The hesi move in basketball is one of the most simple but unstoppable moves in the game. The idea is to be unpredictable by using a change of pace – a pause – in order to freeze your defender, giving you time to make your next read.
Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But if you’ve ever tried to pick up a pet bunny you know just how tricky a change of speed can be. Bunnies hop incredibly fast and in unpredictable patterns. Then they come to a full stop, and start again when you get close, just escaping your grasp. That’s what you’re doing with a hesi as a hooper!
What is the hesi move?
The hesi move in basketball is a change of speed, and is short for hesitation. Basically it’s when a player is going more quickly, and then pauses for a beat, before resuming again. The pause is intended to trick the defender into thinking the player is slowing down, lulling the defense to sleep getting them to temporarily rise up out of their defensive stance, or bringing their momentum back to the player and away from the basket. This gives the offense an extra second to dribble past their defender or to get off a shot. It provides an edge.
How to do the hesitation move
Do the hesi when you’re on offense and dribbling the ball. You can’t hesi if you’ve just caught the ball because you’re already still. Here’s how to do it:
- Hold a speed with your dribble
- Slow your speed down very quickly to hit a pause
- Float the ball
- Make the read
- Drop your hips and shoulder faking a drive – then take a shot
- Or for the shot hesi look up at the rim and bring your off ball hand to the ball (without touching it) to mimic a shooting motion – then blow by, often players will use the cross over coming out of this to pick up speed in the other direction
Types of hesi
Here are a few different types of hesi moves you can add to your bag.
- Hesi – This is a change of speed – a simple pause – taking your defender off their guard.
- Shot hesi – This is a change of speed where you slow down and also fake a shooting motion, before driving.
- Pull-up hesi – For this move you slow down and fake re-starting a speedy drive, before taking a shot.
Situations to use the hesi in
You can use the hesi anytime you feel like you need some space from your defender. It’s surprising how well it works. It’s probably because of Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. As defenders we make the assumption that the offense is going to stay in motion at the same speed. So when they don’t, we’re surprised.
Here are a few key game moments during which to pull out the hesi:
- Transition or fast break when a player is approaching in front of you
- From the wing or the top of the key in isolation situations
- Use the hesi pull-up when your defender expects you to drive to the basket (for example if you drove last time, or you get most of your buckets in the paint)
- Use the shot hesi when your defender expects you to shoot (for example if you shot last time, or you’re known as a shooter based on your stats)
Hesi move examples from the WNBA and NBA
Let’s check out a few examples of the hesi being used in the WNBA and NBA to create space and get off good looks.
Courtney Vandersloot hesi
One type of hesi is the simple pause which WNBA Champion and Chicago Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot shows here. With this move you’re making the defender think you’re letting up and no longer a scoring threat, or that you’re going to pass. Once their momentum shifts in your direction you can make the read on how to best blow by. This simple pause gives Courtney the advantage she needs to take a quick first step and get by.
Crystal Dangerfield shot hesi
Minnesota Lynx point guard Crystal Dangerfield is on the attack here, and sees her defender is going to cut off her line to the basket. So she hits a cross over, but the defender keeps up and is about to meet her. In order to get her defender off balance, Crystal pauses and fakes a shot, causing the defense to shift their momentum forward as if to block the shot. Then Crystal is able to blow by.
Kevin Durant hesi pull-up
This is one of Kevin Durant’s go-to moves, and it works incredibly well because it gives players a chance to get into rhythm before taking a shot. Kevin likes to start off with a between the legs setup dribble to float the ball and hesi, before pulling up into a quick shot. If you’re a right handed shooter, going between the legs to the left, pausing and then lifting will give you good chance at making it. For left-handed shooters, the reverse works well (between the legs to the right).
Free hesi move drills
Here are a couple ways to get more comfortable with the hesi.
1. Change of pace practice
Dribble the ball up and down the court, changing speed 3-4 times as you go across the court. Try to hit a full speed, 1/2 speed, 3/4 speed, and 1/4 speed. Now do the same thing but hesi 3-4 times, holding your speed into and out of the hesi the same. Now do the same thing, but bring a different speed into and out of the hesi each time.
2. Solo speed start
Put the ball on the ground at half court. Start leaned over and low to the ground like a runner on a track, with your hands on the ball. Bring it off the ground and forward as quickly toward the basket as you can. You must hit one hesi before scoring. Get 3 makes in a row.
3. Partner speed start
Stand with a partner next to you at half court. Put the ball on the ground. As the offensive player you begin with your hands on the ball, low to the ground, bringing it off the ground and forward as quickly toward the basket as you can. You must hit one hesi, before trying to score. The defense can start playing as soon as they see you picking up the ball. Switch offense and defense as you make or miss. Play up to 3 total points by 1s.
4. Partner pace
Stand with a partner at the top of the 3, with your partner next to your waist. Your partner is on defense but must stay on your side. Your goal is to use only changes of speed (including hesis) to get a layup at the basket – no other moves. Switch offense and defense as you make or miss. Play up to 3 total points by 1s.
5. Hesi move workout
Here’s a fun workout from True Point Guard.
First drill: Freestyle. Hit a shifty move at the first cone. Then hit any stop move and attack the basket. Change up the finish every time.
Second drill: Have a coach or teammate give your audio cues to work on reaction.
1 = Drive. 2 = Midrange jumper. 3 = Shoot the three.
Third drill: Simulate a live look with guided defense. Work on reading the defense and making the right decision.
Fourth drill: Put it all together and play 1v1. You have to hit a stop move before you can score.