Top 5 Main Skills in the Game of Basketball

What do you reckon makes Micheal Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird basketball icons? The answer is they learned the basics to a tee. This way, they were able to accomplish exceptional things on the court.

So, if you are wondering about the fundamental skills all NBA players need, read on to find out. Also, NBA scouts look for these skills. The top 5 main skills in the game of basketball include dribbling, shooting, jumping, defense, and passing.

To be a competent basketball player, you should have all these skills. If you are adept in two or three of these skills, you are a beginner. However, if you master all five skills, you will probably get college offers. Also, you can consider going pro.

Basketball – a talent or skill?

Talent is the natural ability to accomplish something. Skill on the other hand refers to the expertise an individual acquires through learning and developing over time. So, being a good basketball player requires both.

Think of it. Talent in basketball can be anything you are born with such as being tall, having quick-twitch muscle fibers, or being able to jump very high. You can rely on these talents to build skills like rebounding.

In other words, talent is a vehicle that lets you use your skills. Often, the term talent in basketball is used to indicate skill. For instance, some commentators may refer to Player A as being a talented shooter.

Shooting accuracy is honed by hours of practice, which makes it an acquired ability.

Which are the top 5 main skills should you learn first in basketball?

If you are to pick the top 5 skills you need to learn first, they would be dribbling, shooting, passing, defense, and jumping.

1. Dribbling

Dribbling is the first skill you need to learn. It is very easy and in basketball, you cannot move around without dribbling the ball. Besides, it is the quickest way to get yourself in a position to score.

Dribbling lets you maneuver past defenders, create chances for your teammates, and initiate an offense. The best thing about enhancing your dribbling skills is you can do it alone.

Even in a short period, there will be considerable improvements in your dribbling abilities.

Beginner dribbling tips:

  • Use your fingertips to dribble instead of the palm of your hands
  • Practice doing pound dribbles
  • Ensure you spread your fingers wide for the best ball support
  • Practice with your off-hand. So, if you are right-handed, also try dribbling with your left hand
  • Research techniques for doing quick dribble. Being able to drill fast allows you to reach your spots faster than the defense

After you master ball-handling, it will open up plenty of opportunities for you to attack. Players who are good at dribbling are more likely to reach the rim, which is essential to any team. If you are good at it, you will be playing a lot. Most coaches will also use basketball drills to fine-tune players’ dribbling ability.

2. Shooting

Like dribbling, you can also practice shooting individually. However, in case of fundamental flaws in your shooting like bad form, it is better to have somebody who can assist tweak your shot.

Without such help, you will need to practice thousands of shots before you can become a competent shooter. So, knowing the basics of proper shooting will ease everything.

Beginner shooting tips:

  • Ensure the legs are involved. You need to bend the knees and explode as you shoot
  • Snap the shooting elbow. The advice solves various issues from keeping the follow-through to arm extension. It is not possible to snap the elbow without extending your arm. It results in a higher shot arc and resulting in snapping movement of the wrist. By snapping your wrist, it becomes possible to hold the follow-through.
  • Focus on your grip. Ensure you spread your fingers to balance the ball with one hand. Also, a little space should exist between your palm and the ball.
  • Be stable. Do what comes naturally to you. Some players prefer feet square or facing the basket while others prefer the feet a little sideways. Move the shooting feet forward a little and ensure the non-shooting lags behind.

In basketball, the focus is to score more points than the opponent. So, shooting is among the top skills you need to develop. Unless you can shoot, you will not be able to play the game. It is that simple.

3. Passing

Passing is one of the challenging skills you need to develop. It demands a specific mindset and a degree of intellect and perception to deliver the ball to your teammate under pressure.

There are various passes you need to master. These include chest, outlet, and bounce among others. The skill is so difficult that most professional basketball players do not consider themselves excellent passers.

Beginner passing tips:

  • You need to know the optimal passing distance. When you pass to a teammate who is too close, it increases the chances of fumbling the ball.
  • Make simple passes. Not all the time you need to make flashy passes. If a teammate is open, swing the ball

4. Defense

Defense involves a lot of effort and athleticism since the goal is to ensure your opponent never gets good shooting chances. If you do not have good defense skills, it will be very difficult to win basketball matches. Thus, defense is an essential skill to learn if you want to be a competent basketball player.

5. Jumping

The ability to jump also determines the quality of a basketball player. The skill is necessary for offense during jump ball as the game begins. Also, it plays an essential role when taking shots and catching passes.

As well, it is useful for defense when blocking a shot or a pass. What’s more, the skill makes it possible to jump your opponent for a rebound.


Regardless of the skills that come naturally to you, you need to spend time working on each of these skills. Most positions in basketball require multiple skills. So, the more you have in your repertoire, the more rounded you will be as a player.