What Are The Basic Skills in Basketball? (Answer By A Pro)

Basketball has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years. So much so, that young kids around the world have grown up with dreams of making it into the NBA.

This type of dream comes with a ton of hard work, though.

Which raises the question, what are the basic skills in basketball?

The basic skills of basketball are:

  • Dribbling
  • Shooting
  • Rebounding
  • Defense
  • Passing

You can’t automatically be good at the sport; you have first to learn the basketball skills and develop a true understanding of the topic. These basic skills help you accomplish just that.

Although, it isn’t always just this simple. There are multiple different ways to pass and shoot the basketball on offense.

Then on the other end, there is a lot more that goes into playing defense, like communicating and keeping your lateral quickness up.

Basketball is a complex game with a lot of moving parts. It may seem like a lot to take in at first, but once you get the hang of it you could turn into a star!


What Are the Five Basic Skills in Basketball?

Basketball is a team sport with two completely different subjects to learn when getting the basic basketball skills down. We have to remember to dribble the ball at all times on offense.

It will probably be best for you to pass it out to an open teammate when we can’t dribble anymore. Or, you may see nobody around you, in which case shooting the ball is a valid option.

Then we have rebounding, a vital part of both offense and defense. You want to grab offensive rebounds to get your own team extra shots.

You also want to grab defensive rebounds through defensive rebounding to avoid giving the other team an extra chance to score when your team isn’t ready. You must practice rebounding by learning jump shots and free throws to help your basketball team block shot attempts and win.

Finally, defense is a basic skill all grouped in itself. It is incredibly difficult to be a successful player at blocking shoots by an opponent if you refuse to acknowledge the main skills of defensive play.

Is Shooting a Skill in Basketball?

Yes, shooting is absolutely an important skill that basketball requires. Score points are premium in the NBA or any other league that you may be hoping to get into.

For example, look at Steph Curry; he just broke the NBA record for most three-pointers made in his career at 2,974!

A basketball player practicing shooting

He has utilized many scoring opportunities for more points. Besides, Curry uses the skill to improve his player throws and keep his team winning.

You could check out this feat for yourselves here if you would like. He is a tremendous example of this skill’s importance when playing games.

We all know how incredibly successful Curry has been throughout his career.

Shooting the basketball allows you to space the floor more for other teammates and forces defenses to keep an eye on you at all times.

Otherwise, they could just ignore you because they know you won’t be able to score from certain distances.

Other players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Lebron James had amazing basketball skills like ball handling, dribbling passing, and the ability to move the ball in the easiest way.

Because of such skills in the game of basketball, their names are always mentioned.

Without any shooting ability, you will find it hard to stick in a starting lineup or be successful in pickup games. Scoring is the only way to win more games, and shooting is a major skill needed to do so.  Make sure you are a good shooter and also great at controlling rebounds.

A free arm lets you move swiftly past defenders. Moreover, the moves made accurately also protects teammates against tough opponents, which helps in preventing injuries. Wearing rubber knee bands too.

Is Basketball A Skill Or Talent?

A lot of people that have played basketball believe that the sport is a mix of both. There is a good amount of people out there that grew up with natural talent in basketball.

And probably here’s the time to clarify that basketball doesn’t make you taller, like many people wrongly assume.

People with insane touch to shoot the lights out or height to be able to rebound.

Although, others grow to be successful using only their skill. We have seen players put in countless hours in the gym and improve in every area of the game. NBA players even workout during the season.

Dribbling, shooting, rebounding and even defense can all be practiced and improved upon with time.

You don’t need to have God-given talent to be good at the sport, it takes a lot of skill to perfect it and improve consistently. This is what overseas players strive to do in order to get accepted in the NBA.

What Skills Should You Learn First In Basketball?

In our opinion, dribbling should be one of the first basic skills of basketball to learn. Mostly because if you can’t dribble, you won’t be very effective offensively whatsoever.

Dribbling allows you to move with the basketball and helps you get up the court, create separation and drive into the lane to attempt a layup.

A player is dribbling in basketball

It could also help you change positions on the court for a better angle to pass the basketball past defenders.

Avoiding this skill makes you more predictable on offense. You will either get whistled for a traveling violation, or defenses would just stand right next to you and not allow you any space to shoot past defenders.

Dribbling drills lets you create your own space from a defender and avoid those fouls. (also known as personal fouls).

Not to mention the fact that dribbling is arguably the easiest skill to learn in this sport. All you have to do is grab a basketball and use a flat surface to get better at it. You can even practice on a trampoline basketball hoop too.

Eventually, you’ll master basketball specific talents to steer your skills in basketball to a whole new level.

As a related read, don’t miss “Basketball VS Soccer – A Detailed Comparison”.

What Are The Most Important Skills In Basketball?

Once you understand the basic basketball skills, you need to look deeper into which of them are the most important skills.

The simple answer is that all five basic skills of the standard basketball skills are important for more scoring opportunities.

Choosing to skip out on learning any of these five fundamental skills would instantly put you at a disadvantage from everybody else on the floor.

The most successful players in today’s game are always taking the time to get better in their ball handling skills like shooting, practice dribbling, rebounding, and defense.

None of those basic skills are less important than the other because basketball games could get decided on such little plays that we won’t even notice in real-time.

Sometimes, a player grabs an offensive rebound, leading to an extra three-pointer. That team wins by three points.

The same goes for any other skills that result in the most significant abilities when playing to collect the most points.

The Two Pillar Categories Of Basketball Skills

We touched on these two primary categories earlier, but it’s time to break it down a lot more. We have the offensive side of basketball skills with an offensive player involved, and then we have the defensive.

Offensive Skills

Obviously, dribbling comes first. Once you get the hang of this skill, you could move into shooting. Shooting requires stability with legs involved, so you’ll need to monitor your feet shoulder width.

offense as a basketball skill

After shooting comes offensive rebounding, where many rebounds occur to get your team second chances.

Then comes passing so that your teammates don’t think you are a ball hog and a supporter of the opposing player. Ensure you practice passing for an outlet pass and get past opponents and for better ball control.

Being able to drive into the lane and make layups is critically important. It’s a skill that is a combination of shooting and dribbling.

You have to practice dribbling to get separation and an inch closer to the rim, but practice shooting is needed to have a better touch at putting it in the basket from under the net.

The ability to dunk comes easy for a few players, so they try not to worry about practicing layups. For instance, the dribbling skill of Magic Johnson was outstanding.  You should always take the time to practice those layups because you never know when you may need them to maneuver past defenders as you move the ball forward.

Finally, great passers know that footwork is an offensive skill. Whether you are backing somebody down in the paint or dribbling, you need to be smooth on your feet to get past opponents.

It’s a horrible feeling when you stumble in a post move because you will usually be called for travel or throw your proper shot off course during basic games.

Two basketball players playing basketball

Defensive Skills

Then we have basketball defense, which is defined by a lot of different things. First off is rebounding. As a defender, you never want just to stand around and watch the opposing team get an extra possession.

Box out, and rebound the basketball to shut down a missed shot. Most defenders practice defense skills by blocking opponents shot attempts.

You can learn more about boxing out and rebounding.

Stealing balls is also incredibly important. Sometimes players don’t pay attention when dribbling, which is the time to jump in and swipe it away.

Jumping ability may also help you read the player’s eyes, intercept a pass, and make it past a good defense. For that, check, out some legit vertical jump programs.

Blocking shots is the final piece of the puzzle. If you are guarding the paint, you need to get vertical, and block missed shots away that are thrown towards the rim.

Being able to swat them away is always a huge momentum boost for your team. With good practice of defense skills, players block opponents’ attempts more naturally.

There are some good exercises that will teach you all that in Jacob Hiller’s The Jump Manual.

Other Important Skills In Basketball

It may not be a listed skill in basketball, but stamina and hustle are some of the many skills to enhance scoring chances. Just like all other skills, these improve with time and practice.

Basketball player with ball in his hand

Even if you have an off-shooting night or just can’t seem to stay in front of your matchup defensively, you have to make it up for your team somewhere. This is where those skills come in handy.

If you work on your stamina off the court, you can stay in front of a player that you are guarding a lot more, while also getting open easier on offense.

This is what most basketball players do, although it may look challenging at first glance. As for hustle, that is something that literally every coach looks for in a player.

A great example of a hustle player is Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics. He always dives for loose balls and never gives up on a play. That is the definition of heart and hustle.

Some need to take more time and work in giving all their effort all the time to learn such significant abilities.

Setting and maneuvering ball screens are the final skill that we haven’t mentioned yet. When you set screens, you have to make sure your feet are firmly placed in the ground and that you stay strong in your positioning.

When your teammate has the ball, and you run over to their defender and stand straight up next to them, that is known as a screen.

It helps free your teammate of some tight defense and could confuse the opposing team if they don’t communicate.

Maneuvering screens is the other part of that skill. Knowing when to go under a screen or to go over one is something that players have to work on consistently.

For example, you don’t want to go under a screen on a fantastic shooter like Curry. You want to go under on a player that can’t consistently shoot the ball.

How Can You Improve Your Basketball Skills?

There are a ton of ways to improve your basketball skills regardless of age, weight, or sex. The same matter for any other sport, such as football, for example. For some, standing out and repeatedly shooting at the gym helps improve that skill.

Ensure you maintain a proper shooting elbow and a good arm extension for a higher shot arc. Playing against a friend or relative one-on-one could also help you get more game knowledge and improve in areas like proper dribbling.

Boys taking rest during basketball game

For passing, you could practice reading an opposing defense and throwing accurate passes.

Whether you want to focus on throwing long passes, standard chest passes, overhead passes, or even the flashy behind the back ones, they are all important to know.

On defense, communicating with teammates is an underrated way to improve. Some players prefer to keep their fingers wide, stay quiet and just keep to themselves during games, which is understandable.

However, you and your team’s defense as a whole can improve with communication.

Little things like telling your teammate if a screen is coming or letting somebody know that you are switching matchups. Far less mistakes will be made when doing this and allows you to play with more chemistry.

These basic basketball skills take time though, don’t rush through the process. It’s easy to stop and say that your skills aren’t improving, but they are.

Keep putting in the work and taking the practices day by day and results will come sooner rather than later. The great thing about basketball is that you can always get better.

If taking your basketball skills to the next level is really what you are seeking for, check out the video below or read my article on the best online basketball courses of 2023.


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