Basketball Pivoting

basketball pivoting

Pivoting in basketball is an action the ball-handler can take by rotating around on a pivot foot without picking it up. 

Basketball players are not allowed to move with the ball unless they are dribbling, so they must always keep at least one foot established on the ground when holding the ball. This is called their pivot foot, and players can pivot on this foot as much as needed. Their other foot is free to step and move, but the pivot foot must maintain contact with the ground.

Pivoting helps a player avoid a defensive player and find an opening on the court to take a shot, make a pass, or dribble.

Basketball Pivoting Rules

There are rules in the sport that describe how a player can pivot with the ball. Here are the rules of pivoting in basketball:

  • You can rotate around on your pivot foot.
  • You cannot lift your pivot foot off the floor until you shoot, pass, or begin dribbling the ball.
  • You can not hold onto the ball for longer than five seconds.
  • You can not change your pivot foot once it is established.
  • If you were dribbling before pivoting, you can not start to dribble after you begin pivoting.

Basketball Pivot Foot

Basketball Pivot Foot

A pivot foot is one of the ball-handler's feet that must remain on the floor while they pivot. They are free to move their non-pivot foot however they want, as long as their pivot foot remains in place on the ground. Once a player passes, shoots, or dribbles the ball, they are free to lift their pivot foot.

The ball-handler can choose their pivot foot or have it automatically be assigned by the way they catch the ball.

Once a player stops dribbling and picks up his dribble, they can only pivot, shoot, or pass the ball. Once a player has a pivot foot, they can not start dribbling again after picking up their dribble.

Choosing a Pivot Foot

When the ball-handler picks up their dribble, they have the choice of choosing their pivot foot. Picking up your dribble means the player stops dribbling and holds the ball in their hands. When choosing a pivot foot, the ball-handler can pick either their left foot or right foot. If both feet are on the ground when a player picks up their dribble, they can choose either foot. However, once one of their feet is lifted from the ground, the other foot automatically becomes their pivot foot. Try to choose your pivot foot based on which will give you better options for a pass or a good shot!

Assigned Pivot Foot

Sometimes, a player doesn't get to choose their pivot foot. The ball-handler's pivot foot is automatically assigned if they catch a pass or rebound while only one foot is on the floor. In that case, the foot that is on the floor is their pivot foot.

When catching a pass or rebound, make sure you jump in the air and keep both feet off the floor. If you do that, you'll be able to choose your pivot foot.

Basketball Traveling

Basketball Traveling

Traveling is a violation in basketball that will be called on you if you violate the rules of dribbling. An example of traveling is lifting your pivot foot off the floor. You can think of the pivot foot as a rooted tree. When pivoting, you must keep your pivot foot rooted on the floor. If you do not, your team will lose the ball, and you will return to defense.

You can lift your pivot foot off the floor only if you immediately pass or shoot the ball before having it touch the floor again.

Five-Second Violation

Basketball 5 Second Violation

A five-second violation will be called on the ball-handler if they hold onto the ball for longer than five seconds once their pivot foot is established. Five second violations result in a turnover and the other team getting the ball. This rule only applies in college and high school basketball. When you begin pivoting, immediately start looking for your best option for getting rid of the ball. Pass, shoot, or start dribbling!


What is a pivot foot in basketball?

A pivot foot is the foot that must stay grounded when the ball-handler is pivoting in basketball. The pivot foot can be either foot, but must remain the same until the ball has left the ball-handler’s hand. If the ball-handler lifts their pivot foot before dribbling, passing, or shooting, they will be called for a traveling violation.