I never learned how to properly shoot a basketball as a kid, so I'm awful at free throws. Stars like Shaq and Ben Wallace are also awful, so I don't feel so bad. Nonetheless, I asked Megan Carney of OSU Recreational Sports to teach me the fundamentals. Here's a field guide that ought to be useful for beginners, or serve as a reminder for old pros.

I never learned how to properly shoot a basketball as a kid, so I'm awful at free throws. Stars like Shaq and Ben Wallace are also awful, so I don't feel so bad. Nonetheless, I asked Megan Carney of OSU Recreational Sports to teach me the fundamentals. Here's a field guide that ought to be useful for beginners, or serve as a reminder for old pros.

(1) Line up your shooting hand and the corresponding foot with the basket. Most courts have a nail in the floorboards to guide you.

(2) Hold the ball with your fingertips, not your palm. Your shooting hand should be under the ball. It's doing all the work. The other hand merely grips the side of the ball to hold it steady.

(3) Develop a routine to focus yourself. Carney recommends taking a deep breath, looking at the basket for a couple seconds and dribbling once or twice. But any ritual will do. The point is, be loose and make sure to look up at the basket.

(4) To shoot, bend your knees, then lift the ball straight up, keeping your elbow in. (Repeat: Keep your elbow in!) The tendency is to push the ball forward, but your motion should be strictly vertical. Most of the power comes from your legs; by the end of the motion, you should be on your toes. But don't jump - going aerial adds a wacky variable that complicates the process.

(5) Follow through all the way to the top of your reach. As you release the ball, snap your wrist forward in the direction of the basket.

(6) Practice! The only way to master this process is to repeat it over and over until it's ingrained in your muscle memory.