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Dribbling is a fundamental basketball skill that requires hand-eye coordination, good timing, and practice. Mastering the dribble can help you protect the ball from your opponent and advance the ball to the hoop to score points.

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What Is Dribbling in Basketball?

In basketball, dribbling is a fundamental skill in which a player uses one hand to continuously bounce the ball on the court. Dribbling helps you control the ball, advance it toward the hoop, and create distance between you and your defender. In basketball parlance, dribbling is known as ball handling, and a player advancing the ball by dribbling is known as a ball handler. On a basketball squad, the offensive player most responsible for dribbling is typically the point guard, a position that requires exemplary ball-handling skills.

Why Is Dribbling an Essential Skill to Learn?

Dribbling is an essential skill for basketball players to learn because it allows you to advance the ball up the court toward your hoop to score a point, which is the game’s primary objective. Players with proper dribbling technique can deter defensive players from stealing the ball, create fast-break opportunities, and dribble away from a defender to open up a clean look at the basket.

6 Essential Dribbling Drills to Improve Your Game

The best way to improve your dribbling skills and become a better ball handler is to practice a series of basketball drills focused on the art of dribbling. Here are six dribbling drills for players of any level:

  1. Hand placement practice: You need to use your whole hand to dribble a basketball properly. Slapping the ball with the palm of your hands will not give you enough control, and solely using your fingertips to tap the ball will not give you enough power to advance it down the court. For proper hand placement, focus on spreading your fingers to make contact with the top and the side of the ball, allowing the upper part of your palm to contact the ball for maximum power. Practice proper hand placement as often as you can to build muscle memory.
  2. Low dribbling: This stationary dribbling drill involves establishing a low center of gravity and using an intense dribbling action that some coaches call "pounding." Low dribbling allows you to maintain control of the ball with your dribbling hand. Practice low dribbling with each of your hands to improve your overall ball control.
  3. Crossover dribbling: This variation on stationary dribbling involves passing the ball back and forth between your left hand and right hand. Players use this technique to protect the ball from their defender. When practicing crossover dribbling, keep the ball low and pound it into the court. As your ability improves, increase the speed of your crossover dribbles.
  4. Running while dribbling: Many ball-handling drills focus on player speed. A great ball handler must be able to race up and down the court without losing control of their dribble. If you can build up your speed without losing control, you’re in a better position to master the fast break, allowing you to score before your opponents have a chance to get into a defensive position. Practice running and dribbling the length of the court before training. Practice with each hand to build dexterity.
  5. Protective dribbling: While open court dribbling requires speed, squaring off with a defender requires protecting the ball. This technique involves dribbling with one hand (typically your dominant hand) while raising your non-dribbling arm to hold back the defender. Centers and power forwards often practice dribbling with their back to the defender and the basket to protect the ball. This technique allows them to use their size to protect the ball from their defenders. You’ll need a partner to practice protective dribbling.
  6. Power dribbling: Power dribbling is an advanced dribbling drill that involves cutting sideways while pounding the ball into the court. A hard power dribble lets a player elude their defender and cut to another part of the court for an open jump shot or even a dunk. To properly execute this move, you will need to combine proper hand placement, running while dribbling, and protective dribbling (mostly by shielding the ball with your body).
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