contest shots in basketball

How to Contest Shots in Basketball (Even If You’re Smaller)

Want to contest shots in basketball? Here’s how: get into your opponent’s head and make them think they’re going to get blocked. Here are some drills to improve this skill.

In the 90s, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo were the scariest guys on defence (just watch the mixtape above).

If any of these guys were on the court and you were planning on attacking the basket, there was a good chance you were going to be denied.

They put fear into their opponents’ souls. And this little thing right here is how you become a better shot challenger.

How to Contest Shots

The great Bill Russell, who revolutionized big man defence, once said that:

“The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”

This is exactly what all of the great blockers (and defenders) do. They mess with you psychologically. They make you think you’re going to be denied so that you deny yourself (i.e. taking a bad shot and, hopefully, air-balling).

That’s why closing out on a shooter is effective. The shooter has an open look and should be able to get a good shot off. But because the close-outter is charging at him with their hands up like a knight’s lance, the shooter will get flustered and alter his shot.

This goes the same with contesting jump shots. You don’t need to jump up every time trying to block the shot.

Matter of fact, that’s a waste of energy.

You just need to put your arms up so that she (the shooter) thinks she’s going to get blocked.

Also, by doing this you’re putting your hand in her face, which blurs her vision, causing her to not get a good look at the basket.

On a side note, when I say “blur her vision,” I don’t mean actually poking your opponent in the eyes and blurring their vision that way.

That’s a foul.

What I do mean by it is using your hands to make it difficult for them to see the basket.

Just wanted to clear that up. Anywhoo…


Here’s a little review of how to contest shots:

  • ALWAYS close out on shots (but be under control) +
  • Put up your hands to challenge jumpshots ALWAYS +
  • Make the basket difficult for the shooter to see =
  • Making the shooter think they’re going to get blocked (aka messing with them psychologically)


When it comes to practicing shot contesting, there really aren’t any drills you can do. All you really can do to train this skill is to make a habit of challenging shots all game long.

For instance, if you’re playing a pick-up game, remember to put an arm up and actively try to challenge your opponent’s jump shot. You also have to remember to close out on open shooters.

Basically, don’t play lazy defence.

As time passes, you’ll notice that your effort will pay off. You’ll gradually get more blocks (and steals).

More importantly, however, people will start to fear you as a defender. And we all know what that will lead to…

You messing with your opponent’s psyche, causing them to take bad shots is what it will lead to if you weren’t getting the drift. So, yeah.

READ MORE: How to Defend the Pick and Roll

Shot challenging in basketball is all about effort. You put in the effort to do it and you’ll get results. You don’t, then you won’t see results.

So, hustle. And contesting shots will become second nature to you.