The Best Ways to Create Space in Basketball
In full-contact sports such as rugby and football, creating space to advance the ball can be a simple matter of lowering your shoulder and overpowering your defender. Such bulldozing, though, isn't allowed in basketball. However, you can employ several tricks on the hardwood to grab a bit of room to operate.
Sometimes your defender is so pesky you can't shed him without some help from your friends. Screens, also known as picks, come in handy in such cases. After a teammate sets a pick by setting up in the path of the defender, dribble the ball in that direction, leaving little space between yourself and your teammate. Your defender will be forced to either slide underneath the screen -- giving you a window to shoot a jumpshot -- or fight through it. If the defender recovers quickly, you'll have a brief opening to shoot, and if he gets picked off altogether, you may have a wide-open path to dribble to the basket.
The crossover dribble, which involves faking in one direction and quickly dribbling the other way, is a favorite of playground hoopsters, but also a fundamental dribbling technique. Begin by dribbling the ball at your side and take one step in that direction, as if you're preparing to drive. Once the defender reacts by leaning that way, dribble the ball across your body quickly to the other side. This should create several feet of space for you to shoot or dribble toward the hoop.
When facing a taller or more athletic defender, you can neutralize this disadvantage by using a fade-away jumper. Rise up for the shot as if you're taking a straight-up jump shot, but direct your momentum backward slightly and release the shot as you reach the peak of your jump. This will create space between you and the would-be shot-blocker, but it's a shot you'll need to practice. Fade-away jumpers tend to fall short of the basket because the shooter's momentum is carrying away from the target, so ensure that you release the ball from above your head.
It helps to be athletic, big and strong, but successful basketball players also have plenty of tricks in their bags, and they know when to use them. Create space between you and your defender by faking shots -- also known as a pump-fake. To fake a shot, look at the basket, bend your knees and begin to bring the ball up as if you were going to shoot. When your defender leaves his feet or sprints toward you, you'll have room to shoot or dribble.
Jeff Herman began his journalism career in 2000. An experienced, award-winning sportswriter, his work has appeared in "The Washington Post," "ESPN the Magazine" and the "Boston Herald," among other publications. Herman has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from West Virginia University.