palming basketball

Palming a Basketball – The Beginner’s Guide

When you watch a professional basketball game (or even a college or high school game), the players will often hold the basketball with just one hand. They do this to juke, fake an incoming pass and slam dunk! 

The trick… it’s called palming. 

This article provides a complete guide on how to palm a basketball.

The Best Way to Palm a Basketball

When it comes to palming a basketball, there are some limitations that you may have noticed. With practice and training, these limitations can be overcome by putting your mind into it.

Palming a Basketball: Prerequisites


Palming a Basketball

Three major criteria influence whether or not you can palm a basketball.

  • Hand Size – Can you palm the ball with your hand?
  • Rubber basketballs have better grip, although leather basketballs are utilized in the more advanced games.
  • Hand Strength – You must have the sufficient hand strength to grip the basketball with one hand, even with large hands.

Looking at Basketball Palming Hand Size

To palm a basketball, hand size and grip are essential. It’s more difficult with small hands or awkward shaking motion — most people find that they’re able to get good at palming after extensive practicing.

  • A 7 and 1/2 inch hand length and an 8 and one quarter inch hand span is usually the minimum hand size to comfortably palm a basketball.
  • Get a ruler (or measuring tape) and measure from the base of your palm to the end tip of your middle finger to determine hand length.
  • Using the same measuring device, measure the distance between your thumb and pinky finger by spreading your palm and fingers out.

People with smaller hands might be able to palm a basketball, but it requires a lot more muscle and expertise than usual. See the video below for tips.

The Effects of Different Basketball Types on Basketball Palming…

Different material types of basketballs have varying degrees to grip. A new, clean rubber basketball will often have the most grip, whereas a genuine leather basketball (such as those used in the NBA) will be slicker and smoother making the grip more challenging.

It’s a good idea to start with a rubber basketball to learning how to palm a basketball. Even if you think it would be better to begin with a full-sized leather ball like the pros, you should start at the beginning level and see how you do with a rubber basketball first.

Hand Stretches to Help

Can you really stretch your hands to cover a wider area. Just like lifting weights can change your physical abilities, stretching your hand can change how well it grips. To improve your palming skills, try stretching out the fingers on both hands. This will make it easier for you to palm the basketball and strengthen the muscles and ligaments needed.

Here’s three stretches that can help…

Basic Finger Stretch

Place your hand with the palm down, on a flat surface and stretch out the fingers as far from thumb to pinky. Hold steady for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat this ten times. 

Finger Lift

With your palm down on a flat surface, gently lift up your thumb, then lower it. Repeat with the rest of the fingers individually doing this ten times in succession while watching how closely they’re aligned together. Do this so there aren’t any gaps between them or loose skin that could catch when lowering your finger back down again.

Finger Bend

This is a great stretch to do when fingers are tense or injured. Extend one arm in front of you with the palm side down and bend back individual fingertips until they become flexible enough for everyday use again. You can also try this by holding onto something sturdy like a table edge, while bending each finger backward slowly over time (around 15 seconds).




Exercises to Improve Basketball Palming

Unless you have very large hands, your grip strength will account for a lot of the success of palming a basketball. Grip strength can be divided into three categories.

  • The Support Grip is used to hang from a bar or hold onto anything (like you do with a luggage handle).
  • The Crush Grasp is the grip that your fingers and palm have pressing towards each other. Shaking hands, crumpling paper, crushing cans and just crushing things are all examples of this grip.
  • The Pinch Grasp is the grip that your thumb and fingers make together where the finger tips are affixed together. This is the most important grip to remember when palming a basketball.

Start with small weights and work your way up to improve the pinch grasp (or even any grip). Proceed with prudence, don’t go too big too fast, and don’t overextend yourself — keep in mind that we use our fingers all the time so they can always be stretching.

Practicing Palming


Palming A Basketball

Even if you follow all of the stretching and exercise instructions, you’ll still need to know how a basketball should feel in your hand when palming it. Starting with a smaller ball and working your way up is recommended.

Begin with a more miniature rubber basketball (such as a women’s or a youth’s size) if your hands are smaller. Feel the basketball with your hand. With the fingers spread out as much as possible and squeezing from the sides, the palm should be entirely forced upon the basketball surface.

At first, practice palming the basketball while extending your arm straight in front of you. Gravity will help counteract the basketball in place if your thumb is facing down and your fingers are on top.

Start palming the basketball with your arm straight down once you’ve mastered the straight-out exercise for 30 seconds at a time. It will be a little more difficult now that gravity isn’t the factor. Experiment with this for 20 seconds at a time.

Finally incorporate some activity into your routine. Dribble with the basketball for a few seconds before palming it to halt it. Practice juking someone by pretending to pass the basketball while palming it and then returning it to you. If you can find shorter height rims (some elementary schools have them), practice dunking on these before moving to the full-sized baskets.

Now it’s time to step up the difficulty when you can complete all of these workouts using a smaller rubber basketball. Next a leather basketball is a good choice to increase the difficulty while increasing your ability.

Final Note

With a bit of practice, you’ll palm the basketball like a pro. Start with a rubber basketball. Once that is comfortable, move up to the more difficult leather basketball. The leather surface may feel strange at first, but with these exercises and the suggestions listed above for practicing, you can make your palms respond the way you want.