There are two ways to move the ball around the court during a basketball match. The first is passing – the method often preferred, as it allows the ball to be transferred around the area of play much more quickly. However, there will be situations where an effective pass is not possible, such as congested passing lanes or tight marking. In response, the ball should be moved around the court via the second method: dribbling. Dribbling refers to the skill of bouncing the ball along the ground whilst running with it.
Purpose of dribbling
The dribble is part of the basketball ‘triple threat’ offensive move. It has many uses on court, including creating an attack, charging forward to the hoop, beating your marker, escaping from a tight defensive corner, creating a successful shooting position and changing shooting or passing angles.
In general, the dribble should be used to help you get from A to B quickly and efficiently. This is not to say that dribbling should be used in every situation. There is nothing more frustrating in a game situation than watching a player hog the ball whilst dribbling the length of the court, seemingly oblivious to other teammates in good passing positions.
How to dribble
Whilst learning this skill, it is often tempting to watch the ball whilst you run. However, this bad habit should be banished from your game as soon as possible. Remember, the basketball is a spherical object and if you bounce it the correct way – with your fingertips and the pads of your hands – the ball will return back up to your hand. Therefore, always ensure that you keep your eyes off the ball and firmly on the action taking place around you on court. That way you will be able to spot teammates who are open for a pass, as well as ensuring you don’t run into defenders.
As long as the basketball is properly inflated, light pressure will be enough for a successful bounce. Push the ball down as you run, by spreading your fingers and simultaneously flexing your wrist. You will probably develop a preference for either your right or left hand, but a player who can dribble with both hands will be more successful in a game situation (obviously only one hand can ever be used at a time). Always keep your legs flexed to ensure good balance and your back straight, so that you are able to spring off in any direction you wish.
Learning to dribble can be slightly awkward and it can be incredibly frustrating when the basketball does not react in the way you want it to. However, if you practice intensive drills and always keep the correct technique in mind, you will be surprised how quickly you will be able to dribble without even thinking about it.
The most important rule about dribbling is that the dribble can only begin and end one time. You cannot start a dribble, run a few metres, then pick up the ball and have a look round, only to continue the dribble a moment later. This is strictly forbidden in basketball. Therefore, if you decide to dribble, make sure you make it count. Furthermore, do not end the dribble unless you know precisely what your next move will be, for example if you are in a good shooting position or have a teammate open for a pass.
Types of dribble
There are numerous types of dribble but some are used more often than others:
The speed dribble
This should be used when there is an open court in front of you. You should aim to go as fast as you can whilst retaining control of the ball. To do this, push the ball out in front of you at approximately waist height and run after it. Make sure that your hand is not directly over the ball, but slightly behind it. This will ensure that the ball bounces at some distance in front of you, rather than straight downwards.
The low dribble
Effective when you are being tightly marked. In this dribble, the ball should be kept as low to the ground as possible and in your control. To shorten the distance between the ball and the ground, extend your dribbling arm down as far as possible. Keep your elbow in and use your other arm to shield the ball from defenders.
Useful when you need to quickly change your direction on court, for instance to beat your marker. This dribble simply entails switching the ball from one hand to the other, by bouncing the ball in front of you across to the other side. As a result, the other hand takes control of the ball.
The in and out
A type of ‘fake’ dribble, the in and out is used to deceive your marker. It can be used in several match situations but is most effective when used to get around a defender and near to the hoop.
To carry out this dribble, bounce the ball out in front of you as if you were going to crossover (as explained above), but, instead of picking the ball up with your other hand, simply roll your original dribbling hand over the top of the ball and bring it sharply back in the original direction, in order to get around the defender.