Basketball offers unlimited scope for your creativity. Unlike football where you use only your feet and head. Or cricket where actions primarily involve throwing, swinging or catching. Basketball lets you score, pass, dribble and affect the game in a vast multitude of ways by interacting with the ball, the ring, your teammates, and the different areas of the floor. 


While this makes for a very enjoyable experience to watch and play, beginners may find it difficult initially to pick up the game as it has a slightly steeper learning curve. Here are 10 ways for beginners to become better basketball players.


1- Be able to finish inside

Regardless of your role on the court, there is one skill that is as essential as walking for basketball players at every level- finishing close to the rim. You need to be able to score on open layups or find a way to drop in a floater from up close. 


While you may not be asked to shoulder the scoring load, or even have any plays run for you, there will be opportunities on fast breaks or when you beat the defence and find yourself close to the rim for a shot in the paint. The painted area underneath and near the basketball is called the paint, and shots from the paint are called high percentage shots. 


At any competitive level, players are expected to be able to score on open shots in the paint at the very least. You can score close to the rim in a variety of ways but the most fundamental one is by scoring a layup. That is when you take up to two steps after picking up your dribble, move towards the rim and lay the ball up from up close.


You can get a better touch for layups through the Mikan drill and its variations. It’s name dafter George Mikan, the Hall of Fame centre. It involves scoring from up close alternating with your left and right hands. While the drill is designed forcentres, anyone can use its variations to work on their layups. 


2- Defend your assignment

Defence is half the game in basketball. You have to score more than the other team, which also involves limiting how much they can score on defence. As the often-used advantage goes, ‘Defense wins championships!’


The two best team sin the NBA this season, the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference and the Philadelphia 76years in the Eastern Conference are 2nd and 3rd in defensive rating respectively, behind the 2020 NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers. Defensive rating is a measure of how many points are allowed per 100 possessions.



Those new to basketball need to find ways to bring value to the court. If you can effectively guard your assignment and provide help defence by lending a hand to your teammates, you are on your way to becoming an important piece on the court.


To become a better defender, you need to work on your lateral quickness. This will let you slide your feet better from side to side, allowing you to stay in front of your assignment on defence. You need to be alert, pay attention to what your opponents looking to do on the court and put in consistent effort to deny them.


You can work on your lateral quickness with agility ladder drills as well.


3- Run!


Basketball is one of the fastest games in the world. Players need to be fast enough to run end to end on the court, quick enough to change directions rapidly, fit enough to jump around, and have the stamina to do so over a game.

Growing up, you may have noticed that the kids who were good runners were often active in other sports. Much like having a good grasp of the English language helps one get a handle on the other subjects which are taught in English. The longer and faster you can run, the more impact you can have on a basketball court as a beginner. 


Even the best in the world rely upon their ability to run long and fast. Stephen Curry is currently in the top 20 in the league in distance covered, averaging 2.6 miles covered per game, about 4.1 km. Although he’s the greatest shooter of all time and can put the ball on a string, Curry empowers the Golden State Warriors’ offence with his off-ball movement. Being in perpetual motion puts the defences in disarray and Curry needs just a fraction of a second to get his shot off. 




Here are the top 5ways you can increase your running speed-




4- Pass unselfishly, pass first, pass often

You’ve followed the five tips above to run faster, you are now a blaze of lightning on the court.Even if you break the sound barrier with your foot speed, the ball will always move faster than the man/woman.


There is a reason why basketball players with a soccer background turn out to be good play makers. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr concurred, to the extent that if he was the head of American basketball, he would have all players start on the football pitch to understand the importance of passing.


If I were the czarof American basketball and I had to say, 'all right, I'm in charge of youth basketball in America,'" I would make every player coming through the youth basketball program play football because it translates directly. The problem in basketball today [is] the young players are coming up and they just try to beat everybody one-on-one with the dribble. They're unbelievably gifted dribbling the ball, but they don't understand the past and the move. Which is what football would teach them."



When you move the basketball, you are getting your teammates involved, building mutual trust,creating good looks for them, putting pressure on the defence to adjust, opening up new opportunities to attack, and so much more.


Note that the point here is to pass, and not to focus on racking up assists. An assist is when you make a pass that directly leads to a score. Sometimes players look for such a home run pass that will directly lead to a bucket. But there is another assist that is not tracked usually, the hockey assist. This is when you make the pass that leads to the pass leading to the basket. 


Move the ball for its own sake, pass up good looks for better looks, fall in love with thebeautiful offence of the San Antonio Spurs-



5- Develop your fundamentals


As the adage goes, ‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’ Beginners who want to get better at basketball should look to master the fundamental movements and actions before they try flashy behind the back dribbles. 


Finishing inside, making your free throws, sinking open shots, learning the basic passes (chest pass, bounce pass and overhead pass), dribbling with either hand, are some of the basic skills one should focus on developing.


The masters of the game took fundamentals to another level. When talking about the pressure that comes from high stakes situations in games, Jordan stressed the importance of fundamentals to get past it. “The only way to relieve that pressure is to build your fundamentals, practice them over and over, so when the game breaks down, you can handle anything that transpires," - Jordan.


One of the greatest players of all time, Tim Duncan, was nicknamed The Big Fundamental. He wasn’t the flashiest player, but his sound fundamental play enabled the San Antonio Spurs to establish a winning culture and make his teammates better.


Go out there, keep it simple and keep chasing a mastery of the fundamentals of basketball.


6- Start shooting from up close


Shooting in basketball is the great equalizer. It’s how David beats Goliath from long range. How the 5-feet tall player finds a way to get on the court vs six orseven-footers. Before developing a sweet 3-point shooting stroke, you should first look too perfect your mechanics from up close


When you can perfectly sink your jumpers from close to underneath the basket, take a step back and repeat the drill, and keep adding distance as your form improves. 


When you start shooting from up close, it helps your body develop the mechanics to launch the shot the right way. If you start shooting from afar, you may end up putting so much effort into making the ball reach the rim, that your form breaks down.


7- Watch and learn


When people go abroad, they usually bring back trinkets, memorabilia, clothes or other fancy items. When Dr Sankaran Subramanian, the greatest basketball coach India has ever seen, would go abroad, he would bring back loads of basketball VHS tapes. 


“He would come back from coaching trips abroad carrying heaps of NBA VHS tapes to dissect. He’d pore over them way past midnight and promptly be back on the court at 5 a.m. ,with the enthusiasm of a young child who can’t wait to experiment and incorporate his new found knowledge. His boundless energy would sometimes out pace his wards.”- Indira Bali, his daughter.


Today, we have all the information we need at our fingertips. We can watch and learn tutorials from the best, catch live basketball action across the world as it unfolds, and pause or rewind and go over, again and again, to learn what we need. 




8- Pounding the rock with practices


As the great Allen Iverson asked, “We talkin’ about practice?”. This may be something we take for granted, the more you practice the better you get. Here’s how Kobe Bryant broke it down- Most people practice a few times a week. If you practice every day, every week, think about how much it adds up over a year. 


To get better, you need deliberate practise where you approach the court with a focused mindset tog et better by following a process. The more you can practice, the better you get overtime. The trick is to be consistent, and not get disheartened if you don’t see immediate results.


The San Antonio Spurs locker room has The Stonecutter’s credo plastered around in different languages. It goes- “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was, not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” 


Persistence and consistency in practices will pave the way for you to get better.


9- Taller, better, faster, stronger


Kanye West ought to have put stronger before the other words in his rhyme above. The importance of functional strength is sometimes overlooked by beginners. 


Troy Justice, (the former Director of Basketball Operations, NBA India and current VP, Head of International Basketball Development, NBA) spoke to me about how youngsters in India can become better at basketball. He mentioned how Dwight Howard is always lifting weights and is always in the gym. Strength training is imperative to get better.


My favourite basketball player of all time, Allen Iverson, was once asked why he didn’t lift weights. He said he didn’t lift because “that (stuff) was too heavy.” But we are not all god-gifted that way.


We know Michael Jordan as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time. His greatness didn’t always translate to team success or championships earlier in his career .Before he could get to the NBA Finals, he had to get past the Detroit Pistons. The Bad Boys era of Detroit basketball had their set of ‘Jordan rules’, involving an intricate plan to slow down Black Jesus as he’s called- every time he attacks the rim, knock him to the ground. Try as he might, Michael could not get past the Pistons in the play offs in 1988 and 1989.



Jordan then added15 pounds of muscle in one summer by lifting weights consistently. That helped him administer pain rather than just absorb it. Although the level of basketball for beginners won’t require such physical play, basketball is called a non-contact sport, after all, developing functional strength will help you perform the movements better and minimize the risk of injuries.



10- Build your self to avoid injuries


Injuries are a part of sports. Skinned knees, scraped elbows, ankle sprains and the like formed apart of childhood teaching us to get back up after falling. While no one can eliminate the possibilities of injuries, one can mitigate the risk of getting injured.


Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries in basketball. I racked up about 10 ankle sprains of various degrees while hooping, resulting in casts and crepe bandages and a lot of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Here are some steps I took to mitigate the risk of an eleventh-

  • Proprioception training- proprioception     involves the body’s ability to sense location, movements and actions of     our muscles, tendons and joints. This helps improve one’s sense of     balance. A balance board can come in handy here. Try balancing on both     feet, on one foot, then balancing with your eyes closed (taking care that     you are near something to hold on to in case you lose balance).
  • Range of motion- rotate your ankles in either     direction.
  • Heel raises- you can do this on stairs or with     a Step Board- CLICK HERE TO BUY A STEP BOARD
  • Resisted inversion and eversion- this involves     moving your ankle towards the outside and towards the inside against     resistance. You can use a towel for resistance, or a resistance band for     better results CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.


Besides taking care of your ankles, take care that as a beginner you are not bumping and bruising inside in the post. It is easy to catch a stray elbow to one’s mouth and have teeth knocked out of balance. Even if you are a guard, you can still get your pearly whites knocked out. I’ve had a tooth removed after falling face-first on the floor while being knocked down on a fast break. I’ve made it a point to wear a mouth guard since then in competitive games. Stephen Curry doesn’t chew his mouth guard for cosmetic reasons after all. Here are some mouth guards you can look at, consult your dentist on how best to shape it for your mouth.


Remember, the best ability is availability. For you to be a better basketball player, you have to be able to practice consistently and be available for your teams during competitions. It’s important to build a strong base and avoid injuries. 


There you have it,10 basic tips for beginners to become better basketball players. I hope they help you in some way to enjoy this beautiful game more.



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