Shot Class: Klay Thompson's ABCs of Swish

Wednesday April 30th, 2014

Over the last two seasons Klay Thompson has hit 469 three-pointers, second in the NBA only to Splash sibling Steph Curry, while connecting at an impressive 40.9%. Each of his shots has looked almost identical: a small hop followed by a high, blindingly quick release. His threes are the kind that snap the net and make coaches and scouts swoon. Indeed, if you were to model your jumper on that of any NBA player, Thompson’s would be an excellent choice.

Here he breaks down the art of shooting:

    Think Liquid
    Every time Thompson shoots, he envisions water going from his toes all the way up to his fingertips. “It’s something my dad taught me when I was young,” he says. “Explode from your feet and try to have a fluid motion all the way to your follow-through.”

    Don’t Get Down After Misses
    This is easier said than done, but it’s a common theme among great shooters. Grizzlies sharpshooter Mike Miller’s mantra is Let it fly. When Thompson misses, it’s usually because he’s aiming the ball. Then, hoping to make a shot, he starts pressing. This season he says he’s learned not to do that. Instead he focuses on using his legs and holding his follow-through, then watching the ball go in.

    Know Your Spots
    Every shooter has shots he loves. Thompson says the left-corner three is his sweet spot: “As a righthanded shooter, that’s automatic. It’s lined up with the basket, and it’s closer than anywhere on the arc.” His second-favorite spot is the left wing because it’s easier to line up his shot as a righty. In games he’ll gravitate to those spots if given the opportunity.

    Figure 1. With a classic shooting style, Thompson ensures he's giving himself the best chance to shoot with a high percentage. He maintains an almost perfect form, elbow in, toes pointing toward the basket, ball released from forehead height, just to the right of the temple.
    Jed Jacobsohn/Sports Illustrated

  • Maintain Good Form . . .
    Thompson’s is classic: elbow in (A), toes pointing toward the basket (B), ball released from forehead height, just to the right of the temple (C). After release, Thompson pretends he’s reaching up and into a cookie jar, an age-old way to ensure good follow-through (D). This provides a solid wrist snap and the desired “gooseneck” form. It also makes sure he stays aligned. In high school Thompson had a bad habit of turning his hand inward at the end of his release when he got tired, imparting side spin. “That happened all the way until my freshman year of college,” he says. “Fixing it was about gaining strength in my wrist and staying consistent.”

    Figure 2. Thompson takes a set number of shots from each position on the floor in motion, off a pass or in rhythm to mimic real game action.
    Sports Illustrated

    . . . But Don’t Worry Too Much About It
    “Some of the greatest shooters in the world have had the ugliest form,” says Thompson, “but as long as the release is consistent, the shot will be consistent.”

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