How to Dribble in Basketball: Dribble Like the Pros


Dribbling is a commonly known term in basketball. After all, it’s the action that you’ll see the most on any basketball court. At first glance, dribbling is merely bouncing a ball up and down while you move around the court. But it’s a little more complicated than that. There are rules, penalties, and different techniques that all basketball players should know about.

How do you dribble a basketball? With your knees slightly bent, you extend your elbow and snap your wrist at the bottom of the movement to allow the ball to bounce to the floor. With your fingertips spread wide, continue to bounce the ball while traveling the court.

This explanation of dribbling focuses on the fundamental movement of the action. However, as you learn about the different aspects of dribbling in basketball, you can go from being a beginner to dribbling like a pro. This article will discuss the different rules of dribbling, techniques to help you improve, and exercises to practice.

What Is Dribbling?

Dribbling is bouncing a ball with one hand while standing, walking, or running. It is used to maneuver around a basketball court while avoiding the defender’s pursuit to take control of the ball. It is the only legal method a player can use to advance the ball on their own according to the rules of the game.

When basketball first became a sport, creator Dr. James Naismith did not include dribbling as a form of court advancement. Instead, the only way to move the ball was by passing the ball from player to player. Eventually, players were able to pass the ball to themselves by bouncing it ahead of them and picking it up in a different spot.

This was known as a “controlled fumble” and eventually turned into dribbling.

The Importance of Dribbling

Even though dribbling wasn’t included in basketball when it first became a sport, the benefits of it were quickly noticed.

Six main reasons that make dribbling beneficial to basketball. It allows players:

  1. To travel with the ball around the court.
  2. To push through to the hoop more quickly.
  3. To allow yourself to find an open spot.
  4. To complete a pass more easily.
  5. To break away from the defense.
  6. To waste time toward the end of the game.

Rules of Dribbling

Before getting into how you dribble in basketball, it is essential to understand the rules associated with it. These rules need to be followed; otherwise, you receive a penalty, and the other team gains the ball.

The following are the rules for offensive dribbling:

  • Dribbling can only be done with one hand at a time. Once two hands touch the ball, the player cannot resume dribbling.
  • Once both hands touch the ball, the player can only pivot on one foot and can not travel with the ball.
  • The player can only have one round of dribbling at one time. If the player stops dribbling for a moment, they cannot start dribbling again. The ball needs to be passed before they can have a turn at dribbling again.
  • The ball needs to be dribbled in bounds. If the player dribbles the ball out of bounds, it gets given to the other team.
  • The player’s hand needs to stay on the top of the ball while dribbling. If the hand touches underneath the ball, dribbling cannot be resumed. The ball must be passed to avoid a violation.
  • Once you have dribbled the ball over the half-court line, you cannot go back to the other side while you have the ball.
  • If the defensive side hits the ball over the half-court line, the offensive side can legally recover the ball.
  • The player cannot run or walk with the ball without dribbling it.

Violations

If you break one of the dribbling rules, it’ll result in a violation, and the opposing team will receive the ball. When that happens, the ref will call out the violation, so you must understand the following terms:

  • Travel – This is where you run or walk with the ball without dribbling it. A player cannot take more than a step and a half without dribbling the ball, or it is considered a travel. Once the player stops dribbling, the foot that lands on the court becomes the pivot foot. The pivot foot cannot be picked up, or it is considered a travel.
  • Double-Dribble – There are two different ways a player can commit a double-dribble violation. The first one is when the player stops dribbling the ball, then resumes again without passing. The second way is when the player dribbles the ball with two hands. The opponent gets the ball near the spot the violation happened.   
  • Palming/Carrying – This is where you touch the bottom or side of the ball while dribbling. The referee will call out a carry, and the opponent will get the ball out of bounds near where the violation happened.
  • Backcourt – This is when the player dribbles over the half-court line and then turns around. The opponents will then retrieve the ball.
  • Kicking – This is when a player kicks the ball.
  • 5second violation – When the player with the ball is being guarded by someone who is within arm’s reach, they have 5 seconds to shoot, pass, or dribble the ball.   

Here’s a quick video to show you some of these common violations in action.

Dribbling is an essential skill when driving to the hoop. Check out the article, How To Drive In Basketball for more information on how to get to the basket efficiently.

How to Dribble in Basketball

Now that you understand the rules of dribbling, you can begin to learn the act of dribbling. There are a few tips to keep in mind while you are dribbling.

The following tips will help you advance your game and have you playing like a pro:

  • Keep your head up and on your opponents rather than looking at the ball. Keeping your head up also allows you to see the floor ahead of you. It is common for beginners to stare down at the ball as they dribble, but that prevents you from seeing other players and makes you lose focus on the game.
  • Dribble the ball hard. The harder you dribble, the quicker the ball will return to your hand. This will give you more control of the ball.
  • Dribble with your fingertips and not your palm. This gives you more control of the ball.
  • Don’t let the ball bounce higher than your hips. This will help you keep control of the ball and be harder for defenders to steal it from you.
  • Use your other hand and body to shield the ball from defenders.
  • Practice. The easiest way to become a pro at dribbling is by practicing your technique and improving your speed.
  • Change your speed. This can confuse your defender and make them not able to predict your move. It allows you to think and spot an open space.
  • Pass the ball. Sometimes passing the ball can be more effective than trying to dribble around obstacles. Often, if you pass the ball, you can then find an opening so that the ball can be passed back to you.

Once you have these tips in the back of your head, you can begin dribbling. Here are some easy steps to teach you how to dribble in basketball properly:

  1. Spread and relax your fingers – Your fingers should be spread evenly over the ball. It is common for beginner players to keep their fingers closed, but this gives you less control over the ball.
  2. Bend your knees – While you have the ball, staying low to the ground allows you to keep the ball safe from your opponents. If your opponent is trying to reach for the ball and you have your knees bent, you will be able to move up and away quickly.
  3. Pound the basketball into the ground – Extend your elbow and snap your wrist at the bottom of the movement. Doing this with force will allow the ball to return to your hands at a faster speed.
  4. Use your fingertips – When the ball bounces back up, use your fingertips to push it back down. Using the palm of your hand will cause you to lose control of the ball.

Here’s a quick video to explain positioning, control, and dribbling a basketball.

Those are the necessary steps needed to become a dribbling pro, but practice makes perfect. Reasons for improving your skills are:

  • It builds your confidence.
  • It gets you the ball more.
  • It makes it easier for you to score.

Maravich Drills

The next step would be to work on different drills that help improve your dribbling technique. Drills allow you to step out of the comfort of basic dribbling. Maravich drills are ball-handling and dribbling drills that were named after Press Maravich invented skills drills so that his son could improve his ball-handling and speed.

The following chart lists Maravich drills and how to perform them:

Maravich DrillHow To Perform It
TippingUsing your fingertips only, quickly pass the ball from hand to hand. This gets you used to not dribbling with your whole hand. 
Front to back – between the legsStarting in front of you, bounce the ball between your legs while moving your hands behind you to catch the ball. Then bounce it from back to front. Repeat.
Drop and catchIn a wide squat position, hold the ball with your hands between your knees. One hand should be in front of you, and the other should come from behind you. Drop the ball and quickly switch hands to catch without letting the ball hit the ground. 
Spider dribbleSpread your feet shoulder’s width apart, dribble the ball in front of you from one hand to the other, and then behind you from one hand to the other.
Dribble figure 8’sSpread your feet shoulder’s width apart, then dribble the ball between and around your legs like a figure 8. 
Two-ball dribbleWalking around while dribbling a ball in each hand is an effective way to work on coordination and make your non-dominate hand strong at dribbling.

Here’s a video breakdown of these Maravich drills so you can see them in action.

Dribbling Warmups

When you are warming up for practice, you can kill two birds with one stone by incorporating dribbling into your stretches. These will not only help you warm up, but they will also help improve your coordination.

  • Hamstring stretch – Cross one leg over the other and bend forward at the waist to feel a stretch in your hamstring touching the floor with the opposite hand. Dribble the ball at shoe level with the same hand as the stretching leg. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Lower body stretch – Take a big step forward while keeping your back leg straight with your heel on the ground. Lean over your front foot while dribbling the ball as low as you can. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Torso twist stretch – Spread your feet wider than shoulder’s width apart. While keeping legs straight, dribble the ball in one hand and travel to the other side of your body while twisting your torso. Dribble back to standing, switch sides, then repeat.

Anytime you are doing stretch exercises, it is crucial to make sure you are stretching both sides of your body. This will prevent one side from becoming stronger and more flexible than the other. When you switch sides for stretching, you should also dribble the ball in the opposite hand to improve dribbling skills.

After stretching properly, try this ball handling warm up drill to get ready to play.

Different Types of Dribbling

Several different dribbling techniques can help you defend your ball while maneuvering around the court. Knowing and practicing the following dribbling techniques can help you improve your skills on the court.

Dribbling TechniqueHow To Perform It
Speed dribbleThis is a technique you’ll use when there is an open space. Here you will bounce the ball several feet in front of you while moving quickly.
Crossover dribbleThis is where you bounce the ball from one hand to the other. This technique allows you to change the direction you are going quickly.
In and out dribbleBounce the ball across your body as if you were planning on going in that direction. But rather than grabbing the ball with the opposite hand, quickly bring it back in and go in your original direction around your opponent.
Hesitation dribbleUsing the speed dribble to get to your opponent, quickly stop going in that direction by rocking back on your outside foot. Then resume the speed dribble to go around your opponent. This is also known as the “rocker move.”
Spin moveBeing careful of your opponent stealing the ball from behind you, make a reverse pivot while swiftly moving the ball around your body and then resume dribbling with the opposite hand.
Back up dribbleThis move is used to back away from your opponent. You will begin to dribble backward and do a crossover dribble to get away from the defender.

Here’s a quick run through of a few types of dribble so you can see how they look on the court.

Protecting the Ball from Your Opponent

Another part of dribbling in basketball is protecting the ball so that your opponent does not steal it. There are different ways a player can protect the ball, but the most useful ways are:

  • Use your body – Turning your back and shoulders toward your opponent will help prevent them from stealing your ball because they would have to reach around your body to do so.
  • Raise your non-dribbling arm – Raising your arm will allow you to hold off your defender’s attempt at the ball.

When you are trying to protect the ball from an opponent, make sure you do not use your hands to push off of them.

Also, when you are first learning how to dribble, it is common for beginners to stop dribbling when they see someone trying to get the ball. This usually results in a double-dribble that will grant the other team the ball.

When your opponent comes near you, you will want to do a controlled dribble.

This is where you slightly crouch, dribbling lower to the ground, while positioning your body in the middle of the ball and your opponent. Continue dribbling the ball as close to your body as possible while extending the opposite arm in front of you for protection.

Be confident in your ability to dribble. If you are afraid of your opponent, make sure you don’t stop dribbling. Just think ahead, dribble, and pass the ball if needed.

Here’s a great video explaining how you can protect the ball while dribbling.

When Does a Dribble End?

Once you have stopped dribbling, you cannot resume dribbling without passing the ball and having the ball passed back to you.

The dribble ends when the player:

  • Loses control
  • Throws a pass
  • Tries to shoot
  • Touches the ball with two hands at one time
  • Stops dribbling
  • Grabs the ball from underneath

Once the dribble stops, you cannot continue dribbling. That will result in a violation, and the ball will be given to the opposing team. The moment the ball stops being dribbled, it needs to be passed, or you must try to shoot. However, once you pass the ball to someone, they can pass the ball right back for you to gain an advantage.

Conclusion

Dribbling allows you to maneuver around the court while keeping control of the ball. When learning how to dribble like a pro, you need to understand the fundamentals of dribbling, the rules of dribbling, and what the violations are. Once you have an understanding of these, you can practice different techniques that will help improve your game on the court.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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