Basketball Dribbling Skills for Blowing by Your Opponent

Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right. – Henry Ford

Improving Your Efficiency as a Player

Basketball is fundamentally a team-oriented passing game that requires speed, intelligent movement and precision. However, there is yet another dynamic of basketball that if mastered will dramatically improve your confidence and efficiency as a player. The skill of effective ball-handling is utilized as a tactic to improve the passing lanes, to create shots for yourself or your teammates, to advance the ball up the court, and to get out of trouble when required. Master this skill and watch your confidence soar. Neglect this skill and suffer the consequences of hesitancy and uncertainty.

This IQ Matrix map will specifically focus on the fundamentals of effective and efficient dribbling strategy as it applies to the game of basketball.

This article post is part of a Basketball Success Series of IQ Matrix maps. Topics within this series include:

Part 1: Basketball Shooting Skills
Part 2: Basketball Defensive Skills
Part 3: Basketball Dribbling Skills
Part 4: Basketball Passing Skills
Part 5: Basketball Offensive Skills
Part 6: Basketball Rebounding Skills
Part 7: Basketball Movement Tactics
Part 8: Basketball Post Play Skills
Part 9: Basketball Mindset Strategies

Dribbling Technique and Drills

The 1st Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map breaks down the fundamentals of the dribbling technique and touches upon several ball-handling drills you can work on in order to take your skills to another level.

Dribble Technique

Knowing how the dribble the basketball utilizing the correct technique will assist you to gain better control while enabling you to move more freely, quickly and efficiently with the ball. The following guidelines present you with some simple yet effective ways that will help you to gain better control of the basketball:

Hands Used as Suction Cups

Envision your hands as big magnetic suction cups that the ball naturally gravitates towards. If you imagine a suction cup in your mind you will realize that it’s not flat, it rather takes on a half-circle formation that wraps around the curvature of the basketball. This is the exact shape that your palm and fingers should form as you make contact with the ball.

Finger Guidelines

It is important to understand when you are learning to dribble the ball that it is your fingers that control the basketball and not your palms. You have 5 fingers on each hand. With practice, these 5 fingers will allow you to maneuver the ball in any direction you wish with a slight adjustment of your finger and hand positioning. Conversely, if you were to use your palms to control the basketball then you would effectively be limiting your ability to move the ball freely and to change direction quickly.

Finally, to get the most out of your fingers when dribbling the basketball, please make sure that they are spread apart in a comfortable fashion. The wider you can spread your fingers in a comfortable fashion, the better traction you will have on the ball, and the more control you will develop. If you are a junior player, then it’s very likely that your fingers are still growing, and you will, therefore, be able to cover a larger area of the ball as you mature and grow. At that stage, dribbling will become far easier and you will gain more control over the basketball.

Dribble Rotation Guidelines

Let’s now discuss the Up and Down movement of the basketball and the dynamics involved throughout this process:

Down Movement of the Ball

Begin by holding the ball in the hand you are about to dribble with. Space your fingers wide in a comfortable fashion on top of the basketball and extend your wrist and fingers downwards as you release the ball. When you let the ball go, your fingers should extend and point down in the direction where the ball is about to hit the ground. Also, your arm and elbow should also extend and lengthen downwards upon your release. This will help give the ball an extra push on the way down to the ground, and also enables your arm to almost mirror the trajectory of the ball on the bounce. This is important for the next step when the ball bounces upwards.

Finally, the ball should bounce and remain outside of your hand for a period of One count.

Up Movement of the Ball

As the basketball rises off the ground, your fingers and hand should be in a low position facing towards the ground ready to catch the ball on the upward movement. When utilizing a standard Control Dribble, you should effectively pick the ball up on the upward bounce at below waist height. Begin by gaining control of the basketball with the tips of your fingers and ride the ball’s bounce up to about the height of your hips for a count of Two before bouncing the ball back again towards the ground. Your movement should at all times remain steady and under control.

Basketball Dribbling Drills

  • Practice with both Right and Left Hands.
  • Practice fingertip control.
  • Practice switching between hands from left to right, and from right to left.
  • Practice building speed with your dribble.
  • Practice sitting dribbles.
  • Practice dribbling while walking, jogging and sprinting.
  • Practice 2-Ball dribbles in a straight-line, by changing directions, and while standing in a stationary position.

Basketball How to Improve Your Ball Handling Skills

The Three Fundamental Dribbles

The 2nd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map provides you with some “In Game” dribbling scenarios and the dribbling techniques associated with them. Here we will discuss the 3 fundamental basketball dribbles and how you should go about implementing them into your game.

Three Dribbling Techniques

The game of basketball is comprised of 3 distinct dribbling techniques, all of which are utilized for different purposes throughout a game. Below we break down and discuss each of these dribbling techniques in detail.

The Control Dribble

The Control Dribble is used to great effect when your Defender is positioned right in front of you on the basketball court. In this scenario, there is no defensive pressure, which allows you to dribble the ball at a comfortable and controlled pace.

Here is the hand and body positioning you should utilize when undertaking the Control Dribble:

Keep Your Back Straight

Keeping your back straight is a fundamental key to all dribbling styles. Be careful not to hunch your back over the ball or to bend backward unnecessarily. This dribble should be relaxed and controlled. For that reason, it is called the Control Dribble.

Keep Feet and Shoulders Square to Defender

Face your direct Opponent square-on shoulder-to-shoulder. Because you are not leaning in one direction or the other with your dribble, it allows you to react far more quickly and unpredictably if your Opponent suddenly decides to close in on you. The key is not to give any hints away to your Defender as to where you are likely to dribble the ball next.

Bend Your Knees

Dribble with a slight bend in your knees. This will keep you in a good aggressive position from which you will be able to explode off your dribble if the defense closes in on you suddenly.

Stick Your Bum Out

As you are dribbling the ball, be sure to stick your bum out slightly behind you. This also adds to your reaction speed and quickness if your Defender suddenly decides to close in on you.

Bounce Ball Up to Thigh Level

When in the Control Dribble, it is important to keep the bounce of the ball in moderation. You should essentially keep the bounce at no higher than thigh or hip level. This will enable you to react more quickly and aggressively if the defense suddenly decides to close the gap.

The Power Dribble

The Power Dribble is used to great effect when your Defender is within reach of the basketball. Your purpose for being in the Power Dribble is to maximize the protection of the ball from the wandering hands of your Opponent.

Here is the hand and body positioning you should utilize when undertaking the Power Dribble:

Stay Wide and Low

Within the Power Dribble, there isn’t much room to make a mistake. Because of this reason, you must remain low, wide and explosive in order to protect the ball and to enable you to move with speed and precision if the situation arises.

Keep Your Body Between Defender and Ball

Your body must be used as a barrier lying in between your direct Opponent and the ball. Utilize it as a screen, a wall or a shield that protects the ball from your Defender. Hence, no matter where your Opponent moves – whether to your left or right, – you move with them and adjust the ball’s position in accordance with your Opponent’s location beside you.

ALWAYS keep your body between your defender and the ball under all circumstances. If you seek to become an exceptional ball-handler then this is something you cannot ignore.

Mastering this technique will help you to effectively beat your Opponent off the dribble with less effort than if you were to front your defender the conventional way.

Use Your Arm-bar to Protect Ball

You can only dribble the ball with one hand at a time. This, therefore, leaves your other hand free for protection purposes. Use this hand as an arm-bar, extending it outwards with a slight bend in your elbow. This arm-bar will help to protect the basketball whenever your Defender decides to reach in.

Move by Step-Sliding

When in the Power Dribble you must control your feet and movement with great care and attention. The best way to do this is by step-sliding. This involves stepping with one foot and sliding the opposite foot into position while keeping both feet about shoulder length apart. This method will allow you to move in a controlled and progressive manner and helps maximize ball protection at all times.

Bounce Ball Low and Behind Your Back Foot

The height of your bounce is very important here. When you bounce the ball low, it allows you more control over the basketball. You should, therefore, bounce it no higher than knee height in the Power Dribble position.

The ball should also be bounced and controlled behind your back-foot, which is the furthest foot away from your Defender. This will maximize protection of the ball and keeps it as far away from your Opponent as possible.

The Speed Dribble

The Speed Dribble is used when your Defender is completely out of position either running beside you or behind you. The faster and more quickly you can effectively move the ball forward, the better advantage you will have over your Defender when you get to the basket.

Here is the hand and body positioning you should utilize when undertaking the Speed Dribble:

Move at Full Speed

Agility and quickness is the key to the Speed Dribble. This dribble is most effective in the Open Court when you are sprinting and need to handle the basketball in a controlled and efficient manner.

Throw Ball Ahead and Sprint to Catch Up

Because you are moving very quickly, it helps to literally push the ball ahead of yourself on every bounce. Many players find Speed Dribbling difficult because they get the ball caught up under their feet. They are simply dribbling the ball too low and not pushing it forward ahead of themselves on every dribble.

Bounce Ball Up to Chest Level

Speed Dribbling requires as few bounces as possible before reaching your target. The goal, after all, is to dribble to your destination as quickly as possible without your Opponents catching up. To achieve this you must effectively bounce the ball up to the level of your chest. Once the ball reaches this level, simply push it forward one bounce at a time, and sprint ahead to catch up.

Snap Wrist Back at 90° Angle

Finally, as you are Speed Dribbling, lock your wrist back at about a 90° degree angle on the up-bounce of the ball. This will allow you to get maximum force behind the ball as you push it forward and ahead of you.

Reasons to Dribble

It is important to understand that dribbling the ball is only a small aspect of the game of basketball. It is a skill that is worth developing, however, it should not be over-utilized throughout a game, otherwise, it may lead to unnecessary turnovers and inefficient team play.

The following presents you with a set of guidelines explaining scenarios when you should be dribbling the basketball. And it is only under these conditions that your dribble should be activated.

Advancing the Ball Up Court

Fast Break: In this scenario, you are dribbling the ball on the fast-break in transition up the court. There are no Teammates in front of you, or they are out of position and you cannot, therefore, pass them the ball.

Defense Back: In this scenario, the defense has moved back into a Zone formation. You are dribbling the ball up the court in a Controlled Dribble with no defensive pressure.

Improving the Passing Angles

In this scenario, you cannot shoot the ball because you are either outside of your shooting range or the defense is blocking your path to the basket. Your only option is to pass the ball to one of your Teammates, however, there is a pesky Defender guarding you and they are making passing the ball very difficult. You, therefore, begin dribbling the ball so that you can gain a better position and angle on the basketball court to pass the ball off to one of your teammates.

Creating Shot Opportunities

Shot for Yourself: In this scenario, you are standing with the ball outside of your shooting range, when suddenly you see a defensive gap open up that will allow you to get a closer shot at the basket. You fake your immediate Defender one way and beat them off the dribble in the opposite direction moving towards the gap where you will have a clear and open shot at the basket.

Shot for Your Teammates: In this scenario, you have dribbled your way to an open area of the court thinking you could get an easy shot off, however instead you have drawn Defenders, which makes shooting the ball very difficult. This has now allowed one of your Teammates to break free of their Opponent and move themselves into a good scoring position under the basket. You immediately spot your Teammate, take a few quick dribbles to get better positioning and pass the ball to your Teammate for an easy basket.

Getting Out of Trouble

In this scenario, your team is moving the ball up the court against intense defensive pressure. All of a sudden you receive a pass from one of your Teammates. You look to immediately pass the ball back, realizing that the best and quickest way to move the ball up the court is through utilizing quick passes. However, unfortunately, all your passing lanes are being blocked off by the Defenders. The only choice you have left is to dribble out of this dangerous situation and pass to a Teammate when the next opportunity arises.

Basketball How to Use Your Dribble in a Game

Dribble Tactics and Strategy

The 3rd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map delves into Dribble strategy and tactics, providing you with effective methods of breaking down defensive pressure off your dribble. Here we will discuss 3 fundamental ways of attacking off your dribble by using straight-line dribbling tactics, through changing direction and by applying several advanced combination strategies.

Changing Direction Dribble Moves and Tips

Use Only When: Defender is in front of you.

Tip: Use these moves when utilizing the Control Dribble.

Crossover Dribble

Use Only When: Defender is more than Arm’s Length Away from you.

Step 1: Step in opposite direction you intend to move.

Step 2: Cup the ball in your hand.

Step 3: Bounce the ball close to your thigh to opposite hand.

Step 4: Push off outside foot and move in the original direction while maintaining your dribble in the new hand.

Between the Legs Dribble

Use Only When: Defender is approximately Arm’s Length Away from you.

Step 1: Feed the ball between your legs to your opposite hand and move in this new direction.

Step 2: Make sure to use your leg and to protect the ball.

Step 3: Utilize your Arm-bar to protect the ball after the Between the Leg Crossover dribble.

Spin Dribble

Use Only When: Defender is less than Arm’s Length Away from you.

Step 1: Place Arm-bar on the defender while pivoting on your lead foot.

Step 2: Cup the ball in your dribbling hand and spin away from your defender pulling the ball with you as you spin. At the same time make sure to snap your head and body around as you are spinning in order to allow faster rotation.

Step 3: Protect the ball with your body and your lead-foot as you are coming out of your spin. Your lead foot must essentially land outside of your Defender’s lead-foot after the spin.

Behind the Back Dribble

Use Only When: Defender is body-to-body with you and you have literally no space to move.

Step 1: Immediately come to a Jump Stop.

Step 2: Cup the ball with your dribbling hand and push it towards your opposite hand right behind your back allowing the ball to crossover and bounce on the outside of your opposite foot. Some players will find it helpful to bend their knees slightly as they pass the ball over towards their opposite hand.

Step 3: Regain control of the dribble with your opposite hand and continue dribbling in the new direction.

Straight-Line Dribble Moves and Tips

Use Only When: Defender is back-peddling, is in the open court or in a poor defensive positioning such as when they are running beside you.

Tip 1: Use quick first step.

Tip 2: Create speed off your dribble.

Fake Crossover Dribble

Step 1: Use a Control Dribble and create space between you and your defender.

Step 2: Fake with your body and the ball in opposite direction you intend to move with one hand. Make sure that the ball and the foot you are faking with mirror each other when undertaking this move.

Step 3: Bring the ball back and explode in original direction with one hand.

Hesitation Dribble

Step 1: Coming in from a Speed Dribble back up your shoulders and relax. Show your opponent that you are backing down and will not be attacking the basket.

Step 2: Slow down your dribble and body movement for an instance. Make it look as though you are looking for help from your Teammates.

Step 3: Immediately return to a full Speed Dribble once your opponent has relaxed and is on the back-foot.

In & Out Dribble

Step 1: Fake your opponent with your Feet, Eyes and Head in opposite direction you intend to move while maintaining your dribble. You are essentially trying to fool your Defender into thinking that you are about to crossover.

Step 2: Explode immediately with the ball in the original direction. It is best to use this dribble when you have good speed built up in your movement, and your opponent doesn’t.

Basketball How to Become a Better Ball Handler

Advanced Dribble Moves and Tactics

Use Only When: Defender counters your moves and you, therefore, need to become a little more creative before you can successfully beat them off the dribble.

Cross and Re-Cross Dribble

Step 1: First of all you must make sure that there is plenty of distance between you and your opponent in order to have enough space available to make this move.

Step 2: Once the distance has been established, make an obvious crossover dribble in front of your defender.

Step 3: Now allow your opponent to step forward to try and prevent your dribble.

Step 4: As soon as your opponent has taken the bait, immediately cross back over to the opposite hand.

One Hand Double Cross Dribble

This dribble is similar to the Cross & Re-Cross Dribble, however, it only utilizes one hand.

Step 1: If dribbling with your right hand, utilize your left hand to fake to the left.

Step 2: Now initiate your fake bounce of the ball towards the middle of your body with your right hand moving the ball in the direction of your left-handed fake.

Step 3: The moment your opponent reacts to your move, immediately bring the ball back from the middle to your right side with your right hand moving forward in the original direction.

Between the Legs and Back Dribble

This dribble is best utilized whenever your opponent is in close proximity to you on the basketball court.

Step 1: Dribble the ball between your legs from right to left.

Step 2: Fake with the ball, shoulders, and legs towards the left as the ball passes between your legs. This will most likely force your defender to lean into this direction.

Step 3: Now, come back through your legs again in the original direction (left to right) and explode by your defender.

Half Spin Dribble

Step 1: Make your defender think that you are about to initiate a Spin Dribble.

Step 2: Halfway through the spin, pull back your dribble in the original direction.

The Stutter Step

Step 1: While dribbling the ball begin by rapidly pounding your feet on the ground and shaking your shoulders. This will usually force your defender to freeze as they won’t be able to get a read on the direction you are about to dribble.

Step 2: Once you have initiated the Stutter Step, immediately blow by your defender using another dribble move in your repertoire.

The Pull-Back Crossover Dribble

This dribble should be used when you are moving the ball down court and you suddenly realize that you are about to be trapped by two defenders.

Step 1: Move into a Power Dribble position.

Step 2: Reverse your dribble backward out of the trap.

Step 3: Initiate any one of the “Change of Direction” moves discussed above.

Step 4: Move forward in the new direction by your defenders.

Concluding Thoughts

There is no doubt that knowing how to effectively handle the basketball will help improve your efficiency and effectiveness on the basketball court. However, what is rarely considered is that knowing how to dribble the ball effectively will also dramatically boost your confidence as a basketball player. Not only will you be less prone to turning the ball over, it will also allow you to become a far more efficient scorer as you will be better able to get open looks at the basket off your dribble penetration.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Basketball Dribbling Skills

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