Kyrie Irving once crossed someone so bad in a pickup game, that the defender tore every ligament in both ankles and was confined to a wheelchair for 6 months. Okay, that’s a lie, but it’s not too unbelievable, right? I mean, look what he did to the entire USA basketball team…
The point is, Kyrie Irving is an incredible ball handler. But how did he get to be as good as he is now? About 2 weeks ago, I posted about what separates elite ball handlers from the pack. Through video analysis, I found 3 distinct characteristics that helped Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul consistently break defenders ankles: (1) unpredictability, (2) reactivity, and (3) creativity.
While these characteristics may seem innate, they can be developed. By implementing the following concepts into your training, you can drastically improve your ball handling abilities. Here’s how:
1) Train the Fundamentals!
I know this sounds boring, but it’s absolutely essential. It's inefficient to start practicing double and triple moves until you’ve mastered the basics. Mastering the basics is much more valuable than being decent at a bunch of flashy moves.
To be honest, most people never make it past this first stage. That’s just the truth. Most people cut corners and want to make flashy mixtape moves before they have complete control over the ball.
What do I mean by mastery? Mastery requires tons and tons of repetitions of the basic moves (crossover, in and out, between the legs and behind the back). And It’s not just being able to do them a few times without messing up. Mastery requires that you get to a point where you’re pounding the dribble so hard that the entire gym echoes and the ball looks like a blur. Once you’ve mastered these moves, the ball is completely under your control and these moves become second nature.
Only then should you begin slowly adding in more advanced drills into your training. Over time, the advanced drills should take up a larger and larger proportion of your training and you should phase out the basic drills.
2) Visualize and Perform
This is where the fun part begins! Now that you have your handles on lockdown, you can begin combining multiple moves together.
Keep your mind open to any combination of moves you can think of. Whenever you’re doing a ball handling drill, keep it open ended. Don’t predetermine your moves anymore. If you’re doing a full court ball handling drill, allow yourself to make any series of creative moves at each cone. This way, you can practice the creativity needed to pull off advanced moves.
But the mental side is just as important. The best way to train the mental aspect of elite ball handling is to use your own imagination. For every ball handling drill you do from here on out, it becomes vital that you visualize game-like situations. If you haven’t seen my post on visualization in your training, check it out and apply those crucial lessons to your drills.
3) Discover and be Inspired
Always on the lookout for new moves and variations. They don’t have to be completely original moves that nobody has ever done before. But keep an eye out for things as small as different cadences, rhythms, footwork, speeds, body positioning etc. These can be altered hundreds of different ways to create new moves. It’s all about how creative you can be, so keep your mind open to anything.
One of the best ways to spark your creativity is to watch the best of the best. This is one of the reasons why I love watching the NBA. It’s always fun to watch NBA games and see unique moves that I can apply to my training.
Although this is technically the 3rd step, you don’t have to wait to start doing it. Feel free to let your imagination roam free right away.
Elite ball handlers are special for a reason. They’ve spent thousands of hours working on their craft. It takes extreme dedication and discipline to reach their level of skill. But the reward of making defenders look like this...is worth the effort.