How to Pass in Basketball 101: The Fundamentals to Help You Step Up Your Game

I’ve played with my fair share of ball hogs throughout my years of playing basketball. Nothing is worse than having someone on your team who George Costanza would call a “chucker” (someone who chucks up a shot whenever they touch the ball.)

And trust me, you don’t want to be the person on your team who doesn’t pass or know how to pass in basketball because your teammates will catch on, and you will see less and less of the ball. Passing remains one of the most essential basketball skills a player must learn to master the game.

Video courtesy of THINCPRO Basketball

Whether it’s the chest pass, bounce pass, overhead pass, between-the-legs pass, and so on, you need to know how to get the ball to your teammates. Basketball is a team game, after all.

As kids, we were taught to share. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially if there are kids you’re not fond of sharing with, but sharing the basketball will help your team win basketball games and create a brotherhood on the court that no team can defend.

It’s as easy as stepping toward your teammate, extending your arms, and snapping your thumbs down to make a solid pass in a basketball game.

Read on to learn about the different passes, how to avoid bad passes, and become a better point guard or floor general on the court!

Also, if you’re a guard looking to increase your game, pick up a pair of the best basketball shoes for guards.

What is a Pass in Basketball?

It’s quite simple, really. A pass is when you give the ball to a teammate.

The complexity of passing and making a good pass comes down to when to make the right pass to the open man, and we’ll get to that in just a bit, but when we’re looking at the bare bones of this thing we call passing, it’s as simple as getting the ball from point A to point B without turning the ball over.

Thanks, Mark. I had no idea what a pass was.

Don’t get snippy. I’m just trying to give you some background. We all have to start somewhere, right?

Reasons You Need to Know How to Pass in Basketball

Like I said earlier, you need to know how to pass the ball because it shows trust in your teammates. If you don’t trust your teammates, they won’t trust you, and can you guess what happens when your teammates don’t trust you? You won’t get passed to.

You need to give in order to get. Plus, if the defensive team knows you’ll shoot every time you get the ball, it’ll be much harder for you to score.

Passing builds camaraderie within a team. Giving the ball up to a teammate in a good position for them to score is a satisfying feeling.

Look at a player like Steph Curry. Watch him in a game. He may score a lot of points, but he also distributes the ball exceptionally well. He finds the holes in the defense and gives the ball to his teammates with an excellent opportunity to score.

Because he has built trust with his teammates, he gets the ball back when he is in an excellent position to score.

It really is a beautiful thing to watch a team that shares the ball well. They create opportunities for each other and make defenders work hard to stop them.

Tips & Instructions on How to Pass in Basketball

There are basic passes like the chest pass, bounce pass, and overhead pass that do the trick to keep the defense off balance. When you’re just learning to pass the ball, master these passes before moving on to the more advanced passes like the baseball pass, dibble pass, or behind-the-back pass.

Each attempted pass has its pros and cons. We’ll go over all of them, passing tips, and more in just a second.

Basic Passes

Basic passes will get you where you want to be. Don’t overlook these. They’re vitally important!

Chest Pass

Photo Courtesy of Fitness 365

Photo courtesy of Fitness 365

The chest pass is the most basic pass of them all. It is an air pass that transfers the ball from your hands to the intended receiver without touching the ground.

Start with the ball in your chest with your elbows out. Step toward where you’ll be throwing the ball, then push the ball forward from your chest. Release the ball with both arms extended while snapping your thumbs to make it accurate.

Don’t be lazy with this pass. If the ball comes out slowly, you run the risk of your teammate’s defender stepping in front of them to intercept the ball.

Again, this is the most common and simple pass and can be used in the half-court setting or as an outlet pass. It is easy to master with practice.

Bounce Pass

Photo Coutesy of Online Basketball Drills

Photo courtesy of Online Basketball Drills

When you see a sea of hands between you and your teammate who you’re trying to get the ball to, try using a bounce pass.

A bounce pass is similar to a chest pass in that you start with the ball at your chest and follow through with your thumbs down. Except now, instead of hitting your teammate right in the chest, you’re bouncing it off the ground so that the ball bounces waist-high.

The trick with bounce passes is knowing where to bounce the ball. If it bounces too far away from your teammate, it could lead to a turnover. Too close, and you’ll hit your teammate’s shins.

Like anything, a bounce pass takes practice to get the hang of. Grab a partner and practice bouncing the ball off the floor and into their chest. Step forward when you pass to keep your balance and make an accurate pass that can’t be stolen by a defender in the passing lane.

Overhead Pass

Photo courtesy of Howcast

Photo courtesy of Howcast

Imagine you got a rebound and saw your teammate streaking down the floor wide open on a fast break. Can you do a chest pass? Nope, it’s too far. A bounce pass? No way, Jose.

The best pass in this situation is the overhead pass. The pass is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of throwing from your chest, you’ll bring the ball above your head with both hands and pass it forward. It’s the best pass for distance because you’re using the full strength of your arms.

With great power comes great inaccuracy. It is difficult to make this pass and hit your teammates in the hands, so again, practice. Are you tired of me saying that yet?

Wrap Around Pass

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Have you ever gone against a defender that is just all over the place? You try to get open, and he swarms you. You go up for a shot, and his hand is in your face. Are you thinking about passing? Fugheddaboutit!

That is unless you know how to make a patented Chris Paul wrap-around pass.

You’ll need to know how to pivot on this one, and what you’ll be doing on this pass is pivoting and putting your foot past your defender so you can make an uncontested pass to a teammate.

This is a great option if you’re trying to get the ball to the post from the wing.

Advanced Passes

Looking to take it up a level? I thought you’d never ask.

Baseball Pass

Photo courtesy of Pine Journal

Photo courtesy of Pine Journal

Have you ever played in the outfield for baseball? This is just like that, except the ball is about ten times bigger.

Just like a regular baseball throw, your body will be turned. Step with your front foot in the direction you want, then throw the ball with one hand toward your teammate.

I would not recommend doing baseball passes if your teammate is ten feet away. This is more of a full-court pass if you see someone open.

Dribble Pass

Photo courtesy of my basketball teacher

Photo courtesy of my basketball teacher

In basketball, the name of the game is speed. The dribble pass lets you catch a defender off guard because you will pass without gathering the ball.

This one-handed pass can be used as a chest pass or a bounce pass.

The dribble pass is extremely effective for back-door cuts because the wing defender is split between helping out the top defender and keeping with his own man, which helps to open up an opportunity for the wing player to cut to the basket for an easy layup.

Behind-the-Back Pass

Photo courtesy of Weebly

Photo courtesy of Weebly

Ready to get fancy? Use the behind-the-back passes to catch your defenders off guard and create openings for your teammates to score.

This one will take a bit more practice. This is a one-hand pass, either a chest or a bounce pass, and you will wrap the ball behind you like a behind-the-back dribble. But instead of the ball going to your other hand, you’ll release and hit your teammate.

Magic Johnson loved the behind-the-back pass. Check out some of his highlights to learn how you can do it, too!

Pick-and-Roll Pass

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

For those of you who know how to do a pick-and-roll, the pick-and-roll pass is essential, as well as perfecting it and getting easy baskets.

Make sure to come off the screen shoulder-to-shoulder with your teammate so he avoids getting a foul. Once you come off the screen, take a few dribbles and threaten to go to the basket. This will cause the roller’s defender to hesitate, leaving open a lane for a dribble bounce pass to the roller for an easy finish.

Grab your teammate who sets the most picks to work on this action after practice. You will become a better passer through these extra practice sessions, and your teammate will improve his ability to catch and finish.

Teaching Points

If you’re a basketball coach teaching younger players passing to improve your team, include passing drills every practice to help players overcome potential physical and mental limitations. In the drills, focus on:

Communication

Encourage your players to yell names when calling for and passing the basketball. Not only will this help a new team learn names, but it will help the receiver prepare to catch the ball since he knows it’s coming to him.

Proper form

Ensure your players step toward their teammates and snap their thumbs down when they pass. This creates a nice and solid chest or bounce pass that is hard for the defender to get a jump on.

Situations

Different passes work better in different situations. A player should be taught never to throw a baseball pass in a half-court offense, just like a full-court bounce pass is out of the question for most players who aren’t in the NBA or on their way to becoming an NBA player.

Key Considerations for Becoming a Better Passer in Basketball

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Practice, practice, practice.

If you’re a player, grab a teammate, friend, or family member, stand about ten feet apart, and practice all these passes 10-20 times each.

If you’re a coach, implement passing drills like the 3-man weave or shuffle passing at the beginning of practice to get your team in the habit of sharing the ball.

Taking it to the Next Level: Best Passing Drills

The 3-man weave, full-court shuffle passing, and the five-star passing drill are great options to help a team become better passers.

You can even simply have everyone on the team grab a partner, stand across from each other, and have them practice all of the passes above 10-20 times so they can focus and perfect proper form.

Conclusion

There is something beautiful about a team that can share the ball. Look at the Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili Spurs teams and see how unselfish they are.

By creating an unselfish environment and having everyone know their role within the team concept, you can create open shots within the offense, which leads to easier baskets and can help you win basketball games.

It doesn’t come overnight. There needs to be a focus on a team concept in which everyone is bought in. Don’t chastise ball hogs, but instead, help them understand that they can get easier shots if they trust their teammates to make the right play.

I’ve been on plenty of teams, and the most successful ones knew how to share the ball.

FAQ

How do you pass the ball correctly in basketball?

With any pass, including bounce passes, chest passes, overhead passes, etc., step forward in the direction of the player you’re looking to pass to, and when you release the ball toward them with thumbs down so it snaps and makes it difficult to steal.

How to do the chest pass?

Start with the ball in your chest with two hands, step toward the teammate you’re looking to pass to, extend your arms, release the ball, and snap your thumbs down for a solid chest pass.

How do NBA players pass?

NBA players pass just like basketball players at any other level. They have mastered the fundamentals so well that every pass, like the chest pass, bounce pass, dibble pass, and so on, is perfectly delivered to their teammate.

Where NBA players differ is their ability to hit their teammates with proper and consistent backspin in the perfect spot so the receiver can catch and shoot immediately without hesitation. It’s much easier to catch a pass that goes right to a player’s chest than one at their feet.