One of the skills that sets elite hoopers apart is their superior footwork. So today we’re going to reveal some basketball pivot drills to improve your game. The goal of a pivot in basketball is to create space by clearing your defender. It’s a simple move but it’s low key lethal when properly used.
“We do a warm-up drill every day that we practice where we literally work on just pivoting, stepping through, and pick-and-roll footwork. Just break it down, step by step,” Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said.
“Those things happen so many times in a game that you might take it for granted—just the coordination it takes to be explosive in certain situations on the floor. So we work on that in practice…Staying on top of that simple fundamental makes you a little bit faster, a little bit more creative, a little bit more efficient on the floor.” he explained.
As Steph hints, learning to pivot will not only add an essential skill to your bag, but also it’ll help you pick up more advanced skills such as the spin move. Let’s get after it!
What is a pivot in basketball?
To pivot in basketball, keep one foot planted, while stepping around – typically 180 degrees – with the other foot. Basically imagine you’re a door that’s swinging open, and one of your feet is the door hinge. The hinge foot that stays on the ground is called the pivot foot.
How to pivot in basketball
You can pivot off a catch or even on the dribble. You can pivot forwards, backwards, or really to any angle you want. In fact, you can do more than one pivot, you can go around like a carousel for days! Just keep in mind the keys to a successful pivot:
- Step with your foot, don’t just swing around the top half of your body.
- Ensure your legs are bent (think triple threat) so the defender believes you could spring into action by dribbling, shooting, or passing in any direction at any time.
- Keep your weight on your toes or the balls of your feet – don’t be flat footed on your heels.
- Keep the ball protected by ripping it through at a height away from the defense’s arms.
Here’s an example of Los Angeles Lakers guard LeBron James using his pivot foot on the dribble to create space:
Picking your pivot foot
You can determine your pivot foot a few ways:
- If you catch the ball with a foot on the ground – that’s your pivot foot.
- When you catch the ball in the air – whichever foot lands first is your pivot foot or if they land at the same time, you can pick which to use.
- If you catch the ball with two feet on the ground you can pick which foot to pivot on.
- If you’re dribbling, it’s helpful to use your foot closest to the defender.
But once you decide, that’s it: your pivot foot it absolutely has to stay locked in place. Do not drag it, pick it up, or change it, or you’ll be called for a traveling violation.
Once you’ve pivoted off the catch, you need to dribble before you move your pivot foot. Or you can lift your pivot foot to shoot or pass, but you have to get it done before you land.
The other thing to be aware of is that in high school and college ball, you can get a five second closely guarded violation called on you. This happens when the defender is overwhelming you for five seconds or move and you don’t pass, shoot, or dribble within that time. So pivot with purpose!
Types of pivoting in basketball
The two main ways to pivot in basketball are the outside pivot (also called the forward pivot) and inside pivot (also called the reverse or backwards pivot, or a drop step).
- The outside pivot is when you’re facing the basket, and then pivot 180 degrees to be facing the other way back towards the top or outside of the court.
- The inside pivot is when you’re facing the top of the court, and then pivot 180 degrees, opening up towards the basket.
Situations to use the pivot in
Use the pivot when you need to fake out your defender in half court play. There’s not much need to pivot in a transition type of situation. There are also variations of pivots based on how you protect and move the ball around with your arms and body, that can be used as a reaction to what your defender is giving you.
- Low pivot: Rip the ball through below your knees. Use this when your defender is putting pressure on you high – with their arms on your back, or if they’re very tall.
- Mid pivot: Rip the ball through by your stomach. Use this when the defender has a low hand out as if they’re looking to pick off the ball on a crossover.
- High pivot: Bring the ball to the other side of your body overhead. Use this when your defender is glued to you and putting on a lot of pressure. Your elbows should help clear the space.
Become unstoppable with basketball pivot drills
These pivot drills will help you develop both feet which is critical to keeping your defender on their toes.
1. Reverse pivot drive
Start on the right side of the court outside the three arc with your back to the basket. Spin toss the ball to yourself and catch it with two feet in the air so you land evenly. Plant your left foot as your pivot foot. Then reverse pivot, bringing your right leg around (open the door) so you’re facing the basket, and rip through the ball. Take one dribble, and hit a pull up jump shot. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over.
Then do this on the opposite side of the court and use your right foot as your pivot foot.
Check out an example of Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes using this move in a game:
2. Reverse pivot shot
Pick a side of the court to start on. Begin with your back facing the basket outside the three line. Toss the ball to yourself. Catch it and reverse pivot. Then jab forward (to get your defender off you), but instead of driving, pull back and hit a three-point jump shot. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over.
Then do this on the opposite side of the court.
3. Shifty reverse basketball pivot drills
Now that you’ve locked in the basics, add a little something extra coming out of the pivot. Again, start at the three with your back to the basket and toss yourself the ball. Up first, we’ll reverse pivot, jab to the right, cross your leg to the left, take one dribble and pull up. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over. Then do this on the opposite side of the court.
Then try the opposite twist on this move: Reverse pivot, landing with your right foot out wide, fake a drive to your left by shifting your weight that way and getting your shoulders low. But then drive directly towards the basket from your right side with one dribble, protect the ball and lay it in. You can practice carrying the ball at different heights on your two step drive as well (high above your head, low to the ground, cupping it like a football) to anticipate that help defender. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over. Then do this on the opposite side of the court.
4. Post pivot drill
Pick a side and start on the block by the basket. Begin with your body facing the top of the key and the ball in your hands. Do a pivot to face towards the basket. But each time try a different rip height – low, mid, or high – before shooting. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over. Then switch sides to the other half of the court and do the same thing.
Here’s the late Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant hitting the low rip through as an example of how you’d use this in a game situation:
5. Double pivot
Start at the three on the right side of the court with the ball and drive towards the basket. When you get to a good mid-range pull up distance (foul line, the block, baseline extended etc), plant your left foot and sharply pivot towards the basket (the basket should be to your right side and your back will be to the basket) faking a turn into a shot. Then pivot back the other way to your left, and hit the shot. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over.
Now do this on the other side of the court.
Here’s Seattle Storm‘s Jewell Loyd using the pivot you’re about to practice to perfection:
Michael Jordan too:
Bonus. Triple pivot step through drill
Finally, do the same move you just did, but this time add a third pivot. This move is called a step through. On your second pivot just fake the shot (be sure to look up at the basket, raise the ball like a shot, and keep your knees bent), and instead add another pivot, stepping through towards the basket to shoot. Get 5 makes. If you miss 2 in a row, start over.
Then do this on the other side of the court.
Check out an example of Kobe doing the next iteration you’re going go practice:
Try basketball pivot drills
Add the basketball pivot to your bag. Up next, learn check out more basketball footwork drills or pick up the push cross move. For dribbling work check out this smart basketball from our partner, to feed you even more drills on your phone.