How Developing Optimal Arc Will Help You to Get More Scores?

Be sure to look at the arc of your shots the next time you’re shooting hoops? Why? Because developing optimal arc will benefit your game particularly in getting more scores! Indeed, you have to achieve optimal arc in consistent way.


The more consistent you are in your shooting arc, the more scores you can get. Such a relatively simple activity can turn you from a good to a great shooter.

The Optimal Arc for More Scores

Most coaches and players have their own ideas about the best ways to shoot a ball through the hoop. The mechanics are varied, too, such as keeping your eyes on the target and flicking your wrist.

But many will not even think about the arc of the ball as it sails through the air! This is such a shame as the arc of the ball is just as important as the mechanics.

Of course, the mechanics of the defensive stance, grip on the ball, and follow-through should still be in place. But when the optimal arc is missing, the shot will have less chances of going inside the basket.

Think about it: Even with all the mechanics in place, why is it that the free-throw percentages among the best NBA and NCAA players have stalled since 1958? Since the 1950s, the percentages have remained at 74% and 68% respectively.

shooter basketball

This even when coaches and players think they have the answer to great shooting skills. Again, this can be attributed to the absence of emphasis on the optimal arc. According to research, the optimal arc is 45 degrees. The acceptable variations are two degrees over and under.

Even an average shooter who consistently achieves the 45-degree arc will likely sink about 11% more free throws. In contrast, a shooter with a higher arc (e.g., 53%) will sink in less baskets.

For example, if you throw 50 free throw shots within the optimal arc, you’re likely to sink in 34 shots (65%). But in a 53-degree arc, your shooting percentages decrease to 57% (28 shots).

Just imagine the applications on court! You can sink in more shots even when you’re just an average shooter. The shooting percentages become higher among highly skilled shooters.

A pro player, for example, can achieve a 96% shooting rate with the 45-degree angle. In contrast, a pro player shooting at a 53-degree angle can only sink in 89% of the shots.

The Reason for the 45-degree Arc

Let’s first define arc in scientific terms. Arc refers to the path that the ball takes. This path starts from the time it leaves the shooter’s hand until it touches the basket. The flight of the ball is always in the shape of a parabola.

Once the ball is airborne, the only force affecting its movement is gravity. The flight itself is then completely predictable, thanks to modern physics principles. Of course, the release point, direction and strength should also be known to make accurate predictions.

Why the 45-degree arc as the optimal shooting arc? Think of yourself as the ball and the manner that you see the hoop. If you, the ball, directly enters the hoop from above, you’re in a 90-degree arc. You will then see the hoop as perfectly round. The hoop itself will have an 18-inch opening.

Keep in mind that a men’s basketball has a 9.7-inch diameter. The hoop margin then will just be 8.3 inches. The hoop margin is the amount of space left in the hoop when the ball is going through it. In case of the 90-degree arc, the hoop is 18 inches less 9.7 inches, or 8.3 inches.

You, the player, want to have just the right amount of margin to get the ball through the hoop. Let’s take a look at the three angles and their effect on the hoop margin.

  • At a 35-degree arc (flat), the apparent hoop margin will be less than an inch. You will have no room for error. Your shot will be less likely to go through the hoop.
  • At a 45-degree arc, the apparent hoop margin will be about 3 inches. Your shots will likely be more successful because there’s adequate room for error. The medium height shot then provides the optimal margin between the ball and hoop.
  • At a 55-degree arc (high), the apparent hoop margin increases to about 5 inches. You may sink the shot but your distance control suffers.

Indeed, the flatter the arc of the ball, the smaller the apparent hoop margin. The smaller it is, the lesser chances for sinking the shot.

But even with the right arc, you’re not assured of sinking the shot. You must also consider the depth in the rim. You have to get the ball as deep as possible into the basket.

You don’t have to make the swishing movement all the time either. Instead, you should aim for a BRAD shot by hitting the back of the rim. The BRAD shot, by the way, stands for back rim and down.

Shooting experts recommend shooting 11 inches past the front of the rim. This is the ideal distance since the standard rim measures 18 inches.

Again, getting the 11-inch distance means focusing on your arc. The only way to get it right is through plenty of practice. You can ask your coach to look at the arc of your ball, perhaps even use a software for determining it.

Final Words

When practicing your arc, be sure to exercise consistency. You will not transition from being a good to a great shooter when your shots are inconsistent. A few 45s and many 35s and 55s in between will not cut it.

You can develop the mechanics of your hand, wrist and body position for this purpose. You must also be conscious of the ball’s flight path while still keeping your eyes on the target.

The 45-degree optimal arc is a must for great shooting. But you must also consider the other factors in sinking the shots including the stance. You must approach the shooting aspect of basketball with a wholistic approach.

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