How to Win a Jump Ball in Basketball

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The jump ball is what begins every game (and overtime period) of basketball. The significance of wining the jump is more than just who gets the first possession. It is a true test of aggression and strength. Here is how to win a jump ball in basketball.

Things You'll Need

  • Long reach
  • Good jumping skills
  • Speed
  • Good reflexes

Winning the Jump Ball

  • Prepare yourself for the task at hand. Sometimes the jump is won by the taller person, sometimes it is won by the person who can jump highest. But it is always won by the player who is most prepared for what is about to happen.Make sure you are prepared to elevate. Stretch before the game; warm up your body by shooting and dribbling around. And when you get inside that little circle, focus on what you are about to do.Take a quick look around to see where your teammates are. (And remember, the best option might be behind you!) Then get in a ready position, with your knees bent and your arm up in front of your face. The jump is about speed, not skill.

  • The person who elevates first will most likely win the jump ball. So be the first one in the air. That means you must be ready to go and on your toes as the referee starts to raise the ball in his hand(s). Technically speaking, you have to wait until the ball reaches its peak before you can tip it. But if you can get to the ball just before it reaches its maximum altitude, very few refs will notice and blow the whistle on you. So get up early and often.

  • Elevating to get the jump ball starts in your legs. Make sure they are bent.Again, the jump is often won by the first player in the air, so don't bend your knees too much like a baseball catcher. This is about speed.Bend your knees slightly, giving you enough torque to able to extend your body up into the air quickly yet effectively.

  • Use your fingertips. They are the point of your body that will get the highest off the ground, so use them. You don't have to make a lot of contact with the ball. There is no need to slap it with the palm of your hand. Just slide over it enough to move it backward, and you will probably win the jump. Of course, if you can manage to hit it with your whole hand, that is more than fine. But don't think you have to in order to gain possession.

  • Line up your teammates accordingly. You can be the first to jump and the first to touch the ball, and direct it exactly where you wanted it to go -- and still not win the jump. This is because, while your job is to tip the ball backwards (or in some other direction) it is your teammates' job to be the first to grab the loose ball. So make sure your teammates are the right position. Often, the point guards will stand directly behind their jumper and off the circle. This is a great place to tip the ball, since they will almost always be left uncovered. However, if another teammate is more open, or you think it will be easier to get the ball to her, then tip it wherever you need to in order to gain possession.You are allowed to tip the ball in whatever direction you want. Backwards, forwards or to either side ... it's all perfectly legal. So just knock it to an open teammate. Who knows? If you hit the ball to a teammate who is toward your basket, you might even get a fastbreak out of the play.

Tips & Warnings

  • Whether or not you will be able to tip it where you want to, try to get some piece of your hand on the ball. Remember, everyone is watching the opening tip, and you don't want to embarrass yourself against your opponent. So do what you can and go with it.
  • You cannot grab the ball and sling it. This is an opening tip. So if you palm the ball and sling it to a teammate, you can get whistled for a violation.
  • You also are not allowed to come down with the ball, so do not grab at it or try to possess it yourself. You have to knock it to another player, or it will automatically be the other team's ball anyway.

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  • Photo Credit virginia.edu
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