Dribbling is how you move the basketball without passing. It allows you to move the basketball up the court. It gives you the chance to pass from a better angle. It is how you can drive to the basket for an easier shot attempt. Dribbling is a necessary basketball skill — and every dribble should have a purpose!
Good basketball players separate themselves from mediocre players by being able to handle the basketball. For beginners, it is essential to learn the correct fundamentals of dribbling. For more advanced players, it is important to further develop dribbling skills and to correct bad habits.
What habits should all good ballhandlers demonstrate? Here is a short list before we get into discussing how to dribble and how to perform a few dribble moves:
- Eyes up. Look up so you can see your teammates and defenders. Do not look at the basketball when you dribble.
- One hand. Dribble with one hand and practice with both hands equally. Dribbling with 2 hands at the same time is a double-dribble violation which gives the other team the basketball.
- Dribble low. Always keep the ball below waist height when dribbling. When the defense is in closer proximity, the ball should be about knee height.
- Protect the ball. When defended, the ball should be kept to one side of the body, not in front. Use your off hand and/or body to also protect the ball from the defender.
- Control the ball. The ball should be bounced with some force, but under control. If it bounces in all different directions, that’s not under control.
The following sections will detail how to dribble a basketball — from the basic dribble position to more advanced dribbling techniques. It is important to learn the basics before you attempt the more advanced dribble moves.
Basic Dribble Position
The player should be in an athletic stance or ready position…triple threat position, actually. The head is up and the knees are slightly bent.
Dribble the basketball using only the fingertips and pads of the hand. Never dribble with the palm as you will have very little control. Push the ball hard off the ground but keeping it under control and below the waist. As you improve, keep the ball below the knees. Think of your lower arm from elbow to fingertips as a pump. Using fingertips and this ‘pumping’ action, dribble the ball, receive it, dribble again, etc. Work on the timing of this action and do not include the shoulder into the dribble. If the shoulder gets involved, you start seeing this ‘bobbing’ action which is a bad habit that lessens control and quickness.
The speed dribble is used when dribbling quickly down the court. As you dribble forward with some speed, adjustments need to be made.
In the speed dribble, you are essentially running with basketball. Since you aren’t allowed to literally run with the ball, you need to dribble it. To execute the speed dribble, the body should be leaning forward (just as it does when you run). The ball is pushed out more in front of you rather than at your side. If you try to speed dribble with the ball at your side, you will either run right past your dribble or you will be slowing yourself down considerably. The ball will also be dribbled a little higher and controlled between the knee and waist area.
The idea is ‘speed’, but it also necessary to be under control. You may be able to dribble all the way to your destination or a defender may cut you off … therefore, you need to keep the ball under control so you can stop quickly if necessary.
Once the basic dribble has been learned, players can begin learning methods and techniques of changing direction with the dribble. The crossover dribble is one of those methods.
The crossover dribble, in its’ simplest form, is a low dribble where you push the ball from one hand to the other. It is an effective ballhandling skill for getting by an opponent.
To execute the crossover dribble, bounce the ball from one hand to the other in front of the body. Keep the dribble as low as possible and do it quickly. A lazy crossover dribble can be easily stolen by an alert defender. Receive the ball with the opposite hand, shift your weight past the defender, and drive off the trail leg to blow by him.
The hesitation dribble is also called the ‘shake and bake’. As you approach the defender, hesitate slightly to change your speed, give a head and shoulder fake along with ‘stuttersteps’, then blow past the defender. The stutter steps are quick, choppy steps. The hesitation dribble can also be done in conjunction with the crossover. In this instance, you would perform the hesitation move, then cross the ball over and dribble past the defender.
It should be noted that in the hesitation dribble, the hand still needs to be on top of the basketball during the hesitation action. Some players develop the bad habit of hesitating while rolling the hand under the ball. That is a palming or carry violation which will award the other team the basketball.
The between-the-legs dribble is useful when closely guarded by the defender. A crossover might not work when tightly guarded because there is little to no room in front of your body to dribble the basketball.
To perform the between-the-legs dribble, keep the basketball low. If going from right hand to left hand, put the right hand more to the outside of the ball and push it hard between separated legs. Going right hand to left hand means the left leg is in front of the right leg. Receive the ball with the left hand, push off with the back foot and dribble to the left.
This is an easy enough dribble but young players will tend to look at the ball. Work on keeping eyes up. I also see a lot of young kids pick up the front leg in order to dribble under it. That’s a bad habit that needs to be corrected quickly. Both feet should be on the floor while you push the ball between the legs. Learn to dribble low in order to perform correctly.
Here is another dribble move that allows you to change direction while completely keeping the ball away from the defender.
To execute the behind-the-back dribble, it is important to change direction as close to the defender as possible. This is less of an explosive move than the crossover or between-the-leg dribble, therefore if you perform to far away from the defender, he’ll be able to stay with you much easier. We’ll discuss as going from right hand to left hand behind the back. The right hand should be on the side of the ball, almost cupping it, to bring behind the back. Push to the left side and receive it with the left hand. The right hand should extend as far as possible to the opposite hip in order to get the ball to the left. By extending, you make the dribble quicker thereby making your move quicker.
Beyond the 6 types of dribbles discussed above, there are several other types and combinations that can be performed. The biggest thing to remember is to always dribble with control, with eyes up, and with a purpose. Learn to dribble with correct fundamentals and the advanced moves will become that much easier!