I went to many, many basketball camps as a kid. And one thing I heard over and over was “son, get your elbow under the ball”. So I dutifully told other players I have coached over the years the same thing, since it sounds correct . But I’ve come to question this belief; is is really correct to tell players to put their elbow under the ball? Over the past 20 years I’ve observed shooters hundreds of times. So far I haven’t seen any, and I do mean any, shooters who really “keep their elbow under the ball”. Every one of them has their elbow a bit out to the side.
The advice to “keep your elbow under the ball” is not completely unhelpful . Some kids have their shooting elbow pointed wildly out to the side. That is not going to work; you will be a terrible shooter if your elbow placement makes you look like you are flapping your wings like a chicken. So to those people who have ‘chicken wing syndrome’ instructions to ‘get your elbow under the ball’ will at least get them to start putting it in at least a better position. But just because it helps some kids correct some problems, does not make the statement “keep your elbow under the ball” a correct statement.
If you took the advice to put your elbow under the ball literally, it would hurt, not help your shot. It puts your arm in an unnatural position and creates unnecessary tension. In truth, your elbow should point out at about 20- 30 degrees from center; if your arm was a clock, a right handers arm would be at about 4: 30 or 5: 30, and a lefties arm would be at about 7: 30 or 8: 30. If you try to force it lower than that…in other words to straight up and down (or 6:00 to carry the example forward) your shoulder would seize up, muscles would get tense, and that type of tension is an enemy to a relaxed consistent shot.