Basketball Dribbling

Basketball Dribbling

Dribbling in basketball is an action the ball-handler can take to move the ball on the court while retaining possession. Dribbling differs from passing since the same player retains control of the ball. Dribbling is a continuous motion that a player uses to repeatedly bounce the ball off the floor.

Basketball Dribbling

Basketball Dribbler

The dribbler in basketball is the player who has the ball. His or her team is on offense and has the option to dribble, pass, shoot, or pivot anywhere on the court.

Dribbler's Options

Once a player obtains the ball, he or she becomes the dribbler. That player has a few main options for what they can do with the ball. The player can choose to dribble, moving toward another player, away from the defense, or toward the basket and advance the play further. They can choose to shoot the ball, hoping to make a 2-pointer or a 3-pointer or to possibly earn 2 foul shots. The player can also choose to pass the ball, whether as a bounce pass, air pass, or a chest pass. Lastly, the player can choose to pivot with the ball to get a new angle or shake off their defender.

No matter what they choose to do, the dribbler must do it within the time frame given to them by the game's shot clock so that they do not lose possession of the ball.

Importance of the Dribbler

Since the dribbler is the player with the ball, they are the most important player in that moment. The dribbler has the power to make a play happen and has to make the decision on what to do. The dribbler should become a triple threat to the defender, meaning he or she can pass, dribble, or shoot at any moment to make that defender's job more difficult.

Basketball Dribbling Rules

There are rules in basketball that describe how a player can dribble the ball. Here are the rules of dribbling in basketball:

  • You can dribble anywhere on the court as long as they stay inbounds
  • You must only use one hand at a time (if two hands touch the ball, a player loses their dribble and may pass or shoot the ball)
  • You may take two steps once you pick up your dribble
  • You can bounce the ball off the floor as high as you want
  • You can not hold the ball in the air while moving on the court
  • You can not palm the ball by lifting it into the air with your hand
  • You can not stop dribbling and then start again
  • You can not dribble once a pivot foot is established

Picking Up Your Dribble

At any point, the ball-handler can stop dribbling and pick up his dribble. When a player decides to pick up the dribble, he grabs the ball and holds it. Once a player picks up his dribble, he can no longer dribble again. Instead, he can only pass, shoot, or pivot.

Basketball Pivoting

Pivoting in basketball is an action the ball-handler can take by rotating around his pivot foot. Players can pick their pivot foot when they choose to pick up their dribble. A player's pivot foot must remain on the ground when pivoting and can only come off the floor when the player shoots or passes.

We'll learn more about pivoting in Basketball Pivoting.

Dribbling Violations

If a player breaks any of these dribbling rules, a violation will be called by the referee. Violations result in a turnover and the other team getting the ball. These are simple mistakes in basketball that can have a large impact during a game. Here is a list of dribbling violations in basketball:

Traveling (Walking)

When you pick up your dribble, you can only take two steps before a referee calls you for traveling. This often occurs when a player is driving the basket and stops dribbling the ball to go up for a shot. If a player stops dribbling and takes 3 or more steps, they have traveled.

Carrying (Palming)

Carrying is when a player places his or her hand under the basketball and continues dribbling. If you pick up the ball, you must stop dribbling and establish a pivot foot. Carries are often called when players lift the basketball when they dribble.

Double Dribble

Double dribbling is when a player simultaneously uses both hands to dribble the ball or grabs the ball with both hands and then dribbles again. You are allowed to use either hand to dribble, but you can't touch the ball with both hands at the same time.


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