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How to Play Basketball Like an Absolute Pro

How to Play Basketball Like a Pro
There is only a handful of people who get to play on the same courts as Michael Jordan once did. This piece provides you with a few means to be one of those few, to boost your arsenal of skills, be the better player and to start thinking of going pro.
Arun Prabhu
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Basketball Hoop
Basketball is unanimously recognized as a tough game, both physically and mentally. So what do you think it takes to be the best? An agile mind, a flexible body and strong leg muscles, coupled with a training drill intense enough to convert tough acts that normally make you think, into muscle memory. Pros know when to use what kind of tactic. They know who they must pass the ball to. And whether the players choose to show their skills or not, knowing a few tricks and fakes to deceive the opponent and bedazzle the audience is a must!
Professional Tips for Basketball
The Offense
The Dribble
young basketball player
Despite the fact that time has changed the game to a considerable extent, dunking and dribbling still remain the coolest solo aspects of basketball that a player can exhibit. The first and the most important rule of dribbling is never use your palms, ever. Using your palms reduces your ability to dribble and shoot by a lot. Always use finger-tips to dribble and control the ball. Use the wrist to angle the direction of the dribble and the forearm to measure the height at which the ball is to be dribbled. Avoid including the shoulder as this will cause you to run lop-sided. Use the angles of the bounce to your advantage, like when running fast while dribbling, when you need to 'push' the ball forward to avoid traveling. Put your body between your ball and the opponent; this will block most of his attempts to steal. Once you are comfortable controlling the ball, try having a defender (or multiple whenever you're up to it) block you, while you try to advance to the ring. Always remember that power and angle control are the key factors to a great dribbler. And once you know you're the better dribbler, feel free to try using tricks like:
  • A 360 spin dribble, where you loop inwards and spin out of a defenders path, eventually having your back to him and your shot free of any blocks. It's like pivoting with your stronger foot nearer to the defender, while you dribble the ball. Tone your muscle movements so that the defender will not realize what you're trying to pull.
  • Passing from behind your back is a great move, if you can manage it, otherwise it is a futile maneuver and you will definitely lose the ball. As you dribble, move your ball behind your back, guide the ball using your fingers and pass using your forearms. Do this swiftly and the opponent won't know what happened, slow movements will give away your intention.
  • The Crossoveris one of the most effective tricks in the book, with which you can 'change lanes' when confronted with a defender, or change your direction completely. If you're dribbling with your left hand, move slightly to your left, use your body to convince the defender that you are turning left. The moment that happens, plant your left foot and burst to your right, simultaneously changing dribbling hands.
The Jump
When it comes to vertical jumps, it is imperative that you need to increase leg muscle strength. Regular training and muscle conditioning is the only way to strengthen the lower calf and ankle muscles so that you can jump higher. Stronger legs coupled with a good warm up routine ensures no injury in the heat of the game. Concentrate on every possible muscle in your legs, note what you do results in which muscles tweaking or relaxing. You will find that your jump will start from minimal power from the heels to the final gasp of push that you exert through your toes and ball of your feet before being airborne.
The shot and the Dunk
jumping action
Although it may have been the case on an amateur level that once a dunker, always a dunker, the game changes drastically when you get into professional basketball. As a Pro, it will often be expected from you to shoot from multiple positions, and not just make one kind of shot all the time. Here, it is better for you to define yourself (according to shot abilities) to your team and your coach, so you will be able to comfortably score from your preferred locations. If you find it difficult to dunk, compensate for this by developing a strong lay-up shot while primarily remaining a formidable 3-point shooter. This is because basketball requires all players to be good at multiple aspects as it is often the need of the second that drives a player and a team to improvise.

A dunk is flashier option to shooting. The choice between shooting and dunking will already have been decided by now, decided by your comfort with the ball, the kind of players you face and your mindset. If you have chosen to dunk, you will also know that there are basically two kinds of dunks depending on the way you jump and the way you hold the ball in your hands. For a running dunk, it is harder to calculate the jump required to reach the ring. You jump with one foot by taking a running (dribbling) start, take the 2 steps, jump towards the hoop. Jumping with both feet requires a shorter distance from the ring and also increases your dependence on your weaker leg. Jumping with both feet from a stationary place can be more strenuous for the body, but serves as a secret weapon, like when you collect the ball under the ring and explode before anyone else can, to dunk. However if you jump, being able to grip the ball with one hand, it is more comfortable. This allows you to stretch extra when you jump.
The Defense
The Shot-Block
defense shot block
The details of a good defense as a team are best left to your coach or captain. What remains to be developed on a personal level is your basic shot-blocking skills. Whenever you try to block a shot, make sure to get a clean contact on the ball and not the player. Try to deflect the ball towards your closest or relatively free teammate. Whatever you do, do not jump unless you're absolutely sure that your target is going to jump, else you will end up looking like a fool jumping up and your mark, who faked you, getting a dunk in. So try to avoid jumping as much as possible. Sometimes keeping your mark beyond a certain distance is more than enough if you know he cannot shoot from that point. A good way to pin down your man is to see how he shoots and his footwork before he shoots.
The Training
jumping training
For jumping, you need to increase the impulsive power output, which you can achieve by squat jumps on your toes. Just remember to use only your toes and not your heels. Jump higher with every attempt in the most rhythmic manner possible. A good exercise would be to jog and skip. When you do, take a stride such that you jump upwards. Use one leg to jump, pushing you up and the other leg trying to reach closer to the chest. This is done with the intention of jumping higher, not covering distances. When you jump with the ball in a game or in training, remember to use your arms for that extra impetus to jump higher - when you start to jump, keep your arms slanted downwards and as you jump, motion them upwards and stretch to get the extra inch. Now, in the game, there will be two basic kinds of jumps, one where you run in to do a simple layup or a running dunk, and the other is when you do a spot-jump, exploding unpredictably above your opponent to shoot, dunk or pass. The former benefits from heavy-weight exercises like squatting with barbells, while the latter can be improved by a series of plyometric workouts, a kind of workout that concentrates on the muscle's impulse output. For any specific type of training you can ask your coach or trainer to work on a specific muscle set, but always try to train all possible sets and not concentrate on just a few.
Dribblingis a skill that needs a lot of time in the beginner's stage and even when you move on to harder styles, you will find yourself doing the same basic drill to maintain your strength and comfort over the ball. Always keep your eyes on the players around you and not on the ball, no matter how hard this is at the beginning. Train both your main hand and your off-hand equally to dribble, this will be intensely annoying at the start, but increasingly rewarding at the end. The ability to dribble perfectly with both left and right hand and switching comfortably between them is an important skill required by a point-guard or whoever breaks on a turnover. Your regular dribbling drills must include basics like:
  • Kills - where you dribble at waist length and instantly change to a low dribble (as low as possible).
  • Making the figure-8 by dribbling the ball through and around your feet.
  • Crossover dribble using both hands, then a crossover dribble in the shape of a V using only one hand (to your front and to your side too). A more advanced method to train both of your hands for dribbling would be to perform the figure-8, but with the ball being dribbled at one place and your hands either moving as the ball would have in a cyclic pattern, and then with the pattern reversed. Another advanced drill is the Shuffle, where you do the crossover dribble through the legs, with the legs 'shuffling' from front to back simultaneously.
Whatever counsel you have gained from my article, do not forget it in the long run. Basics are easy to grasp, difficult to follow through on, especially in sports. If you can manage that, you can confidently step onto a court and be the best player out there.