Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Improving your Basketball Free Throw with Video

The NBA playoffs are now in full swing. King Lebron James is showing us all why he deserves the MVP and why the Cleveland Cavaliers must be considered the favorites for the title. Free throw shooting in the playoffs is even more critical than during the regular season and therefore we bring you a second installment of our video analysis of the basketball free throw.

In March we introduced the Video Analysis of the Basketball Freethrow and compared two different subjects and their respective shooting techniques. We focused on the angle of release in particular. This week, we captured video of our Subject 1 from March, to see if he was able to use the video analysis to make improvements. Once again we will use video analysis software to determine and quantify whether any significant improvements have been made with his technique.

As you may recall from our first analysis, it was noted that this subject could improve his chances of making a successful free throw by increasing the angle of release of the ball, so it falls on more of a downward arc as it gets closer to the hoop. Let's take a look at some stillshots that were created with some analysis software.

This week we filmed our video at a different court and set up our camera on the right side of the subject so we could see his right arm more clearly. Unfortunately in the earlier video (top photo), we needed to set up on the left side of the subject for lighting reasons. In order to compare the subjects free throw technique, we used our analysis software to create a mirror image of the subject from the March video (top photo). This allows us to watch the video and study the still shots with more clarity. When we mirror the image, it looks as if the subject in the mirror image is left handed, but of course this is not the case. The mirror image function of video analysis software is very useful for comparing left and right handed players or comparing video of movement in different directions, as we do here.

Ok, let's get onto the analysis. For the "before" shot (subject with blue shirt, top photo), we see the angle of release is 48 degrees from horizontal. For the "after" shot (subject with red shirt, bottom photo), the angle of release is 61 degrees from horizontal. This is approximately a 27% increase in the angle of release from the first to second shot. As we mentioned in the March post the higher the angle the higher the arc of the free throw. Therefore, we can safely say the ball will be coming down in more of a downward arc as it approaches the rim. If the subject continues to shoot with the technique seen in the more recent shot; this will likely result in more free throws made.

The video below shows a side by side view of the subject's free throw attempts in full motion.

Besides the improvement in release angle we can also note how the subject follows through on each shot. Although it would be easier to see from a behind or front-on view, we can still see that the "before" subject follows through across his body, whereas the "after" subject follows through more towards the hoop. Following through towards the hoop is going to help the subject's chances of shooting the ball towards the middle of the hoop, rather than to one side or another. For obvious reasons a ball moving straight toward the hoop is more likely to go in to the basket.

Following through towards the hoop on a free throw (or jump shot) helps ensure the player moves the ball towards the target throughout the shot, rather than having to rely on perfect timing to get the ball going towards the hoop. Minimizing this error of the shot going left or right makes it easier for the subject to now focus most of his attention on the angle of release relative to horizontal.

Remember to use your video camera, so that you can see and analyze your own free throws. Once you see your shot you will have a better understanding of how to improve it. We hope this posting helps you get the most out of your free throw practice sessions. Whether you need to make free throws to get into a pickup game at a park, or your team's relying on you to hit the game winning foul shot, the ability to make free throws consistently is an important skill for every basketball player to have.

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