The best way to hold a basketball…and develop great hands!

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Catching and holding the ball

It’s really simple. You learned how to do it before you were in Kindergarten. Nothing to think about here, right?

Not necessarily. Let’s take a closer look at your habit to make sure you’re catching and holding the ball in a way that makes you a split second faster doing everything on the court.

After all, none of us can afford to lose even a few hundreds of a second if we want to be the best.

Hold the ball with thumbs parallel to each other and a few inches apart.

Notice how the thumbs both point directly up forming roughly parallel lines and a few inches apart.  Do not drop your thumb, because this will make you slower and take away power.

basketball training, hand position, cobra habit
Proper hand position= thumbs parallel and wrinkles in the wrist


Use fingertip control.
Your finger tips should pull back slightly, which gives your hand a rounder shape.  The ball  should touch all 5 fingertips and the “meaty” pad at the base of your thumb.


Always have your wrist 100% flexed.
In the picture above I am holding the ball on my *right side, setting up for a right handed shot, dribble or pass. Therefore I actively pull back on my right wrist so that it is completely flexed while my left wrist is just passively flexed.

basketball training in Vancouver
Easily shift to left handed action without moving hands


This is the ideal way to hold the ball because this position:

  • Allows you to quickly change over to a left handed pass, dribble or shot without having to change your hand position…instead, simply rotate the ball and pull back to load the other wrist more.
  • Enables you to get the full flexion you need in your wrist to generate instant power.  This is very, very important for Split Second Habits.
  • Is a perfect set up for your shot. As a right handed shooter,  without any adjustments your left hand turns into your guide hand as you bring the ball to set position. Notice how your left hand is already perfectly aligned as a guide hand, at 90 degrees to the basket.
basketball training, shooting technique, hand position
Kobe demonstrates how catching in this position leads to good shooting form
basketball training, guide hand is important to shooting
Kobe following through with perfect guide hand


Where do you use this?

This should be your default habit pretty much any time you are holding the ball on the court. This hand placement on the ball makes up an important part of the COBRA habit.

A HUGE part of your development as an ELITE player is learning to catch with this proper hand position in more challenging situations.

Start with a one foot pass off the wall to yourself. Easy to properly place your hands and immediately get your wrist cocked? Then move back a few feet.

An elite player can receive a cross court bullet pass, down low, off to his none-shooting side and still catch with the correct hand and wrist position…to allow him to immediately go into his shot without adjusting/moving his hands. This is where you need to get to.

If you’re running the fast break and someone fires you a pass, without thinking your hands should be in the correct position…and then almost SUCK the ball in to that sweet spot.

This is the definition of “SOFT” HANDS!

It’s also KEY to use this hand and wrist position whenever you pick the dribble up off the floor…especially if  you are shooting off the dribble .  This is more difficult when you are dribbling with your non-shooting hand.

For example, a right hand shooter dribbling with his left hand should have the habit of keeping his right hand close to the ball to protect it. This also allows him to be ready right away to pick up the ball with both hands.

This right handed shooter should meet the dribble low to the floor with both hands and immediately load his right wrist while putting his left hand in proper position and coming to set position.


Any exceptions? Long passes in the open court.

passing technique, basketball training habits
Nash dropping his thumbs- only use this unguarded in the open court


Do not make this your normal holding habit because it will make you slower, especially if you decide to shoot or dribble. However, if you are open and have lots of time, dropping your thumbs under the ball can help you make a long 2 handed chest pass.


*any left handers reading this article need to envision the mirror opposite for these examples.

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