Who Made the Finger Roll Layup Famous?

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You probably heard about “bag” mentioned in basketball circles. That usually refers to the variety of moves a player can pull off in different settings– the hoops version of “There’s 100 ways to skin a cat.” One of those finishing moves around the basket is the finger roll. It’s now a lost art, but looking back, who made the finger roll layup famous?

What is Finger Roll LayupWhat is Finger Roll Layup?

A basketball finger roll layup is essentially a layup with more flair and pizzazz at the end. There is somewhat of an underhanded rolling motion to lay the ball in front of the rim. When done at an angle, the offensive player would aim for the ball to touch the glass first and into the basket. Sometimes, a finger roll layup is called the scoop shot or scoop layup.

Regardless, the finger roll is not easy to make, as it takes skill and dexterity to pull off. Finger roll masters can convert the shot from all angles, such as the baseline, without the option of a bank shot. With the underhanded rolling motion, the ball seems to go up and over a shot blocker’s hands, avoiding the defense altogether.

Who Popularized the Finger Roll LayupWho Popularized the Finger Roll Layup?

The finger roll layup is considered an old-school shot. It was first extensively used by the late great Wilt Chamberlain as part of his vast offensive arsenal. Chamberlain stood 7-foot-1 and had the fadeaway jumper as one of his staple moves. If he’s close enough to the rim, “The Big Dipper” simply stretches his long hands and lays the ball up in the basket, thus doing the finger roll.

Why would a giant like “Wilt the Stilt” use such a finesse move like a finger roll? That’s because the rules before are different from the rules today. Big men such as Chamberlain were not allowed to power through their defenders, or else an offensive foul was called. Because of this, Chamberlain developed various finishing moves, including the finger roll.

Long after Wilt Chamberlain retired, many players used the finger roll as their weapon, but few did it as well as George Gervin. “The Iceman,” as he was called, can do finger rolls from 10 to 12 feet and does it with a cool factor that not many possess. In fact, Gervin scored the ninth-most points in the 80s, even ahead of Julius Erving, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin McHale.

As they say, Gervin did not invent the finger roll; he perfected it. He can do the basketball finger roll layup right or left-handed, using the bank, or straight into the bottom of the net. “Ice” did it with a flick of the wrist, allowing the ball to go high up and into the basket.

What NBA Player is Famous for Finger RollWhat NBA Player is Famous for Finger Roll?

While Chamberlain and Gervin’s pictures are probably what you see in the dictionary beside the word “finger roll,” other NBA players made the finger roll part of their deep offensive arsenal. Most of them have the crazy layup package and are extraordinary leapers with incredible creativity.

Here are some of them:

1. Julius Erving

Dr. J’s hands are enormous. These claws allowed him to control the ball to do all sorts of maneuvers in the air. Erving mostly used the glass during these forays to the bucket, but he can also make the ball go straight to the basket if he wants to.

2. Michael Jordan

Speaking of creativity, is there one person more creative in the air than Air Jordan? The guy can do triple-clutches in his sleep and jump over people shooting fadeaways. Like Erving, Jordan’s mitts were disproportionately large compared to his frame. This natural gift allowed him to do the unthinkable when he was up in the air.

3. Kyrie Irving

While Kyrie is primarily known for his handles, the guy’s layup package is crazy. The whole thing is predicated on finger rolls on different angles off the backboard.

How to Do a Finger Roll Layup in BasketballHow to Do a Finger Roll Layup in Basketball

You don’t need specific basketball finger roll layup drills to master the finger roll. First, you need to pin down a few easy steps to serve as the foundation of your goal. For a beginner, it’s important to keep things simple.

Here’s how to do a finger roll layup in basketball:

  • If you’re a beginner, using the glass first in your finger roll is advisable. You may start your momentum by dribbling with your dominant hand, which means a right-hand dribble if you’re right-handed and a left-hand dribble if you’re a southpaw.
  • Begin your dribble at the top of the key. You must be quick but not in a hurry. Remember that the finger roll layup is used to beat defenders, so dribble at a controlled pace.
  • Everyone has different timing, but as soon as you get within three feet of the basket, release the ball from your dribbling hand. Push it gently off your fingertips in an underhanded motion. The rolling motion of the fingertips is used to guide the ball to the basket with a soft spin.
  • Practice this over and over to develop consistency. Use it during a game so you can have the confidence to pull it off at any given moment.
  • When you have developed a reliable finger roll layup with your dominant hand, do the same with your non-dominant hand. Being ambidextrous in your finishing makes you even more unstoppable during the game.

Wrapping Things Up: Who Made the Finger Roll Layup Famous?

The finger roll layup has become a lost art nowadays. Most young players today practice stepback jumpers, deep three-pointers, and behind-the-back dribbles and sometimes neglect the importance of finishing around the basket. If you have a finger roll among your finishing moves, you have more options during the game.

So, who made the finger roll layup famous? In the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain, in the 60s, consistently performed the finger roll in the post. Then, in the 80s, George Gervin made it an art form by making finger rolls from farther away from the basket– whether using the glass or straight into the basket. Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Kyrie Irving are also well-known practitioners of the finger roll layup, making them among the best layup finishers the league has known.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

> What is Transition Defense and How Do You Build a Great One?

> What are Defensive Fouls in Basketball?

> What is a Double Dribble in Basketball?

> Can You Catch Your Own Airball?

> What is “Small Ball” in the NBA?

> How to Play Perimeter Defense in Basketball

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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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