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Getting the Hot Hand

Want to impress on the hardwood? A righteous dunk may do it — but it requires raw power, and only sufficient height, explosive leaping ability and genetics offer any hope of making that shot. And layups? Forget it. Any 8-year-old can execute one of those.

No, to truly impress the people on the court, you need to step back to that three-point line, let the ball fly in a rainbow arc and drain it. Because while you can muscle through a lot of shots, to consistently make three-pointers you must possess, in the parlance of the playground, skillz.

To conquer the three-point shot, you’ve got to get in close. According to Dave Hopla, a shooting coach who has worked with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards, as well as All-Stars Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen, close-range work needs to come before anything else.

“Everyone wants to shoot a three-pointer when they can’t shoot a two-pointer correctly yet,” Hopla says. “So every time I practice, I start two feet from the basket. I make 10 shots, I take a step back. I make another 10 shots, I take another step back, until I’m at the three-point line. When I work out Kobe Bryant or Ray Allen, we also start two feet from the basket.”

Trust us, if it’s good enough for Bryant and Allen, it’s good enough for you. Here’s Hopla’s prescription for transforming you into a three-point impresario

Toe to the target. The foot on the same side as your shooting hand should be pointed in a straight line to the basket. This lines you up properly for a perfect shot.

Shooting arm forms an “L.” Letting your nondominant hand support the ball, bring your shooting arm up until it forms an “L,” with your triceps parallel to the floor. Then extend your shooting arm out to power your shot.

Elbow above eyebrows. For proper form, your elbow should be positioned above your eyebrows after you extend and shoot the ball. That will provide the arc required for a good shot. “The better arc you have, the better chance you have of making the shot,” Hopla says.

Hand into the hoop. As you finish your shot, your shooting hand should visually be “in the hoop.” That is to say, from your perspective your hand should visually block out the basket, with your palm down.

Freeze the follow-through. Momentarily freeze your hand position as you finish the follow-through of your shot. It helps you focus on maintaining the proper form. And it looks cool as the ball swishes through the net.

Shoot and stay. The longer the shot, the longer the rebound, so by staying put momentarily after your shot, you have a chance of recovering your own rebound if the ball doesn’t swish.

And here’s a final tip. “If you don’t have enough strength to easily shoot a three, space out more, getting away from the three-point line so you can step into the shot,” Hopla says. “That will give you power and momentum.”

Now go and sink that buzzer beater.