Using Your Eyes to Dominate Offense & Defense in Basketball

I remember when I started learning how to dribble, it was really challenging to keep my head up at the same time. It’s something that every young player goes through as they’re learning.

The good thing for me was that I kept working on this weakness until it came effortlessly, and my game improved dramatically because of it.

But the thing is, your head and your eyes should be doing different things at different points in a game.

So, where should you look when shooting, passing, dribbling, and on defense?

Let’s dive in.

Where Should Your Eyes Look When Shooting a Basketball?

When shooting a basketball, the majority of shooters say to look at the rim because you want to keep your eye on the final destination of the ball. Also, once you release the shot, you should be ready to grab the offensive rebound just in case you miss. 

Both of those suggestions will increase the shooter’s ability to score a lot of points consistently from game to game. When attempting a lay-up, it is important to keep your chin and eyes up to make sure you can finish with success.

Remember to use the acronym B.E.E.F., and one of those four has to do with where you look:

1. Balance:

  • Remember to have feet almost shoulder-width apart
  • Have your knees a little bent
  • 10 toes should be aiming toward the basket; Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in basketball history, admits to sometimes having his off-center
  • Foundation is important and balance with your legs helps prevent tired players from missing
  • For right-handers, Curry likes to have the right foot a bit in front of his left foot

2. Eyes:

  • Make sure to look at your target, and Curry likes aiming for the middle of the three hooks of the net that you can see
  • He likes to have his eyes right over the top of the front of the rim
  • He does not like looking at the back of the rim because that is a harder surface

3. Elbow:

  • For the most part, you want your elbow pointing at the basket
  • Do not have the elbow facing away from the basket

4. Follow Through: 

  • Make sure to have a follow through, and you should have the ball on your fingertips in order to get a good spin on the ball

Here’s Steph going over most of these on video:

Just like Curry, most recommend looking at the rim. Many people look at the back of the rim, others like the back of the hoop, and there is a smaller number that says the middle of the basket. 

If we focus on a target, then the chances of hitting that target increase. Therefore, offensive players should find which part of the rim they want to target. Some scorers may enjoy looking at the backboard because they feel that looking over the hoop helps with their shot. 

With all things considered, the main idea is to find a constant spot every time you shoot.

Now, if you are the best player in NBA history, you can shoot with your eyes closed:

Where Should Your Eyes Be Looking When You Pass?

This is an easy answer, and it is your target. Unless you are throwing a no-look pass – and those should not be done very often – you should be looking at your teammate. Those who are receiving a pass should watch the ball into their hands, just like in baseball.

“Pistol” Peter Maravich and Rajon Rondo have mastered a different type of pass: the fake pass lay-up. This is truly for the most talented. Maravich originated it, and you can see an example at the 2:29 mark of the video below:

Rondo revived it, and it’s just a beautiful way to finish with two points at the hoop:

Where Should Your Eyes Be Looking When You Dribble?

Here is another simple answer: when dribbling, keep your head up. 

You have to make sure that you are not looking down when dribbling because you lose the opportunity to see when a teammate is open or when you are open for a shot.

If you need more help here, read this list of great ball handling drills.

Where Should Your Eyes Be Looking When You Defend a Player?

The tendency is to look at the basketball while playing defense, especially if you are playing off-ball defense. There should be no “head on a swivel.” 

Use your peripheral vision to see the ball and the player you are guarding because a split second can lead to a disadvantage. When the ball moves, you should move, as Michael Jordan says. Focus on a point between the ball and your matchup:

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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with basketball for over 30 years as a player, coach, and bettor. He has a degree in Sports Psychology and enjoys following both the NBA and College Basketball on a nightly basis.