.”
Bradley Beal: Rim
Beal: “If you don’t look at the rim, you lose sight of where the ball is going … eyes on the prize.”
John Wall: Rim
Wall said he definitely can’t look at the seams, always the rim. When told that Dirk, and others, look at the ball, Wall said, “Those are great shooters, but I gotta look at the fu*king rim.”
“Gotta look at my feet, sometimes,” Wall said. Why? “To make sure that I jump.”