Basketball 101: Free Throws

By working on your alignment and shooting form, you can start to see better results at the charity stripe.

February 20, 2019

No matter if you are playing for the rec league, varsity team or in the pros, being able to make free throws can be crucial for a player’s success on the basketball court.


Free throws are very important to a team, especially at the end of a game. Strong free-throw shooters have proper alignment, simple form and consistent routines.




The first step to a successful trip to the free-throw line is having a proper alignment. There are two main ways to align yourself to the basket.


The first is the center alignment:

  • The middle of your body should be centered on the free-throw line.
  • Spread your feet to straddle the center of the free-throw line so that your belly button, nose and eyes align to the middle of the rim.

The second alignment is called shooting hand or shooting foot alignment:

  • With this alignment, your dominant foot (right foot if you shoot with your right hand; left foot if you shoot with your left hand) should align with the center of the rim.
  • The knee, hip and elbow on your dominant side should also align with the center of the rim.
  • Align the basketball and your dominant-side eye, too.

Keep in mind that you cannot step on or beyond the free-throw line when taking a foul shot.  You can only cross the line after your shot has first hit the rim or backboard.




Once your body is aligned with the rim, keep your shooting form simple:

  • Your shooting-side foot should be at the line, but not touching it.
  • Your opposite foot should be slightly back from the free-throw line.
  • Have your hand underneath the ball. The ball should be shoulder or head height.
  • Take the ball from your starting point and execute your shot in a smooth, rhythmic fashion.
  • Extend your arm to follow through.

Remember to pick a part of the rim to focus on when shooting. Some players choose to look at the front. Others look at the back. This comes down to your personal preference.


You should use the same alignment, form and pre-shot routine when you shoot free throws. Keeping your approach simple and straight forward will help you become a successful free-throw shooter.


Proper shooting mechanics can be crucial for success on the hardwood. The 5-Spot Shooting Drill can help you learn to shoot more consistently from five popular spots on the court.