It is the rare basketball player who can do it all at the highest level. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and LeBron James had the ability to handle the ball, pass it, shoot it, rebound and play defense with the best of the best. If you excel at one or two of the five top basketball skills, there will be a place for you on most basketball courts. And if you excel at all five, the sky is the limit.
Top point guards dribble and control the ball as if it were on a string. Good technique is critical for a ball handler. You should dribble with your fingertips rather than your palm. Dribble with your head up so you can see the opposition and your teammates. Keep your body low and use your off-ball hand to help keep your defender at bay. Work on dribbling with both hands, so you'll be as comfortable going to your left or your right.
Great passers can see the whole court and anticipate where a teammate will go and what a defender will do. Mastering the basics is the place to start. Develop a two-hand chest pass, bounce pass and overhead pass so you can deliver the ball to your teammates in the best position for them to shoot or beat their defender. Steve Nash or Derrick Rose can dazzle you with a behind-the-back or a no-look pass. But those moves are not just for show; they provide a teammate the best chance to score.
It's difficult to score if you can't shoot the ball effectively. As Better Basketball Coaching explains, shooting is something of an art form, and some players, such as Kevin Durant and Ray Allen, have a knack for it. But everyone can improve their shooting through proper technique and lots of practice. Proper technique includes squaring your body up to the target, shooting the ball with your fingertips, keeping your elbows from flying, putting backspin and arc on the shot and following through completely after letting the ball fly.
Although it helps to be tall and have jumping ability, rebounding is a matter of desire as well as ability. Charles Barkley was relatively small for a forward, but he was an outstanding rebounder. He had the ability to determine where an errant shot was likely to fall, the willingness to crash the boards relentlessly and the strength to block out taller opponents. Blocking out your opponent -- also called boxing out -- is one of the keys to good rebounding. To do it effectively, maintain your concentration and focus.
Even the best scorers go into shooting slumps. But you can always play good defense if you hustle and understand both individual and team defense. When you are defending a player, keep you head lower than his. Stay close enough to the offensive player to bother him -- but not so close he can blow by you with one step. Know your opponent's tendencies so you can dictate the direction you want him to move. Be aware of the other players on the court, so you can play help defense when a teammate loses his man.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.