Though it is one of the most fundamental parts of a solid basketball repertoire, passing is often overlooked when evaluating a player’s skills at the sport.
The pass is an integral part of a successful offense and has been emphasized since the beginning of the game. To successfully teach, drill, or play with passing, you must understand the mechanics of the various types of passes and the situations in which to use them.
A fan of the game will most likely be able to at least recognize, if not name, all seven main pass types, but a deeper understanding is required to actually put them into play.
The most efficient is the chest pass. This pass begins with the ball at the player’s chest level; the player’s wrists then snap the ball away from their body, giving the ball rotation that makes it easier to handle for the receiver.
When the ball arrives at the receiver’s position, it should be between their waist and shoulders, enabling them to grab it and direct it into play, whether via a dribble, second pass, or shot. Because this pass is so simple and seems almost a childish skill, many players neglect to practice it, dangerously assuming they will never lose the skill.
The overhead pass is a little more difficult, and requires some additional hand-eye coordination and strength. When passing overhead, a player lifts the ball, predictably, above their head, and heave the ball down the court to the receiver, snapping the wrists the same way as in a chest pass.
Overhead passes are best used after a rebound or during an inbounds play, both of which can result in a fast break, since the ball travels over defenders’ heads.
It is also good for guards passing to taller players on the post, as the ball will be too high for many defensive players to reach up and snatch away.
In some passes, the ball hits the floor before it reaches the receiver. The most important of these is the bounce pass. The name might bring back memories of clumsily hitting the ball to a kid across from you during elementary school practices, but the bounce pass is highly effective at all levels of the game.
To correctly execute a bounce pass, the player holds the ball on either side and pushes it at the floor to a spot about two-thirds the distance between them and the receiver.
Putting spin on the ball in a bounce pass can achieve one of two things: backspin gives the receiver a longer lead, while frontspin makes it a fast, accurate pass.
Other passes commonly found in games are the push pass, the off-the-dribble pass, and the baseball pass. The push is the longest pass, and is usually a combination of the chest and overhead passes, although the ball can be bounced a great distance across the court.
This pass requires the player to have good distance judgment and the ability to accurately guess where their teammate will be by the time the ball reaches them. Off-the-dribble passes fool defenders into thinking the player is simply going to dribble again. And baseball passes are thrown from the player’s side, guided with both hands and wrist-snapped a great distance, usually to a player on a breakaway path.
Fancy passing is often discouraged by coaches at the rudimentary levels, as it is considered to be showing off and reckless ball handling, but is encouraged by the appreciative roar of the crowd at a professional level.
This is normally found in the form of the behind-the-back pass; point guard Steve Nash is famous for his no-look behind-the-backs, eliciting awe and respect from his opponents and watchers alike.
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