What are the 5 Basic Skills of Basketball?

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How do you think Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant got so good at basketball? It’s because they learned the fundamentals to a tee, which translated to them being able to do exceptionally great things on the basketball court. If you’ve ever wondered what skills NBA players need or what NBA scouts look for, we’ll cover that in this post. The fundamentals, or the basic skills of basketball, commonly included these five: dribbling (ball handling), shooting, passing, jumping (rebounding), and defense. 

You should at least be able to do these five at a decent clip to be a competent basketball player. Becoming very proficient in two or three of these skills probably makes you a starter material. If you gain mastery over the five, you probably should get ready for college offers and maybe start thinking about going pro.

Is Basketball a Skill or a Talent Is Basketball a Skill or a Talent? 

Talent is defined as the natural ability to do something while skill is an expertise that a person acquired through learning and developing them over time. So, is being good at basketball about skill or talent? Well, it’s both.

Think about it this way: Talent is an attribute you are born naturally with, such as having quick-twitch muscle fibers, being tall, or having a naturally high vertical jump. You can use these talents to develop skills such as rebounding (something that a naturally high jumper or someone who is tall has an advantage). Simply put, your talent is the vehicle in which you can use your skills.

When it comes to basketball, the term “talent” is often used to describe “skills.” For example, some commentators say Player A is a “talented” shooter where, in fact, his shooting is honed by hours and hours of practice, thus making it an acquired ability or skill.

What Skills Should You Learn First in Basketball What Skills Should You Learn First in Basketball? 

If we have to pick three skills that you should learn first, we’re going with dribbling, shooting, and passing, precisely in that order.


Why is dribbling the very first skill that you should learn? It’s very simple: It’s because you can’t move around with the basketball without dribbling the ball. It is the easiest way to put yourself in a position to score. This allows you to maneuver past defenders, initiate the offense, and create for your teammates if you know how to dribble or handle the ball.

The good thing about improving your dribbling is that you can do it individually. You will see significant improvements in your ball handling skills even in a short amount of time in practice. 

Dribbling Tips for Beginners:

  • Do not dribble with the palm of your hands but your fingertips instead.
  • Practice dribbling hard or doing pound dribbles
  • Spread your fingers wide for better ball support
  • Also, practice dribbling with your off-hand. If you’re right-handed, do dribbling drills with your left hand as well.
  • Look for techniques on how you can have a quick dribble. Having a quick dribble will also allow you to get to your spots quicker than the defense.

If you get good enough with ball handling, it will open a lot of opportunities for you on offense. Players who can handle the ball also have a higher chance of getting to the rim, which is an essential asset to any team. Be good at it, and you will see yourself playing a lot of minutes.



Like dribbling, you can practice shooting alone. However, if there are fundamental errors to your shooting, such as a bad form, it would be best to have someone who can help tweak your shot. Otherwise, you need to be practicing thousands upon thousands of shots to become a good shooter. Knowing the fundamentals of proper shooting will make everything easier.

Shooting Tips for Beginners:

  • Get your legs involved. Bend your knees and explode into your shot.
  • Snap your shooting elbow. This advice solves multiple problems, from arm extension to keeping the follow-through. It’s impossible to snap your elbow without extending your arm. That now leads to a higher shot arc and also leads to the snapping movement of the wrist. Snap your wrist, and you will be able to hold that follow through.
  • Pay attention to your grip. Like dribbling, your fingers must be spread so you can balance the ball with one hand. There should be a little space between the ball and your palm.
  • Be balanced. There is no rule of thumb here, but do what comes naturally. Some prefer both feet square (or facing) the basket while some prefer their feet a little sideways. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart, and the shooting foot should be forward a little bit with the non-shooting lagging behind.

Basketball is all about putting the basket more than your opponents, so shooting is at the top of the skills you need to develop. If you can’t shoot, especially with how the game is played today, you won’t be able to play. It’s as simple as that.


Among the three, passing is the most challenging skill to develop. It requires a certain mindset and a level of perception and intellect to deliver the ball to a teammate on target and on time while being under duress. There are also a lot of passes to master– bounce, chest, outlet, and others.

It’s such a tough skill to acquire that even a majority of professional basketball players are not excellent passers. In the 2019-20 NBA season, there are only 39 players out of 400 or so are averaging at least five assists per game.

Passing Tips for Beginners:

  • Spacing. You should know the optimal distance to make a pass. If you pass when your teammate is too close, chances are, he may fumble the ball. (Or worse, he could jam his fingers and fumble the ball.) Conversely, throwing long passes (such as cross-court passes) increases the chance of committing a turnover or the pass getting telegraphed.
  • Make the simple pass. It doesn’t need to be flashy all the time. When somebody’s open, swing the ball.
  • Look ahead. If you look for opportunities for an outlet pass or a simple lead pass, you can catch the defense off guard for an easy score. You’ll be surprised at how many scoring opportunities are borne out of merely looking ahead and moving the ball forward.
  • Never get tired of passing. Sometimes, your teammates may not catch your passes, but that should not discourage you from making the right play. Be a willing passer because unselfishness adds to team chemistry.

What Are the Most Important Skills in BasketballWhat Are the Most Important Skills in Basketball?

Of the five basic basketball skills, shooting is the most important. That’s because defenses are going to play you based on whether you can shoot or not. If you can’t shoot, your teammates will have a harder time because your man can help off of you. Passing, dribbling, running, and rebounding are factors for your team to get a good look, but if you can’t make the shot, then it’s all in vain.

That’s the simplest way to answer the question, but the truth of the matter is, all of these skills are important. It’s just that shooting directly contributes to scoring, and whoever scores the most wins a basketball game. 

The Two Primary Categories of Basketball SkillsThe Two Primary Categories of Basketball Skills:

Offensive Skills

The offense is the sexy part of basketball and where pros earn their paycheck. Of the figurative boxes in the basketball skills list, you should check most, if not all, when it comes to offense.

  • Shooting. Shooting can be defined as putting the ball in the basket to score points. In this loose definition, layups, dunks, mid-range jump shots, three-pointers, and free throws are all part of shooting.
  • Passing. Passing is when a player throws the ball to another player on his team. If that pass directly led to a basket, it is called an assist. Passes are also classified as a bounce pass, overhead pass, drop pass, baseball pass, and more.
  • Dribbling. Dribbling, or ball handling, is the method of bouncing the ball up and down the floor with one hand to advance it. Dribbling with both hands more than once is a violation (called a double dribble or dribbling violation). When dribbling, it is vital to protect the ball from the opponent, whether by using your body or your free arm as a shield. You may check our detailed guide here on basketball dribbling.
  • Offensive rebounding. Offensive rebounds are rebounds that you collect from the misses of your own team. Generally speaking, it’s tougher to get an offensive than a defensive rebound because offensive players are often positioned away from the rim.

Defensive Skills

Defensive Skills

There are many skills involved in defense, but the three below are the most common and most basic.

  • Stealing. Stealing is taking the ball away from an offensive player. If the offensive player is dribbling the ball and you tap it free, whether to yourself or a teammate, that can be considered a steal. Additionally, steal is credited to a defensive player who anticipated a pass and then recovered the ball for himself or to someone from his team. 
  • Blocking. One of the rarest stats of them all. It happens when a defensive player swats a shooting attempt from an offensive player, preventing the ball’s trajectory to the basket.
  • Defensive rebounding. Defensive rebounding is collecting and securing a missed shot from an opponent.

As mentioned, defense is not just limited to stealing, blocking, and defensive rebounding. Some more complex skills are involved, such as effective close-outs, pass denials, weak side help, post defense, and more. However, for now, let’s limit our explanations to the basics.

How Can You Improve Your Basketball SkillsHow Can You Improve Your Basketball Skills?

There are no shortcuts to getting better at basketball. After all, you can’t just will the ball to go to the basket. You have to put in the time and work, and develop the right mentality to achieve the goals that you set for yourself.

From there, practicing and putting in the hours could only take you so far. You may want to incorporate strength and conditioning methods, eating right, getting plenty of rest, and always be disciplined. Whatever you want to do for the sake of improvement, go all out and give it your 100%.

Wrapping Things Up: What are the 5 Basic Skills of Basketball 

There is no doubt that basketball is a game of skill. Unlike American football where there are specialists, you need to learn and be good at many basketball skills and techniques to improve your game. These five fundamental skills of basketball are dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, and defense.

We have defined most of these skills above, but when it comes to the first that you should learn, dribbling should be at the top, followed by shooting and passing. However, among the three, there is no skill that can be as game-changing as shooting. It influences how the defense plays you, affects your team’s spacing, and makes the game easier for everybody. Since basketball is all about scoring more than your opponents, there is no doubt that it is the most important skill in basketball.

Aside from offensive skills, you also need to develop your defensive acumen. The basic defensive skills are stealing, blocking, and defensive rebounding, but stopping your opponent involves a lot more than that. As a defender, you may face a lot of situations, that’s why you need to know about coverages, how to slip screens, deny the pass, and so on.

Now, that sounds like a lot, but in reality, improving basketball skills can be possible with time and dedication. It would help if you start by knowing the five basic skills of basketball, and as your level of play improves, you can move on to the harder and more complicated facets of the game. If you love the game enough, there is no such thing as impossible.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other basketball FAQ articles here.

More engaging basketball FAQ posts here:

> What is a Triple Double in Basketball?

> What is a Carry in Basketball?

> How to Do a Layup Correctly?

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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