Leave it to "The Big O" Oscar Roberston, arguably the best point guard in NBA history, to state the importance of ball handing: If you can't dribble, why are you on the court?
Traditionally, ball handling drills are not as fun as shooting drills. However, shooting is only as important as your ability to get to the spot. Steph Curry is obsessive with his ball handling work, often spending hours with ball handling drills using the latest technology. But technology can only take your handle so far. The key is repetition.
To get you started on mastering the magic of ball handling (and more time on the court), we asked our Ultimate Hoops' trainers to share their tried-and-true ball handling tips. Here are 24 of our favorites.
"I have my clients dribble with mini-basketballs to improve their skills. You get the same development as the old tennis ball drills, but with the actual feel of a basketball. We use mini-balls in every ball handling drill for atleast 2 or 3 sets before moving on to the larger, regular ball. Get creative and use both sized balls at once when performing 2 ball dribbling drills."
2 Kendrick Bryson, Dallas
"it all starts in the head. Mind, Body, Souls is the order of life; it’s the same in basketball. You have to have the confidence mentally first that you can control the basketball without looking down, knowing it will come back where it came from which flows through the body & comes from the soul. I am a firm believer that if you can handle two basketballs at one time then you can for sure handle one basketball in a game situation."
3 Lucian Pesoli, Colorado Springs
"Have a purpose with every dribble. The game calls for a huge variety of dribble moves and approaches to each dribble. When in drills, take attention to the details of each dribble and make them all count. For example, pound your stutter, knife your split, throw your push dribble, wrap your behind the back. There are endless examples, be on purpose!"
4 John Christensen, Minnesota
"Find construction or winter gloves and put light ankle weights on your wrists. Go through all your dribbles and emphasize combinations. After 10 minutes, take everything off and your handle is guaranteed to feel tighter."
5 Adrian Woodard, New Jersey
"The fundamentals of ball handling is footwork. Get your feet right and the rest will follow."
6 Kimrossi Taylor, Chicago
"Pound the ball hard using left and right hand equally on all moves. Keeping your head up and staying low in a good athletic position, and demonstrating all moves at game speed is key. But the most important tip is to handle the ball with confidence."
7 Peter Fabiano, New Jersey
"Try playing catch with your players with the tennis ball while they dribble a basketball with the other hand. This process can cause confusion to the brain and forces the player to concentrate more. Once the player dribbles without the tennis ball they will find that dribbling just the basketball is now much easier."
8 Elijah Knox, Phoenix
"Doing stationary work, two basketballs are better than one, for most drills. Think of creative ways to implement a 2nd ball in to your drill work. The coordination and ball handling benefits you’ll see come at an exponentially faster rate. When you do shed the 2nd basketball and are working with one; ensure you maintain a low, crisp, HARD, and under control dribble while keeping your eyes up."
9 Ken Koerner, New York
"Repetition is key for improving ball handling. I have all of my athletes perform a pound dribbling routine that involves each move being completed for 30 seconds at a time with a total of 3 sets per move. Stay low and eyes up!"
10 Kevin Green, Dallas
"I want my players to get a great feel for the ball by doing finger tip drills and dribble motion drills. I make sure they learn how to dribble with both hands until it becomes a habit. We do a lot of skill moves attacking the basket and creating space to shoot off the dribble using different cone drills."
"When working in drills, the ball should never touch the palm of the hand, finger tips control. (same as in shooting drills). Players should always be in what I call the “Universal Sports Stance” (Knees bent, back up, head up, feet shoulder width apart =BALANCE). Players should keep eyes up and not watch the ball. Repetition is the key (Ball must become another part of you."
12 Brandon Crump, Houston
"Try 2-ball dribbling. Alternating dribbling. Keep eyes up while dribbling and staying low. Too many players tend to dribble standing straight-up."
13 Carlos Valdez, New York
"Dribbling is a motor skills developed through repetition. The more you practice, the more your body will get use to the bounce of the ball. Key to better dribbling is to dribble low because it reduces the margin of error between the ground and your finger tips. Also, it becomes harder for your opponent to steal the ball from you if you're dribbling low."
14 Gerald McCaslin, San Antonio
"Push the ball straight into the ground, controlling with your finger tips. The more frequently the ball is actually in your hand, the better. It provides the opportunity to use ball manipulation when dribbling. Also, head up, eyes up. If you have to look at the ball, use your peripheral vision."
15 Kevin Foster, Houston
"Always dribble with your fingertips. A drill I'm consistent with is the two-ball dribbling through cones or stationary. That is the best way to become comfortable with both hands."
16 Bryan Ware, Salt Lake City
"Pound the Ball! The less time from the ground to the hand, the less opportunity the defender has on making a steal. Keep fingertips spread on the ball. More ball surface coverage allows for more control. Always stay in a solid stance. Do not allow the defender to dictate where you go! Lastly, keep your head up! At any point a teammate could become open or a double team could happen. Stay prepared!"
17 Lorenzo Orr, Minnesota
"Use different heights to develop muscle memory during drills. Try a variety of different drills, but mix up the speed and tempo to help develop your muscle memory with your dribbling control."
18 Jazz Williams, Colorado Springs
"The process of improving your handles starts with the basics. Start off with stationary pounds from your triple threat stance, keeping your hands on top of the ball with all five finger pads making contact. When pounding the ball, keep the dribbles in your box and refrain from "walking the dog" dribbles. Pound waist high, knee high and ankle. Once you've become proficient do these dribbles with two balls while going from baseline to half court gradually picking up speed."
19 Kyli Crooms, Phoenix
"Always get a good base: knees bent, (not your back) butt down, chest up. Strong base allows you to be stable and under control when pressure is applied. Use your finger tips to control the ball. Keep your eyes up, always see where you're going."
20 Kim Crabtree, Dallas
"Stay low. Always be unpredictable! Use change of speed. Eyes up, chest up, be ready to handle the contact. Be creative and comfortable with the ball in your hand."
21 Terry Woods, Des Moines
"It begins and ends with practice and repetition of dribbling. In both cases, it is paramount that drills be simulated at a game speed. Another important factor is to dribble with your head up and not down looking at the ball. This will enhance court vision and awareness."
22 Tasheba Butler, Dallas
"Working with a tennis ball will help improve hand eye coordination, which is very important with ball handling. Establishing a mental connection with dribbling a tennis ball, especially without looking, will make handling a basketball a lot easier."
23 James Tessmer, Atlanta
"Hold up a random number of fingers with two hands, and have the individual who is being trained calling out the sum of the numbers, while dribbling on the move. They should do moves based off their individual skill level. If the child is too young to add while dribbling, simply hold up one hand."
24 Joseph Powell, Las Vegas
"Use finger tips to control dribbling, like making a claw. Practice, practice! (10-15 minutes, 2-3 times per day, 5-6 days a week)."