Different Passes in Basketball

The Definitive Guide to the Different Passes in Basketball

Passing is one of the most important skills in basketball. It’s also one of the most fun things to do. So, here you are going to learn the different passes in basketball and how to do them.

It was early in the third quarter and his team, the Phoenix Suns, were down 5 points.

Steve Nash knew he had to step up his game if they were going to beat a tough Detroit Pistons team. So he turned on his “Captain Canada” switch and got to balling.

He called for a screen (aka pick and roll) and attacked the basket. But as he hopped up for a layup, three Pistons’ defenders crowded him and prepared to contest his shot.

However, as he is now “Captain Canada,” Nash was able to see a teammate at the very edge of his peripheral vision.

So, he scooped the ball up and assisted his teammate, Grant Hill, for a wide-open mid-range jumper. This would be one of 9 passes that he assisted in the third quarter alone.

After watching that clip above, you’re probably super amped up and are wondering how you can make sick passes like Nash.

But it’s a lot harder than it looks. It took him years of learning how to pass before he was able to do those flashy ones.

He had to master the core fundamentals of passing first.

Thus, if you want to execute sick dimes, you have to learn (and master) the basic passes first too.

The Different Passes in Basketball

Now you’re probably wondering what the core passes in basketball are. Well, there are 4 of them:

  • The Chest Pass
  • The Bounce Pass
  • The Overhead Pass
  • The One-Hand Push Pass

These are the passes that you need to master before you can do any of the flashy ones. So, here’s a description of each and a guide for how to do them.

The Chest Pass

The good ol’ chest pass is one of the most used passes in basketball. When you see a player pass the ball to an open teammate in the corner, it’s most likely a chest pass.

How to Do:

Key Notes:

Hold the ball at your chest. Look at your target. Take a step forward and push the ball straight at the target.

Remember to push it with your wrists and fingers, and follow-through (much like a shot). Don’t push with the palm of your hands.

The Bounce Pass

The reliable bounce pass is probably the second most common pass.

It’s similar to the chest pass, but instead of passing the ball directly to your teammate, you bounce the ball on the ground first. This is useful for avoiding interceptors.

How to Do:

Key Notes:

Like the first steps of the chest pass, hold the ball at your chest and look at your target.

Take a step forward and push the ball to the middle or 3/4 of the way of where you and your target are. It should bounce right into your target’s chest.

It will take some practice to figure out the best spot to bounce the ball off of. It’s also going to take some time to figure out how much power to put into the pass.

The Overhead Pass

The overhead pass is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s a pass that is thrown over your head. It is most commonly used when a player is inbounding the ball. Sometimes, it is used to make crosscourt passes.

How to Do:

Key Notes:

Stand with one foot in front of the other. Hold the ball, with two hands, slightly behind or above your head. Find your target. Now, toss the ball forward to your target.

Depending on how far you want to pass the ball, you may want to take a step before tossing the ball. You can also do a short hop.

The One-Hand Push Pass

The one-hand push pass is often used when a player needs to pass the ball at an angle.

For example, there is a defender in front of you and you can’t make a straight chest or bounce pass to your target. So, you have to side-step and push pass the ball to your target.

How to Do:

Key Notes:

Stand in a triple-threat stance. Look for your target. If the target is on your right side, side-step in that direction, and push the ball with your right hand.

If it is on your left side, side-step to the left, and push the ball with your left hand.

Also, you can do a bounce pass or in-the-air pass.

Remember to use your wrists and fingers to push the ball. Don’t use your palm because you won’t have enough control to direct the ball.

Benefits of Mastering the Fundamental Passes

These are the 4 fundamental passes in basketball.

By mastering them, you’ll be able to –when you’re ready- easily pick up and master the flashier passes, such as the baseball pass, the no-look pass, and the behind-the-back (and head) pass, in no time.

But you have to learn the mechanics of the core passes first. The reason why is because these movements are often the initial movements of the flashier passes.

So, if you are able to do them well consistently and with accuracy, then the assists that make people jump out of their seats will be easier to learn and execute.

Final Thoughts

Nash was one of the best passers in the NBA. As a matter of fact, he is one of the greatest passers in league history.

But the reason why he is able to receive these accolades is because of his versatility when it comes to making an assist. He is able to pass the ball to anyone, in any situation, with either of his hands.

And he is able to weave passes this way because he has mastered the core fundamentals.

So if you want to be a great passer like Captain Canada, master the fundamentals of passing first.


The Suns defeated the Pistons in the game I talked about earlier, if you were still wondering.