Watching NBA players do their thing is nothing less than impressive. As an aspiring basketball player, there’s nothing wrong with trying to copy those moves. However, there should be more important things you need to master if you’re trying to take your game to the next level. There is nothing more critical than developing the fundamental skills to be a basketball player.
Have you ever wondered how on earth does Kyrie Irving handle the ball like it’s attached to an invisible string? And how does James Harden get himself open almost all the time? Whether that’s Kyrie’s crazy handles or Beard’s beautiful footwork, they become very good at it because they worked tirelessly on basketball fundamentals. In other words, becoming a good basketball player means you need to pay attention to the basic skills in basketball.
What Skills Does a Basketball Player Need?
Usually, the basic skills of basketball are said to be five, but those five branches out to other different skills. These five are dribbling (ballhandling), shooting, running, passing, and jumping. Dribbling, shooting, and passing are all part of offense while running and jumping can both be a skill on offense and defense.
Shooting can also branch out to more skills: You need to be able to do layups, jump shots, or perhaps, free throws. Running may also be in the form of a cut to the basket to get yourself open or running back on defense to cover the opponent’s transition or fastbreak play. In this sense, the five basic skills in basketball split further into more refined basketball skills.
Other skills that basketball player needs include footwork (jab steps, pivot, and jump stops), playing angles to maximize quickness, moving without the ball, how to do shot fakes, rebound positioning, navigating screens, setting screens, post moves, and many others. Needless to stay, basketball really is a game of skill.
What Basketball Fundamental Skills Should You Learn First?
Dribbling, or ballhandling, should be the first of all the essential skills in basketball that you need to learn. Why? It’s because a beginner can work on his ballhandling skills individually. Unlike shooting where you need to focus on mechanics first over repetition, you can significantly improve your ballhandling by doing simple drills. If one is diligent enough to repeat dribbling exercises (moving and stationary), there is no doubt that he will see significant improvements quickly.
If dribbling is the first physical skill that a beginner should learn first, every basketball neophyte should be taught the mental aspect of the game as well. In that regard, beginners should know that basketball is a game that is won as a team. Like a well-maintained human body, all should do their part to achieve the common goal, which is winning.
What is the Most Important Skill in Basketball?
While dribbling should be the first of the fundamental skills one should learn, the most important skill in the game, no doubt, is shooting. After all, the name of the game is to win by scoring more than the other team. You score more by putting the ball in the basket more times than the opposition.
Nevertheless, because shooting is such an important skill, it is also one of the hardest to learn. As previously mentioned, shooting branches off to other more refined skills such as making layups, finishing in traffic, free-throw shooting, mid-range shooting, and three-point shooting, just to name a few.
Another thing that you need to pay attention to is your technique. Sure, some unorthodox shooting forms are still pretty effective (Shawn Marion and Reggie Miller come to mind), but it’s also critical to hone in on good habits. This will directly affect the accuracy of your shooting.
We would also like to mention that passing is the next most important skill on offense. Dribbling may get you from one point to another, but passing the ball around is the fastest way to do it. It’s easier said than done, though, since developing excellent passing skills require knowledge, experience, mindset, and basketball IQ. Passing is quite different because it is one of the basic skills in basketball that you can’t practice alone.
How Can You Improve Your Basketball Skills?
A simple answer to that question is to practice, but hey, it’s not that easy. Let’s dig a little deeper on how you can improve your basketball skills, namely, shooting, passing, and dribbling.:
The best shooters ever such as Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Drazen Petrovic, and Steph Curry do not have the same shooting form. That just goes to show that there is no one perfect form to emulate to become elite. However, some factors make you a more successful sniper than the rest.
In shooting, you need to understand that half of the work is done before you even catch it. Before the catch, give the passer a target by showing your palms. And as soon as you catch the ball, make sure your momentum is towards the basket and not away from it. Get yourself squared and use your legs (not the arms) to generate the needed power to launch the shot. Be fluid as you raise into your shot, and don’t forget to follow through.
Other things you need to keep in mind when shooting:
- Don’t pass up an open shot. Always shoot with confidence.
- Practice shooting, not at a leisurely pace, but on game speed.
- Be sure to land on your toes.
Passing is one of the hardest basketball skills to be proficient at. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work on it. The secret to making accurate passes is your mindset– be quick, but don’t be in a hurry.
There are different types of passes: bounce pass, chest pass, lob pass, outlet pass, and many others. The chest pass is the most basic and the most widely-used basketball pass. It is called as such because you are holding the ball up in your chest area, flicking it with your wrists and using your body to make snapping motion.
A bounce is another commonly-used pass in basketball. To do the perfect bounce pass, make sure to bounce the ball ¾ of the receiver’s way. You don’t want to bounce it halfway since it increases the chances of being picked off by a defender.
Here are other things to keep in mind when passing:
- Don’t do jump passes. Leave your feet to take a shot and not to pass.
- Limit crosscourt passes, especially if you don’t have a cannon arm. Crosscourt passes are the easiest passes to telegraph and steal.
- Know your personnel. Shooters want the ball right in their shooting pocket, while athletic wings may prefer the lob instead of bounce passes.
Ballhandling is now imperative across positions, so there’s no doubt that it’s one of the best skills to be a basketball player. Sometimes, being able to make decisions with the ball is a deciding factor whether you play in crucial moments or get relegated to the bench. Knowing how to dribble makes a player valuable, especially in trapping and pressure situations.
Here are some things to keep in mind when dribbling:
- Always look up and ahead.
- Use dribbles with a purpose and not just for the sake of it.
- Dribbles are an excellent way to hide your intentions. Hesitation dribbles, in-and-outs, and crossovers are unique ways to throw defenders off.
- Dribble at different speeds to keep the defense on their heels. It makes you less predictable, which you can use to your own advantage.
7 Ways to Become a Good Basketball Player
There is no shortcut if you want to become a good basketball player, but if there is one, it’s called passion, dedication, and discipline. It’s not easy spending hours and hours every day practicing. However, basketball is more than just throwing a ball into a hoop. It’s also a mental game that beats into submission anyone who’s not tough enough to handle the grind. Would you be willing to put in the work? Here are 7 tips on becoming a good basketball player:
1. Embrace Failure
Every single basketball great out there failed. Kobe Bryant was infamous for shooting four airballs in a playoff game. Magic Johnson was nicknamed “Tragic” Johnson for a reason. And the list goes on. If you’re afraid to fail, you won’t even bother trying in the first place. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you did not take.
2. Be devoted to the mental aspect of the game.
Believe it or not, doing the drills and playing games are the easy part of basketball. It’s the mental part that can make or break you. You have to be mentally strong, so you can endure the disappointments and frustrations that come with the game.
3. Participate in training camps
Training all by yourself is cool and all, but if you’re getting serious about playing, training camps will teach you a lot of things about the mental and physical aspects of the game. Most of these camps are run by professionals who have been there and done that. If you can pick up their knowledge of the game, that is an invaluable investment for you going forward.
4. Understand what is needed from you.
We do not suggest you put yourself in a box and do exactly as you are told like a robot. In basketball, some positions need to do things better than others. For example, if you’re a point guard, you are expected to facilitate the offense and initiate scoring. As a big man, you are expected to protect the rim and rebound. Similarly, while you can work on different skills that are not as required from your position, it is best to stay in your line and do what you got to do.
5. Never Complain
No one likes someone who complains a lot. Sure, there will be times that anxiety and frustration get the better of you, but complaining is not a solution. In fact, it makes the problem worse. Never blame the coaches for your lack of playing time or your mom because she can’t get you the newest Jordans. Eliminate those negative emotions and continue to do tip # 6.
6. Hone your skills
This is in no way contradictory to tip #4, but it is complementary. While you should understand the scope of your responsibilities, that should not stop you from working on your skills. The key to improving is identifying your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can formulate a program to improve the weaknesses while building on your strengths. If you’re going to develop mentally, make sure your basketball skills go along with it.
7. Give it your all.
Mental aspect? Check. Improving your skills? Check. If you accustom yourself to give your all-out effort in every facet of the game, who can stop you?
Wrapping Things Up: What Should Every Basketball Player Be Able to Do?
Basketball is a fun game, but to improve, you have to put in an extraordinary amount of work to improve your skills. A basketball player should be able to do the five basic skills with considerable proficiency: dribbling, shooting, passing, running and jumping.
Dribbling is the first skill that a beginner should learn. It is also the most simple skill to practice since you can literally do it alone. However, the most important skill to have is shooting. After all, you win a basketball game by scoring more points than your opponents. With that being said, to complete your basketball skill development, you always need to work on all the other skills as well.
We have briefly outlined the three necessary offensive skills, namely, shooting, passing, and dribbling. There are a lot of nuances that you need to notice, especially passing because it is unequivocally the most challenging skill to master. It takes more than just practice to learn how to pass. You need to understand the angles and figure out your teammates to be excellent at it.
Last but not least, the 7 tips on becoming a good basketball player highlight the points on what you need to do to take your game to the next level. It involves more than just training, but also features the proper mindset that will help you succeed. Learning the basic skills in basketball is a must, and overall basketball skill development is imperative, but grasping the mental aspect of the game will push young players like you to the top.
Did you enjoy this post? Then you’ll love the other commonly asked questions about basketball. Check them out below:
> What Basketball Position Are You?
> How to Be Good at Basketball