3 Secrets to Breaking Ankles

The following is a guest post by Tyler Gaffaney, a professional basketball player who recently completed his second season in Spain. He credits his focus on the mental game and developing the fundamental skills for launching his athletic career. Tyler is the founder of www.HoopGains.com where he writes about player development. mental training, and his own personal journey.


Have you ever played against one of those guys who just seems like they’ve got the ball on a string? It’s almost like no matter where they go, the ball follows them. They’re impossible to guard because they can literally make any move at any time. What makes those guys different?

To find out, I’ve analyzed video of the NBA’s best ball handlers like Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Steph Curry. In my research, I found 3 qualities that separated the good ball handlers from the elite ones. If you take these qualities and apply them to your game, you’ll be breaking ankles in no time.

1. Unpredictability

Elite ball handlers are able to change their pace, rhythm, and footwork while still maintaining complete control of the ball. This makes it virtually impossible to predict which way they will go because they’re constantly going at different speeds and performing moves that are slightly different each time.

The best ball handlers don’t have just 1 type of crossover, they have an infinite amount. Each crossover is different depending on their current body positioning, placement of defenders and a whole host of other variables. This idea may seem complex, but check it out in action.

When Steph skips forward and to his left, Chris Paul jumps it. To counter this, Steph ends up performing a hybrid behind the back move. It’s neither a wrap around or a straight cross. It’s a unique move that came as a result of the situation that called for it.

2. Reactionary

Elite ball handlers never predetermine their moves. They react to the openings the defense gives them.

This clip clearly shows how Kyrie Irving reacts to each obstacle. First, he drives baseline because Zach Lavine is siding him that way. Then, two helpside defenders jump in his path to the basket so he pulls the ball back between his legs and looks to go middle. Zach Lavine is still there, forcing Kyrie baseline.

But that between the legs pull back fakes the helpside defenders into thinking he is retreating so Kyrie crosses back the same way. Bingo, for an instant, Kyrie has a 1 on 1 with the big man and crosses into the middle to create space. Amazing.

3. Creative

Elite ball handlers think just a little bit differently than the rest of us. They see openings where we don’t and can visualize moves that we hadn’t even thought of.

Most players would pull the ball back out to the 3 point line after they got cut off. But Chris Paul sees the opportunity to spin back. He never eliminates the option of getting back to the basket and imagines a creative way to get there.

If you can incorporate these 3 aspects of ball handling into your game, you’ll be breaking ankles in no time.


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