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Coaching the Basketball Pass

Knowing how to throw a good basketball pass is an art, and a pretty one at that. Watching the greats do it - Magic, Bird, Stockton - and it becomes incredibly difficult to stay in your seat. But so many young players don't understand and practice basic passing fundamentals, and without the basic skills, they can't improve. Magic is known for his look-away pass, but before he could throw that, he was practicing a simple chest pass until it was second nature.

These are the fundamental basketball passing skills your players need to know to become great passers and valuable team members.

Basketball Passing Fundamentals

Type of Pass


  • The ball is held in both hands against the chest
  • Thumbs are behind the ball
  • Elbows are held in close to the body
  • The passer uses both hands to push the ball away from him, stepping into the pass as he is passing to put more force on the pass
  • On the release, the thumbs push through the ball, so that the palms face out afterward - this creates backward spin on the ball
  • Passer aims to hit the receiver in the chest

Lateral Pass

  • The ball is held in the same position as the chest pass - in both hands, against the chest
  • Like the chest pass, the passer steps into the pass to give it more force
  • Unlike the chest pass, only one hand is used to push the ball (this is often called a "one-handed push pass")
  • This is very much like the chest pass, but instead of being released from the chest, the ball is released from the passer's side, just below the rib cage
  • One version of this pass is for the player to fake the pass in one direction and pass in the other direction, across his body

Bounce Pass

  • The basic mechanics of this basketball pass are the same as the chest pass
  • The ball begins being held at the chest in both hands, elbows in to the body, thumbs behind the ball
  • Both hands are used again to push the ball
  • The passer steps into the pass to put some zing on it, but the pass should be aimed at the floor and not at the receiver's chest
  • The ball should bounce about 2/3 of the way between passer and receiver - if the passer pushes through the ball with his thumbs, like in the chest pass, to achieve some back spin, the ball should bounce up to about the receiver's chest
  • Also practice as a step-around pass (stepping around an imaginary defensive player) - this would be a combination of bounce pass and lateral pass

Overhead Pass

  • This is a longer pass than the chest pass, requiring more force
  • The ball is held over the passer's head (not behind the head)
  • Like the other passes, the passer should step into the pass to give it more force
  • The ball is snapped hard from overhead so that it sails in a straight line to the receiver's chest - a little arc is okay, but the ball should not be lobbed the ball
  • This is a good basketball pass for outlet passes and for throwing over zone defenses

Also emphasize the importance of receiving basketball passes properly:

  • The receiver must always give the passer a target - i.e., extend one hand in front of him as he is cutting so that the passer can aim the pass at the right area

  • The receiver needs to "see" the ball into his hands (he doesn't start the next move until he has caught the ball)

  • Catch with "soft hands" - as the ball lands in his hands, the receiver must cushion the impact by bending his arms, taking the ball into his body.

  • The receiver always moves to the ball - stretching his hands out to bring the ball in, so defense will not have the opportunity to snatch it from him

Throwing a good basketball pass may be a bit of an art, but it is an art that any player should be able to learn. They may not become the next Magic Johnson or Steve Nash, but they should be able to make good passes to the right people, which wins games.

More on Coaching the Basketball Pass here

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"It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What is tough, is being good every day."
- Willie Mays

Want something more visual?

Check out UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg's video package of drills


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