Anyone and everyone who has ever watched a basketball game has seen players palm the ball. Palming the ball can be seen when players’ are dunking, faking a pass, and more. Palming is a trick that every player tries to have up their sleeves because it can be essential when dribbling isn’t a part of the play.
Palming the ball isn’t necessarily easy and it doesn’t come naturally for every player. Many players struggle with palming the ball, but there are ways to help strengthen one’s palming technique.
What is Palming the Ball?
Palming the ball is gripping a basketball sturdily in one hand only. It’s a very simple concept, but due to violations, it can possibly become tricky. When a player palms the ball, they do not want it to come to a momentary rest because then it is considered a violation.
Palming the ball can be a carrying violation if the ball comes to a momentary rest when a player scoops it from the bottom or has their hand on the lower half when dribbling.
So when you hear someone such as a commentator saying that a player is palming the ball it could mean two things. Either they’re referring to the violation or they are referring to one hand grip used for dunking, juking, fake passes, and more. The line between the legal vs illegal palming of the ball can be thin at times.
Factors that Affect Palming the Ball
Palming the ball on paper seems like a relatively easy thing to do, but it isn’t for everyone. There are general factors that have nothing to do with practicing and training that can affect one’s ability to palm the ball. These factors are the size of your hand and the make of the ball.
Palming the ball, it’s right there in the name. For the most part, the ball will be placed on top of your palm and then the rest residing between the curves of your fingers therefore hand size is a major contributing factor to ones ability to palm the ball.
Hand size not only affects the way one is able to hold and grip the ball, but it can also affect the amount of total pressure that will apply an inwards force on the ball. This inwards force is what helps the ball stay in the palm when the goal is to “defy” gravity in a sense.
Hand size refers to both the length and span of the hand. Length is from wrist to tip of the middle finger and span is measured from the thumb to pinky when you spread your fingers apart. You can have rather long hands, but a small span and vice versa. Many players who are extremely effective at palming the ball have both a relatively long and wide hand.
Kawhi Leonard FAKE Pass Move like Michael Jordan – Game 5
An NBA player well known for their hands is Kawhi Leonard, who has been nicknamed The Klaw. Leonard’s hands are 9.75 in long with an 11.25 in span. His hand size gives him a great advantage when it comes to having control of palming the ball.
In Game 5 of the 2019 playoffs Leonard was able to catch the ball with one hand and fake a one-handed pass. This move is comparable to Michael Jordan, another NBA player with large hands and a great ability to palm the ball.
Having larger hands is an advantage when it comes to palming the ball, but it isn’t the only way one will be able to palm the ball. Player’s with smaller hands can still palm the ball with the right techniques.
Although hand size is an advantage when it comes to palm the ball, without hand strength it will be difficult for anyone to be able to grip the ball.
As mentioned before, there are palming violations when the ball is in a position of rest, which is why players palm the ball in certain positions such as horizontally or directed downwards. These positions will have the pressure of gravity on both the ball and a player’s hand.
Your hand must be strong enough to go against gravity and keep a grip on the ball. If your hand isn’t strong, your grip won’t be either. If your hands are on the smaller side, having a good grip will help you be able to palm the ball, which makes hand strength your greatest advantage.
Make of the Ball
The ball will have an effect on a player’s ability to palm the ball. Every ball will have a different level of grip based on the make and age of it. A women’s basketball may make gripping more attainable and easier when palming the ball to some.
A rubber basketball that is either new, clean, or both will have higher amounts of grip than a leather basketball which will be smoother and slicker. Genuine leather basketballs are used in the NBA. There will be greater technique needed in order to be able to palm the ball in the NBA.
How to Palm the Ball?
Positioning and grip are the two techniques that are required for palming the ball. No matter a player’s hand size or make of the ball, these techniques are important to be able to not have the ball fall from their hands.
To be able to grip the ball, the position of your fingers on the basketball is key. Holding the ball in your dominant hand, your thumb should be placed at the central grove of the ball and your other four fingers should be right on the groove above your thumb.
Stretch your fingers as much as you need to in order for all four fingers to be as close to the above groove as possible. Your fingers will be the main focal point to apply pressure and force to the ball.
Due to this, you want to grip the ball with your fingers pressing on the surface, trying to avoid having the ball in contact with your palm (this is okay if you’re practicing your technique).
There are three different types of grips: crush grip, pinch grip, and support grip. The one that matters most for palming the ball is the pinch grip which is between fingers and thumb. So to palm a ball, remember the positioning of your fingers on the respective grooves of the ball and the pinch grip.
Strengthening Your Hand and Grip
The stronger your hands are, the stronger the grip, and the better you’ll be at palming the ball. There are a plethora of exercises you can do to achieve greater strength in your hands and grip. Here are five exercise suggestions
Roll your wrist(s) both clockwise and counterclockwise. This is a warmup to help reduce risk of hand and wrist injury.
Rubber Ball Squeeze
Use any small ball (stress, tennis, rubber. etc.) that can be slightly manipulated by a squeeze. Place the ball in the palm of your hands and squeeze as tightly as you can, holding the poision for five seconds and repeating 10 times.
Position yourself in a regular pushup position and raise your palms up, only having the fingertips flat on the ground. This will target your fingertips to strengthen them.
Place rubber bands around your fingers and spread your fingers as far as possible. Repeat on both hands as many times as you want.
Practicing palming will also help with hand and grip strength and ultimately allow your hand to become more comfortable with it. Practice palming a ball horizontally to get used to gravities force on your hand. Do this for as long as possible.
As you improve begin angling the ball towards the floor. You can also practice palming smaller balls or going with a rubber ball instead of leather. Becoming comfortable with these balls first will help you move to a men’s basketball.
Palming in Action
Boban Marjanovic is UNFAIR & PALMS THE BALL Over Richaun Holmes’ Head
Boban Marjanovic has the largest hands in the league ever being 10.75 in long and 12 in span (estimated). His hand size is definitely an advantage for his palming skills. Here we can see Boban dribble the ball, being guarded by Richard Holmes, and palming the ball to shoot over Holmes’ head. For someone of Boban’s stature, palming comes easily.
Ben Wallace Struggles to Palm a Basketball
Around the midpoint of Game 2 of the 2004 finals, Detroit Piston’s Ben Wallace goes for a dunk. Unfortunately for Wallace, he isn’t able to palm the ball properly and the ball is thrown past the hoop.
Wallace has small hands which played a factor in the inability to palm the ball, but if you also look, he doesn’t have a grip either on it. His fingers are straight when going for the dunk instead of being positioned correctly placed on the grooves with as wide a spread as possible. Players at all levels can struggle with palming the ball.
Palming the ball on paper seems to be easy, but actually doing it can be difficult. Factors such as hand size and the make of the ball can greatly affect one’s ability to palm the ball. Those with larger hands have an advantage that makes palming the ball much easier to do.
However, if you don’t have larger hands you can still palm the ball by improving your technique. Focus on your positioning, improve your strength, and practice palming the ball. Palming the ball can be something you can do, it may just take time to be able to do it comfortably and effectively. Once you have to palm down, dunking, fake passes, and more will be in your artillery.