Basketball ultimately comes down to scoring. Defense, passing, and dribbling are all useful skills but you can’t win if you don’t score. The ability to score effectively and consistently often makes the difference between a good player and a great player. Think of your favorite NBA player. Chances are he’s a prolific scorer. Chances are he has an arsenal of moves designed specifically to get buckets. Great scorers can’t always rely on being open. Great scorers need moves designed to get the ball in the basket. Here are my top five moves that will help you get the ball in the basket.
Up and Under / Pump Fake
The up and under is a great scoring move for when you’re within 15 feet of the basket. This is a very crafty move that can help make up for a lack in athleticism or height. The key to this move is to pump fake in situations where the defender is likely to anticipate a shot. This usually happens after you have used your dribble. After the fake, you can either step through normally or you can reverse pivot towards the basket for extra style points (see Kobe Bryant). For added effectiveness, really work on your pump fake to make it look as much like your real shot as possible. Exaggerating the pump fake can be very effective too. Look up Al Jefferson’s pump fake for a great example. The beauty of this move is that it can be used consecutively with other moves such as the spin, step back, or pull up. A pump fake after a spin or step back is especially effective.
When done correctly, the step back jumper is one of the best ways to get an open shot. This is also a crafty move that doesn’t require great athleticism if done correctly. If you’re right handed, it’s going to be easiest for you to step back left (Lefties step back right). Stepping back the same way as your dominant hand is a more difficult move and will take more practice. Many players hop back rather than step back. Both ways can be effective but stepping back is going to be quicker and more effective in tight spaces. Watch Paul Pierce highlights for a great example of a step back jumper.
The spin move is one of the most versatile moves in all of basketball. The spin can end in a layup, a shot, or a pump fake (my favorite). Beware of traveling with this move. Make sure you time picking up the ball with you second to last step. This can be a relatively physical move and works best with forwards and bigger guards. Trying to spin and finish on an opponent that is considerably taller is not advised. Work on spinning fast and spinning both ways to get maximum value from this move. This move is usually used to get closer to the basket and this is great, but a more advanced move is to spin away from the basket in order to create space. This creates an admittedly difficult position to shoot from but if it can be mastered it is almost unstoppable.
Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat and Manu Ginobli of the San Antonio Spurs made this move famous. The euro step (sometimes called the two step) is a phenomenal way to finish at the basket. It’s best used to neutralize a shot blocker or to finish in transition.. Finishing off this move can be a little awkward as you are forced to shoot either with your inside hand or off the wrong foot. Most players can only do this move going one way. They either fake right and finish left (most right handed players) or they fake left and finish on the right (most left handed players). You certainly could learn to do it both ways, but it is not necessary and there will typically be one way that feels comfortable while the other direction will feel awkward.
This is a deceptively tough move to perform with success. The key lies in being aware of your defender’s momentum and intentions. It’s best used after you’ve established yourself as a threat to penetrate the lane. Many undisciplined yet athletic defenders will jump at any semblance of a shot so it should not be used in these situations. The best thing to do against these defenders is to pump fake and either draw the foul or continue with an up and under. A slight fade away from the basket can be very useful especially against big and/or good defenders. This move is a must have for any aspiring scorer.