The way you move your feet is important in basketball, whether you’re playing offense or defense. Defensively, quick foot movements help you maintain the proper position in front of the player you’re guarding, or allow you to help a teammate defend an opposing scorer. Offensively, the foot movements you’re permitted to make when you have the ball are limited by the game’s rules. Understanding which foot movements are legal will help you avoid turning the ball over to the opposition.
When you hold the ball without dribbling during any part of the game when the clock is running, then you lift or slide one foot, your stationary foot becomes the pivot foot. Once a pivot foot is established, you may lift that foot -- to shoot a jumper, for example -- but you may not place the foot back on the court while you have the ball. Therefore, you may not slide both of your feet while holding the ball, or you commit a traveling violation. You may, however, slide both of your feet when you’re throwing an inbounds pass.
You can move your feet any way you wish when you’re dribbling the ball. As long as you have only one hand on the ball, you can slide both feet, as well as run, walk or stand still, if you keep bouncing the ball. If you slide one foot as you’re holding the ball, then you begin dribbling, you can establish a new pivot foot if you stop dribbling. For example, you might catch a pass, slide your left foot to fake your defender, then dribble the ball and execute a jump stop. You can now slide your right foot after you’ve picked up your dribble, because you’re entitled to establish a new pivot foot after your dribble ends.
If you’re holding the ball and accidentally fall for any reason, traveling will be called if both of your feel slide. Likewise, if you catch a pass or grab a rebound, then both of your feet slide on the court when you land, you’ll be called for traveling if you’re still holding the ball.
When you’re playing defense you’re not only free to slide both feet, but most coaches will encourage you to do so. For example, when the player you’re guarding dribbles laterally, your best move is to slide your feet in the same direction. Slide your outside foot first, then slide your inside foot about halfway toward your outside foot.
- NCAA: 2011-12 and 2012-13 Men’s and Women’s Rules
- Basketball Drills, Plays, and Strategies; Clinton Adkins et al
- Human Kinetics: Drills to Improve Defensive Footwork
- Michael Hickey/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images