Types of Dribbling in Basketball
When it comes to playing the sport of basketball, it really is easy to get carried away with the sheer intensity of the game.
Few sports in the world have quite such a variety of ways to play, and ways for the players involved to score.
However, what can make basketball so uniquely enjoyable to watch is the way that players will dribble with the ball.
Dribbling is, without a doubt, the single most satisfying part of watching a game of basketball.
Some might love to see a dunk, but a beautiful dribbling combination leading to lay-up or a jumper can be even more impressive.
What, though, are the different types of dribbling in basketball?
So, basketball dribbling is a confusing but very important part of the game as a whole.
If you wish to move the ball on the court, then you have two options; you could pass the ball, or you could dribble with it.
While not every player is going to be a crisp passer of the ball, even the largest and stockiest of centers are expected to be able to play ball with a few dribbles!
If the defense is good, they can make passing hard for anyone but the best passers. As such, you might need to break down the opposition D with a bit of creative dribbling.
Since a dribble has to start and then stop once within your possession, you need to make your dribble action count and ensure that you do something with the ball.
When is the correct time to dribble?
The right time to go on a dribbling run in a game of basketball includes:
When you need to try and get the offense moving, and the opposition D has shut down passing lanes (as described above).
The hoop is open, and you are left one-on-one with your defender; can you get past them to shoot?
An opposition defender has locked you down and it will nigh-impossible to pass/shoot from where you are.
A screen has been placed for you to work around so that you can get a clean shot off without any issue.
You need to work a better angle for a shot, pass, or kick-out to a wide-open shooter.
You need to keep the ball in the final seconds of the game to see out a one-possession victory.
The problem with dribbling in basketball is that many players go to a dribble without really needing to; many times, it is a better option to pass or simply shoot.
Selective dribbling, though, can improve your game massively by simply making you more likely to make the correct call when it comes to taking your shot on.
Avoiding excessive dribbling
The most common issue for a lot of basketball players is that they tend to try and dribble all the way up the court.
While you might want to look like a Harlem Globetrotter, excessive dribbling is amateurish and should be avoided.
If you are simply moving with the ball from one point of the court to the next, then you should try and do so with a minimal amount of dribbling where possible.
The secret to good dribbling? Dribble when it actually benefits the team. If a dribble won’t progress this offensive move, pass to one of your teammates.
If you want to become a better basketball player, especially if you play a guard position and need to be a playmaker, then you must learn when the right time is to break out a dribble move!
The sooner you work out when that is, the easier it is going to be for you to start playing a more cohesive, successful brand of the game.
The best players not only know how to dribble, but when to dribble.
It’s all well and good being able to pull off over-unders and smart dribbling tricks to break ankles…but do you know when to do it in a way that actually benefits your team and makes your team play better?
If not, then you might wish to take a bit longer to work out how to properly come up the court and dribble with confidence, consistency, and accuracy.
Starting to dribble with success
If you are new to the art of dribbling, then you might find yourself looking at the ball and dribbling – this is the wrong way to dribble; you dribble looking at your opponent, not the ball!
You use the pad of your hand and the fingertips to keep mesmeric control of the ball, never pounding it too hard so that it might bounce away and kill your dribble.
Dribbling is used to get by someone, and to give you the best chance of moving beyond them physically; therefore, you need to have them under the impression that you are in total control of that ball.
A basketball that has been inflated to the right level should bounce to around 75% of the height from where you bounced it first.
So, you don’t need to watch a basketball; once you know this, you know where it should bounce – and how high it should bounce – with every single touch.
So, keep your eyes well and truly focused on the court and the movement of opposition players and teammates.
You dribble by using a spread-out hand, with fingers fully spread out as opposed to clasped in. You also use the wrist to control the ball as opposed to using the palm of the hand.
You also don’t need to dunk down on the ball as you pound it on the spot; a light amount of pressure is more than enough to keep the ball bouncing back up to where you need it.
You should always look to have your back straight, too, with your legs in a bent, flexed position.
This allows for easier take-off and is going to be better at allowing you to shoot and take on dribbles with consistent success.
Types of Dribbling You Should Use
As a player, you should be looking for ways to make sure that your basketball game is as clean as is possible.
This means being smart with the kind of dribbles that you take on; not every dribble is going to be useful in every situation.
Here, then, are some of the most common and important basketball dribbling moves that you should try and master.
1. Low Dribble
A low dribble is the best option to turn to when you have an opponent breathing down your neck and isn’t allowing you to have command of the ball.
This is great for making sure that you keep the ball low to the ground, making it hard for the opposition player to come in and swipe it out of your hands.
You should look to bring your dribbling hand/arm down to the floor as close as you can, making sure that the ball is bouncing a short distance from floor to hand.
This allows for more rapid movement of the hand, and also ensures that you can control the ball with light touches of the palm.
At this point, you should be shielding away from your marker, looking for a player to get the ball to via a pass.
2. Change-of-Pace Dribble
If your intention with this dribble is to blow by an opponent with a quick change of pace, then you need to know how to go about doing so.
The dribble is an essential part of beating a man and will make you force a defender to believe you have slowed down.
To start off this dribble, you want to start to slow down; you might even wish to make it look like you are going to stop dribbling and hold the ball.
When the opponent comes in to guard you, then you need to slow down even further and almost be stationary.
Straighten the back, look around the court whilst keeping a light, basic dribble going. Make it look like you are assessing the best option on the court to receive a pass.
Once you do this, you should see the guarding opponent lighten up a little and stop being so intense with their defense.
At this point, you go into a bent position to guard the ball with body, and then dribble the ball in front of you with a long, stretched dribble. Get to top speed, find a yard of space, and shoot/pass.
3. End-to-end Dribble
When you get the opportunity to bomb forward on a fast break, you need to get used to using an end-to-end dribble.
Since you will likely be either one-on-one with your opponent or you are going to be in numerical advantage, you can be a bit more ambitious with each bounce of the ball.
To run with the ball and dribble, you need to get the ball in front of you as opposed to at your side. Get the ball consistently bouncing in line with your waist, and charge at the defender directly.
The quicker you run, try and keep the ball moving further in front of you so that you can catch it on the run easily.
You will have your hand behind the dribble with each move, so that you can keep the ball bouncing hard and fast in front of you with the arm extended.
The speed requires you to move quickly and to keep the ball moving hard and fast.
So, ensure you keep the ball at waist height but no higher than your hip, otherwise it can be hard to keep the ball under your spell.
4. Crossover Dribble
If your aim is to bamboozle an opponent, you might need to break out some of the party piece tricks to do so.
This means looking into things like crossover dribbles, which require you to dribble with your weak hand to begin with (ideally).
Then, as the opponent gets close to you, you need to push the ball in front of you whilst switching it over to the other hand.
As you move it from hand to hand, you want to then use the change of angle and direction to blow by your opponent and take the shot on.
Keeping the ball nice and low here is vital as the ball is going to be momentarily unprotected. As such, the lower it is to the ground the less likely it is that it will be swiped from you.
You need to always have the receiving hand open and ready to take the ball, so try and keep it perpendicular to the ball as it bounces from right-to-left or vice versa.
You should always try to stay lower to the ground, here, using an arched body to barrel forward and give yourself that body protection around the ball.
5. Reverse Dribble
Another useful little type of dribble in basketball is the reverse dribble. We recommend that any young player gets to grip with a reverse, as it is tremendous for fleeing a closely guarded situation.
However, you will be unable to see where your teammates are on the court which can lead to a bit of guesswork when you come out of the reverse.
Move towards the defender with intent, stopping for a short period before contact. Now, stay low and post-up, turning your back into the defender.
You’ll need to pivot to the side that the ball is on.
Then, keep the dribble going with a simple dribble process, and then point the foot of your dribbling hand in the direction you intend to turn – this will help make the pivot more natural.
Once you do this, you will need to swing your dribbling arm and shoulder with the rest of your body so that you turn at once.
Do this and ensure that you slap the ball so that it goes from the strong hand you were guarding with over to the other foot and hand, now facing the other direction, wrong-footing your opponent.
Then, continue the dribble into a pass, shot, or new part of the court with the other hand.
6. Behind the back Dribbling
If you wish to really take on an opponent with some style, though, you need to get used to some behind the back dribbling moves.
As you head toward the right side of an opponent, try and edge slightly to the left of the opponent as if you were about to blow past them from right to left.
As soon as you take the last touch with the right hand whilst shifting left, though, you want to take your hand and slide your palm over the outside of the ball, moving it behind your back and pushing it to the left-hand side.
By doing this, you will find that you are able to keep your right arm close to your left-side, ensuring that you capture the ball on the other hand whilst having total control of the ball throughout.
Once you do this, you should have left the opponent momentary confused as you move the ball from one side of the body to the next.
Hard to do, as you need to ensure that the bounce to get it from side to side is done in a way that protects the ball on the way around, but allows for a quick, explosive exit afterwards.
7. Escape Dribbling
Found yourself in a dangerous position when defending and worried that you might turn the ball over and make it hard for your team to get out?
Then take a quick moment to think, relax, and then move forward with the dribble.
So, what you want to do here is you wish to take the ball with your right hand and then turn your shoulder towards the defender.
If you do this, then you can push back onto the left foot and explode away from the defender whilst making sure the ball comes back the way with you, away from their grasp and avoiding the risk of a steal.
The challenge here stems from making sure you use your left side to protect the ball, as the defender (if they read your move) will try to snatch it on the other side as they come around you.
Focus on these little factors, though, and you can make sure that it is much easier for you to do some nifty escape dribbling.
Practice makes perfect
Now that you know some of the most useful dribble moves, we recommend that you spend some time watching training drills for each.
Each of the skills above will feel very hard to pull off, and it is likely you will lose the ball multiple times as you try to master using them in a game situation.
With that being the case, you should appreciate that dribbling is a masterful skill that takes a huge amount of effort and training.
Don’t expect to become a top dribbler just because you have carried out an hour or two of training in the garden, though.
Natural, fluent dribbling comes from many hours of practice, of ball handling, and of making mistakes.
It’s all about putting in the work and the effort to make your game more fluent and more solid generally.
This is why we recommend that you always look to focus on the hours that you put into your practice.
The more time that you focus into improving your dribbling consistency and giving yourself more confidence moving it from left to right, the sooner your dribbling foundations will improve.
Remember, avoid staring at the ball
Most of us struggle when it comes to dribbling purely because we lose focus. You start to worry that you are not dribbling correctly, or that you don’t look ‘cool’, so you start focusing on the ball.
Sure, looking at the ball maximizes the chance of your dribble paying off and giving you the chance to look classy.
But do you then know where teammates are? Can you pass, or are you going to be able to make a worthwhile run to the basket?
The best dribblers are so good because they don’t gawk and focus on the ball, they look elsewhere on the court to try and find the perfect next move.
Your dribble is purely window dressing to help you beat someone or to make space for a pass or shot.
Many players think they should their whole game on being able to dribble; while useful, if you then lack the focus or the court vision to find a teammate, all of the dribbling technique in the world does not matter.
Don’t put all of your time simply becoming a circus dribbler; the next step is to know when to dribble, and crucially to know when to pass or shoot.
Continue carrying out repetitions of each dribble!
We recommend that you now go away and take a look at videos of the dribbling motions you think you need to add to your game.
Get a private location that allows for you to keep trying dribble moves, and perhaps set up some obstacles to dribble around and through.
Don’t try and learn the foundational dribbling moves you need to become a better player in-game, though.
Many players try this but end up losing the ball, costing their team turnovers, points, and wins.
This will dent confidence and leave you worried that you are not able to get out of the funk that you are in mentally. You start to think you are a worse player than you are.
If you find your dribbles aren’t coming off, then stop dribbling for the match or stick to very basic moves. Get home, work on your dribble, and come back next time to try again.
The best thing you can do is continue the repetitive training and coaching needed to become a better dribbler.