5 Things You Should Keep in Mind While Handling a Basketball

The best ball handlers in the National Basketball Association are usually the best players. Think about Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, and Magic Johnson during their heydays. They kept these 5 things in mind while handling a basketball – and you should, too!


Develop a Feel for the Ball

Ball handling refers to the knowledge of the game itself. As such, it integrates passing and dribbling the ball, as well as decision-making skills. Like all aspects of the game, it demands plenty of practice for near-perfection.

Drills are a must in improving your ball handling skills. These exercises can improve several aspects of your game including:

  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand quickness
  • Ambidexterity (i.e., the ability to use both hands in dribbling, passing and shooting)
  • Catching (i.e., receiving the ball)
  • Dribbling

You have to develop a feel for the ball so that you can have better control over it. The greater your control over it, the better your game can be. You can make the shots more often instead of committing turnover mistakes. You will find plenty of ball handling drills like:

  • Maravich series
  • Steve Nash passing series
  • One-ball dribbling with and without cones
  • Two-ball drilling with and without cones
  • Tennis ball dribbling
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These drills can also be used as warm-up drills before progressing into advanced drills. But be sure to spend 5-10 minutes only of each practice on these drills.

Otherwise, you will likely neglect the other components of ball handling. You can also develop a feel for the basketball by:

  • Being aware of its feel when in your hands.
  • Keeping your fingers in their proper position on the ball.
  • Predicting the trajectory of the ball with every shot.

Indeed, effective ball handling demands hours upon hours of practice on the court! This is exactly why even the best NBA players spend their off-season days on the court.

Dribble the Ball at Any Speed

Ball handling also involves the ability to dribble at any speed. Be sure to master slow, medium and fast speeds of dribbling first. You should have greater control over the ball’s direction at these speeds, too.

The best way to do so: Just dribble up and down the court at slow, medium and fast speeds. You should also dribble while walking and running; keep the same rhythm for each speed. Your hand-eye coordination, hand quickness, and footwork will come in handy here.


While dribbling at different speeds, keep these tips in mind, too:

  • Keep your head up. You have to see what’s in front so that you can make smart decisions about passing and shooting. You’re not just dribbling a ball but also making decisions about your next move. Your next move matters more than your dribbling skills.
  • Keep your hand on top of the ball. Otherwise, you can be called out by the referee for carrying the ball. You will also compromise your control over the ball because of the carrying motion.

Change Your Pace

Ball handling also involves the ability to change speeds or pace. You can be inspired by the speed with which Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets can do so. Why is changing your pace important? The skill will enable the following moves on the court:

  • Getting past your defender
  • Reducing turnovers
  • Creating a successful shot off the dribble
change pace

For example, you can make two hard dribbles while at the basket. Your next move can be a hard stop while the defender flies by. You can make the shot, thanks to the space created for it.

The best way to develop changing of pace: Just practice changing your pace from walking to full speed. You should practice at all speeds, too – slow, medium and fast. You can experiment with the combinations, such as from slow to fast, or from slow to full speed.

Dribble While Moving Backwards

Ball handling demands going forward and backward to defend the ball and make the shot. You should be able to dribble the ball while moving backwards, too. This is a useful skill when backing out of traffic.

A few dribbling drill tips in this regard:

  • Get in a position as if you’re protecting the ball.
  • Shuffle forwards and backwards on the court. Cover the court by moving up and down it while dribbling.
  • Run forward at a faster speed while dribbling.
  • Make a hockey stop (i.e., turn and run in another direction).
  • Shuffle two steps backwards.

You can also mix the forward and backward motions so that you can be prepared for any situation on court.

Have Two Dribbling Moves

Ball handling also means having two types of dribbling moves. These are the primary and counter dribble moves. Your primary dribbling move is your go-to move, which should be challenging to stop. Your opponents will then adjust their approach to stop it, a move that you have to expect.

But this is where your counter dribble move will come in. You change your move from the primary to the counter dribbling move. Your opponent will keep guessing and, thus, you have a higher chance of making the shot or pass.


For example, your primary move can be the cross over. Your counter dribble move can be the hesitation move.

Final Words

Ball handling is a skill that can only be learned with plenty of practice on and off the court. You have to develop your dribbling, passing and receiving, and decision-making skills.

Your coach can provide the right drills for this purpose, too, but you have to do them. Basketball is a game that demands mastery of the basics in ball handling first. Even the greatest NBA players had to start with ball handling skills through hours of drills.

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Walter Kalb

Walter Kalb is the Editor of TheSportsUp.com. He is a sports enthusiast and love to share what he know about sports. In personal life he is a father of two cute kids and loving husband of a beautiful wife. He love foods and nothing is more important than reading book in his spare time.

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