In basketball, driving to the hoop and attacking the basket are important if you want to score more points (just ask Michael Jordan or LeBron James). Of course, scoring more points is only important if you’re into winning the game, having the crowd cheer your name, and having your own sneaker someday, but maybe you’re not into that kind of thing…
Seriously though, games get more competitive as you get older, and even if you’re a very good athlete, you will not always be to quickest person on the floor. When you are slower than your defender, you still need to be able to drive to the hoop. I’m going to give you some ways to use good footwork to get by your defender in this article.
Most players in High School and beyond can get from the three point line to the rim on one dribble, (don’t worry, we’ll cover that if you can’t already) which enables teams to get in the paint more quickly and with fewer turnovers, resulting in better basketball. Footwork is the key to being able to get to the rim against an athletic defender with the fewest dribbles possible.
The footwork I that I would like to cover here includes the Jab Step, Cross Step, Load Step and the Rocker Step. These are moves that players can utilize to improve their ability to drive to the hoop. All offensive moves that I describe here should start from triple threat position, where the player has the ball just off their shooting side hip in an athletic stance, in a position from which they can shoot, pass, or dribble. In triple threat position, most players establish a pivot foot and a lead leg right away. The lead leg is the leg and foot that is legally allowed to move, because the other foot remains planted as the pivot foot. All of the footwork described here is done by the lead leg. Ok, let’s get to the moves so that you can get to the rim, dunk the basketball, get fouled, hit the free throw and win the game, (but I may be getting ahead of myself).
The first piece of footwork that every basketball player should know is the Jab Step. When performing a jab step, the player with the ball starts in triple threat position, and jabs a foot out toward the defender and quickly brings it back into triple threat. It is used for several reasons, such as getting a defender to back up so you can get off a jump shot, to move sideways so you can drive to the opposite side, or to get him or her to ultimately move closer to you so that you can execute a rocker step and get to the rim. Here is a video of a player executing a typical jab-step.
Also called the crossover step, the player starts from the triple threat position. You simply move your lead foot across your body on your first step toward the hoop. As an example, a player may step with her right foot over to her left side and past the defenders right foot, so she can drive to her left. The cross step is used to get past an opponent and to protect the basketball with your body simultaneously. A player with a good cross step and of average height can get to the rim from the three point line on one dribble. Here is a video of a player using a cross step to get to the rim.
This move is used to gain some momentum on your drive to the hoop, to make it easier to get by your defender. To perform the load step, from triple threat (bet you didn’t see that coming), you take a step backward with your lead leg, actually away from the hoop and your defender. Then, you bring that foot forward and past your defenders hip on your first step to the hoop. It’s extremely effective when used as a cross step, stepping across your defenders body. Once you have your defender on your hip, it’s simply a matter of continuing the drive all the way to the hoop. Here is a video of a player using the load step.
The rocker step is used to get your defender to lean or move towards you, making it easier to go by him. Starting in triple threat (you thought I’d forget to say that, didn’t you?) you make a jab step, but make sure you keep your back leg “loaded up” with your weight, don’t transfer all of your weight to your front foot, then, bring it back as though you feel your jab step didn’t work. Make sure you keep your eyes on your defenders feet, because as soon as he follows you back, shifting his weight forward or actually stepping towards you, you blow by him using the back leg that you kept loaded to spring past him for a lay-up. Here is the rocker step video.
Using the proper footwork will allow the less athletic basketball player to still drive to the basket, and will make very athletic players even better. Work on these moves in practice and the off-season, and good luck this year!
About the Author
Brett Cavalieri CSCS, is a basketball coach at Westbrook High School in Westbrook Connecticut. He has coached both boys and girls of all ages at the Rec., Travel, AAU, and High School level. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He believes that sports teach all players the life-long lesson of how to be a good teammate, and creates a love of exercise, improving health.