Many students of the game of basketball nearly give up the sport not because of offense or defense or even passing, but because of dribbling.
As children, they can be extremely frustrated by the coordination it requires to properly dribble the basketball without having it knocked away by a defender, bounce off their own shoe, or just become too wild to handle.
Later in one’s career, a player’s skill in dribbling often determines whether or not they make the cut when trying out for a team. Even centers and power forwards have to know how to properly dribble in such a way that will confuse and throw off defenders. Keep reading for a general overview of the main types of dribbles and how to properly practice them.
Low dribbling is perfect for when a defender is right up in your face. You keep the ball close to the floor by lowering your hand and keeping the bounces short and tight.
Prevent the ball from skidding away by keeping your elbow close to your body, and protect it from the defender’s swiping attempts by guarding it with the majority of your body while still keeping your line of vision towards the court (and potentially open teammates).
You can practice this dribble by sitting or squatting and not allowing yourself to move while you complete a large number of repetitions — meaning that you can’t let the ball escape you, or you will have to start over. This will train you to control a low dribbling style.
The push dribble gets you and the ball down the court quickly by propelling it forward so it will meet you at your next location on its upward bounce. Push dribbling must be tightly controlled, as it is one of the easiest dribbles to disrupt, so practice keeping it low and at the perfect angle.
Learn your own speeds by racing down the court and judging your pace, then add a basketball (without a defender) and keep your arm locked in a steady 45-degree angle so that each bounce is the same. This dribble is best practiced on an indoors court where there are no offending pebbles or other debris to send the ball skidding off in the wrong direction.
Between-the-legs dribbling might seem like a show-off style, but it is actually very useful when you are faced with a talented defender.
Thanks to basketball’s minimal contact nature, when the ball is between your legs, it is protected by your body and cannot be stolen or knocked away without some fancy handwork. Dribbling is generally done without looking at the ball — your eyes need to be up on the court or sizing up your defender — so the best way to practice this one is blindfolded.
Start by slowly passing the ball in a figure-eight motion through your legs without dropping it; then graduated to tiny bounces in a small, controlled shape around each ankle. Once you have the general feel down, you can start bouncing and scooping, a technique that will result in just two bounces in one complete figure-eight motion.
A crossover dribble usually heralds the start of an explosion to the hoop, and if done correctly, it can startle and unbalance an opponent, allowing you safe passage to the rim. However, the path across your front renders the ball unprotected as it passes from one hand to the other, so unless you have this dribbling style down perfectly, you may not want to try it in intense game situations.
Train your less-dominant hand to handle the ball before you even try the crossover — that way, if you’re startled by a defender on your dominant side, you can still dribble with confidence.