What Are Handles In Basketball

So you’ve heard the term “handles” tossed around in basketball, but what exactly does it mean? Handles in basketball refer to a player’s exceptional ball-handling skills. It’s all about the ability to dribble and maneuver the ball with finesse, precision, and control. A player with impressive handles can dribble effortlessly through defenders, execute crossovers, and perform fancy moves that leave the opposition in awe. It’s an essential skill that allows players to navigate the court with confidence and create scoring opportunities for themselves and their teammates. Whether you’re a basketball enthusiast or just curious about the sport, understanding the concept of handles adds a whole new level of appreciation to the game. Handles in basketball refer to a player’s ability to dribble and control the ball effectively. It encompasses various skills, including dribbling skill, ball control, and the ability to create space. Having good handles is essential for any player, as it provides several advantages on the court. In this article, we will explore the definition of basketball handles, their importance in the game, different types of handles, training and developing handles, famous players with exceptional handles, tips to improve your handles, common mistakes to avoid, and conclude with the significance of having strong handles in basketball.

Definition of Basketball Handles

Dribbling Skill

Dribbling skill is a fundamental aspect of handles in basketball. It refers to a player’s ability to maneuver the ball with one hand while maintaining control and staying in motion. Dribbling allows players to move freely on the court, evade defenders, and create scoring opportunities. Good dribbling skills involve using speed, control, and changes of direction to keep the defender guessing.

Ball Control

Ball control is another key element of handles. It pertains to a player’s ability to keep the ball safe and secure while dribbling. This includes maintaining a low center of gravity, having a strong grip on the ball, and using fingertip control to manipulate its movement. With excellent ball control, players can navigate through tight spaces, weave through defenders, and execute various dribbling moves confidently.

Ability to Create Space

Creating space is an important aspect of handles in basketball. It refers to a player’s capability to use dribbling moves and footwork to create separation from the defender. By effectively creating space, players can open up passing lanes, get a clear shot at the basket, or find an open teammate. The ability to create space is crucial for offensive players to have an advantage over their opponents.

Importance of Handles in Basketball

Creating Scoring Opportunities

One of the primary benefits of having good handles in basketball is the ability to create scoring opportunities. By being able to dribble effectively and break down defenders, players can create space for themselves to take open shots or drive to the basket. Strong handles allow players to navigate through tight defenses and find gaps to exploit, leading to higher chances of scoring.

Breaking Down Opponents

Handles play a significant role in breaking down opponents. When a player possesses exceptional dribbling skills, they can put pressure on defenders by constantly changing direction, using hesitation moves, and executing quick crossovers. This forces defenders to react and adjust, creating openings and potential mismatches that the offensive player can exploit.

Protecting the Ball

Handles also contribute to protecting the ball. Players with good ball control can minimize turnovers by keeping the ball secure and away from defenders. By utilizing dribbling moves and changes of pace, they can shield the ball from opponents’ attempts to steal or disrupt their dribble. Protecting the ball allows players to maintain possession and reduces the likelihood of turnovers.

Running Plays

Handles are instrumental in running plays effectively. Point guards, in particular, rely heavily on their handles to initiate offensive sets, make quick passes, and set up their teammates for scoring opportunities. They need to be able to navigate through traffic, create passing lanes, and maintain control of the ball while executing various plays. Good handles enable players to orchestrate the flow of the game and maximize their team’s offensive potential.

Drawing Fouls

Having strong handles can also lead to drawing fouls. Skilled ball handlers often force defenders to play them tightly, increasing the likelihood of defensive contact. By using their handles to create driving lanes and initiating contact, offensive players can draw fouls from their opponents. This gives their team free-throw opportunities and disrupts the defensive strategies of the opposing team.

Types of Handles

Ankle Breakers

Ankle breakers are handles that deceive defenders and make them lose their balance or stumble. These moves involve quick changes of direction, crossovers, and hesitation moves that cause the defender’s ankles to “break”. Ankle breakers are not only visually impressive but also effective in creating opportunities for scoring or passing.

Crossover Dribble

The crossover dribble is a fundamental move in basketball handles. It involves dribbling the ball from one hand to the other in a quick and deceptive manner, often causing the defender to shift their weight in the wrong direction. The crossover can create space for jump shots, drives to the basket, or passing opportunities by forcing the defender to react and momentarily lose their defensive position.

Between the Legs Dribble

The between the legs dribble is a move that involves dribbling the ball between the legs in a swift motion. This move is useful for changing direction quickly, creating space, and confusing defenders with its deceptive nature. It allows players to maintain better ball control while executing sharp changes in direction, making it a valuable tool in breaking down opponents.

Behind the Back Dribble

The behind the back dribble is a move where players dribble the ball from one hand to the other, behind their back. This move is not only stylish but also effective in changing direction and gaining separation from the defender. Utilizing the behind the back dribble allows players to create space, evade defenders, and set up scoring opportunities for themselves or their teammates.

Spin Move

The spin move is a technique where players spin their body quickly while maintaining control of the ball. This move is particularly useful when driving to the basket or posting up against a defender. By spinning away from the defender, offensive players can create space, exploit mismatches, and position themselves for high-percentage scoring opportunities.

Training and Developing Handles

Dribbling Drills

To enhance handles, players can engage in various dribbling drills. These drills focus on developing different dribbling skills, including speed dribbling, stationary dribbling, and dribbling through cones or defenders. Incorporating dribbling drills into practice sessions helps build muscle memory, improve ball control, and increase overall comfort with the ball.

Off-Hand Training

Developing handles also involves training the off-hand. Many players have a dominant hand and tend to rely on it for dribbling. However, to become a well-rounded player, it is crucial to develop proficiency with both hands. Practicing dribbling and executing various moves with the non-dominant hand improves overall ball control and reduces the risk of turnovers.

Two-Ball Drills

Two-ball drills are an effective way to improve handles. By dribbling two balls simultaneously, players enhance their coordination, ball control, and ambidexterity. Two-ball drills require players to focus on their hand-eye coordination and develop greater control over both hands. This type of training translates to improved handles and increased confidence on the court.

Agility and Footwork Training

Handles in basketball also benefit from agility and footwork training. Quick and sharp movements are crucial in breaking down defenders and creating space. Working on agility drills, ladder drills, and cone exercises helps players improve their reaction time, coordination, and change of direction. Strong footwork complements dribbling skills and allows players to maintain balance and control while executing various moves.

Game-like Situations

Practicing handles in game-like situations is highly beneficial. Simulating real-game scenarios with defenders allows players to develop their decision-making abilities and adapt their dribbling skills accordingly. Engaging in one-on-one or small-sided games helps players understand how to use their handles effectively under pressure and against opponents.

Famous Players with Exceptional Handles

Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson, also known as “The Answer,” is widely regarded as one of the most skilled ball handlers in basketball history. His lightning-quick crossovers, hesitation moves, and ability to change direction left defenders guessing. Iverson’s handles allowed him to create scoring opportunities and became a signature aspect of his playing style.

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving is renowned for his exceptional handles and dribbling abilities. His smooth crossovers, hesitation moves, and ankle-breaking dribbles have made him one of the most exciting players to watch. Irving’s handles enable him to break down opponents, create space for himself and his teammates, and finish at the rim with finesse.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul, known as “CP3,” possesses exceptional handles and court vision. His ability to control the ball and manipulate defenders with his dribbling skills has made him one of the best point guards in NBA history. Paul’s handles allow him to run plays effectively, create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, and dictate the pace of the game.

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry, often regarded as the greatest shooter of all time, also has exceptional handles. His quick and precise dribbling, combined with his shooting ability, make him a nightmare for defenders. Curry’s handles allow him to create his own shot, penetrate the defense, and find open teammates. His dribbling skills and shooting prowess have revolutionized the game of basketball.

Tips to Improve Your Handles

Master Basic Dribbling Fundamentals

To improve handles, it is essential to master basic dribbling fundamentals. This includes keeping your eyes up, maintaining a low and athletic stance, and practicing dribbling with control and precision. Focusing on these fundamentals provides a strong foundation for developing advanced dribbling skills.

Work on Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination is a crucial component of handles. Engaging in drills and exercises that enhance hand-eye coordination, such as juggling or bouncing a tennis ball while dribbling, can significantly improve dribbling skills. The ability to synchronize the movement of the ball with your vision allows for better control and execution of dribbling moves.

Develop Finger Strength and Control

Developing finger strength and control is vital for precise ball handling. Utilizing handgrips, finger exercisers, or grip strengtheners can help improve finger strength. Additionally, practicing fingertip control exercises, such as fingertip push-ups or dribbling with fingertips only, enhances ball control and manipulation.

Practice Various Dribbling Moves

To improve handles, practicing various dribbling moves is crucial. This includes regularly practicing crossover dribbles, between the legs dribbles, behind the back dribbles, and spin moves. By mastering a wide range of dribbling moves, players become more versatile and unpredictable on the court.

Watch and Learn from the Pros

Observing and studying professional players can greatly benefit handle development. Watching how skilled ball handlers utilize their dribbling moves in different game situations provides valuable insights. Analyzing their footwork, timing, and decision-making can help players incorporate new techniques and strategies into their own game.

Common Mistakes in Handling the Ball

Dribbling Too High

One common mistake when handling the ball is dribbling it too high. Dribbling the ball too high makes it easier for defenders to steal or disrupt the dribble. Keeping the ball low and close to the body allows for better control and reduces the risk of turnovers.

Dribbling Too Much

Another mistake is dribbling the ball excessively. Over-dribbling can lead to turnovers and stagnant offensive plays. It is important to recognize when to pass, make a move, or shoot instead of dribbling continuously. Being aware of the game situation and utilizing dribbling as a tool rather than relying on it excessively is crucial.

Not Protecting the Ball

Failure to protect the ball is detrimental to handles. Neglecting to keep the ball secure leaves it vulnerable to being stolen by defenders. Players must remember to shield the ball with their body, utilize their off-hand as a shield, and be aware of potential threats from opponents.

Lack of Variation

A lack of variation in dribbling moves can make a player predictable and easier to guard. It is important to incorporate a variety of dribbling moves, hesitation, and change of pace to keep defenders off balance. By having a wide repertoire of moves, players can counter defenders’ strategies and maintain an advantage on offense.

Ignoring the Weak Hand

Neglecting to develop proficiency with the non-dominant hand limits a player’s handles. Having equal dribbling skills with both hands makes it more challenging for defenders to anticipate a player’s moves. Devoting time and effort to training the weak hand expands a player’s options and overall effectiveness on the court.


In conclusion, handles in basketball encompass dribbling skill, ball control, and the ability to create space. Good handles are essential for creating scoring opportunities, breaking down opponents, protecting the ball, running plays, and drawing fouls. There are various types of handles, including ankle breakers, crossover dribbles, between the legs dribbles, behind the back dribbles, and spin moves. Developing handles requires practice through dribbling drills, off-hand training, two-ball drills, agility and footwork training, and game-like situations. Players can look up to famous players like Allen Iverson, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Stephen Curry for inspiration. Improving handles involves mastering basic dribbling fundamentals, enhancing hand-eye coordination, developing finger strength and control, practicing various dribbling moves, and learning from professional players. Avoiding common mistakes such as dribbling too high, excessive dribbling, not protecting the ball, lack of variation, and ignoring the weak hand is crucial. Having strong handles in basketball significantly enhances a player’s offensive skills and overall impact on the game. So, keep practicing, honing your skills, and watch your handles improve on the court.

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