A Complete Guide to Basketball Passes

If you’re interested in learning about all the different types of passes used in the game of basketball, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re just a curious fan or trying to learn how to play the game, this article will help you understand more about the various basketball passes.

Some of the most frequently used passes in basketball are the chest pass, the bounce pass, and the overhead pass. Other common types of passes include the baseball pass, the quick pass, the behind the back pass, and the no-look pass.

Read on to learn more about these different basketball passes, as well as how to execute them accurately and effectively.

Every Type of Basketball Pass

If you’re new to playing basketball, or are only a casual fan, then chances are, every pass a player makes looks similar to you. But did you know there are actually several different types of passes? Each pass is performed with a slightly different technique and used for different scenarios.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of passes, how they are performed, and the scenarios when they are most useful.

The Chest Pass

The chest pass is used more than any pass in basketball. It’s an effective way to get the ball from place to place, no matter where a player may be on the court. This is likely the pass that you’re most familiar with, even if you’ve never played basketball competitively.

The chest pass is used in many different plays and scenarios. It is a fast, powerful, and direct motion that allows the ball to travel quickly from the passer to the receiver.

To perform a chest pass, a player starts by holding the ball to their chest, arms bent. The player then steps forward, putting their weight into the pass as they thrust their arms outward, propelling the ball forward. As they release the ball, their wrists snap, which causes the ball to rotate. This rotation makes for an accurate and easy to handle pass.

If you’re just learning how to play basketball, the chest pass will be one of the first types of passes you should master, simply because you’ll be using it so often on the court.

Check out this video to see how to throw a chest pass.

The Quick Pass

The quick pass is a slight variation on your typical chest pass. Players use this pass when they need to move the ball in a hurry and a chest pass wouldn’t be quite quick enough. The quick pass is commonly used for post feeds and out of bounds plays.

Players set up for a quick pass as they would for a chest pass. But, instead of stepping forward and thrusting their arms out, they simply set their feet and flick the ball forward with their wrists. Releasing the ball in this way produces a much more spontaneous pass that defenders won’t be able to see coming.

Once you’ve perfected the chest pass, start practicing the quick pass. Remember, speed and spontaneity are the keys to this particular type of pass. Practice increasing your speed without diminishing your accuracy.

The Lob Pass

Another variation on the chest pass, the lob pass is a softer, more arcing type of pass. It doesn’t travel as far or as quickly as the chest pass or the quick pass, but there are a number of scenarios when it might be useful on the court. It’s frequently used for alley-oops and post feeds, but is effective any time a player is trying to throw the ball over a defender’s head.

To perform a lob pass, the player will start as they would for a chest or quick pass, with their feet set and the ball near their chest. They will then thrust the ball outward and upward as they step forward into the pass, flicking their wrists as they release the ball in an upward motion.

Knowing how to do a lob pass is important when learning basketball, especially if you’re a shorter player who freq uently has to propel the ball upwards in order to avoid being picked off.

This video will show you how to throw a lob pass like the pros.

The Bounce Pass

Like the chest pass, the bounce pass is another commonly used play in basketball. However, it is riskier than a chest pass because it is slower and bounces off the floor between the passer and the intended target. This makes it easier for opposing players to intercept.

That said, there are various situations where the bounce pass is useful. It’s a frequent passing choice for players executing fast breaks, post entries, and backdoor cuts. It’s a great way to get the ball a large distance across the court, as long as there is an opening without any defenders to make a move on the ball.

To perform a bounce pass, the player starts with the same grip and stance as they would use for a chest pass. They will thrust the ball outward and slightly downward, stepping toward the intended target as they do so. They aim to let the ball bounce on the floor about two-thirds of the way to their teammate, who then receives the ball at around hip-height.

If you’re learning to play basketball, this is another pass you can expect to use frequently. It will take quite a bit of practice to learn how to get the ball to bounce correctly and accurately.

Check out this video to see how to perform an effective bounce pass.

The Overhead Pass

Overhead passes are used when a player needs to throw the ball high over one or more opponent’s heads. It can be a risky play, especially for shorter players, or those who make a mistake and don’t get the ball high enough in the air.

Overhead passes are most common when starting a fast break or throwing in from the sideline, but they may also be used anytime a player with the ball is being heavily defended and needs to get the ball out of their hands.

To perform an overhead pass, the player holds the ball on each side with their fingers spread out and their thumbs on the ball’s backside. They lift their arms, raising the ball above their head, step toward their target, and snap their wrists forward as they release the ball.

Overhead passes are meant to be powerful, accurate shots, but it will likely take a bit of practice, as well as working on arm strength, for you to perfect this type of pass.

This video will give you a good visual for how to do an overhead pass.

The Inbound Pass

The inbound pass is any pass used to put the ball back in play after it goes out of bounds or the other team scores.

Most often, the inbound pass is done as an overhead pass, as there are often defenders between the inbounder and the receiver. Whatever type of pass is used, however, there are a few rules when inbounding the ball.

First, the player has just five seconds to put the ball in play after receiving it from the referee. If throwing in from their own baseline, they can run back and forth along the out of bounds line to try and open up a passing lane. If throwing in from the sideline, the player has a 3-foot radius to work with.

This video will further demonstrate how to perform an inbound pass.

The Skip Pass

A skip pass is a type of overhead pass. It is performed when a player passes the ball from one side of the court to an open player on the other side, bypassing or “skipping” one or more offensive players standing between the passer and the receiver.

Skip passes are commonly used when other offensive players are being defended or a player needs to get the ball quickly to another player in a scoring attempt. Skip passes are thrown with either one or two hands over the head, high in the air so they go over any defenders in the middle of the court.

Check out this video for another explanation of a skip pass.

The Behind the Back Pass

The behind the back pass is somewhat controversial. It is easy to do wrong, which may result in a turnover to the other team, so some players and coaches believe it is too risky. Other players and coaches, however, believe that there is definitely a time and place for this entertaining and exciting pass.

When done right, the behind the back pass is a great way to trick an opponent, getting the ball into the hands of a teammate who has more space to make a play.

When performing a behind the back pass, the player will move the ball around to their back, passing it from one hand to the other in the process. The receiving hand will then flick the wrist, propelling the ball in the intended direction.

This type of pass isn’t easy to perfect, so it’s important to practice it a lot before attempting it in a game. It’s also important to not overuse this type of pass, as opponents may begin to expect it. 

This video will show you how to perform a behind the back pass.

The No Look Pass

The no look pass is similar to the behind the back pass–in fact, a behind the back pass is a type of no look pass. The no look pass is used in specific situations when a player knows where they want to pass the ball, and they know the receiver is expecting the pass, but there’s a defender in the way.

In a no look pass, the player with the ball will look in one direction and perform any type of pass in another direction. The chest pass and bounce pass are commonly used when performing a no look pass.

This type of pass takes a lot of skill and practice to do effectively. You should never attempt a no look pass in a game unless you have perfected it in practice and you know that your receiver is expecting the pass.

Check out this video to see how to perform a no look pass.

The Baseball Pass

The baseball pass is a challenging type of pass used only in certain situations on the court. You’ve probably seen players use the baseball pass in a desperate, full-court buzzer-beater attempt, or perhaps when performing a long fast break.

When performing a baseball pass, the player will turn to the side, bringing the ball up close to their ear on their throwing side. Their elbows will be about shoulder height. They will step forward with the front leg, releasing the ball with their back hand, and following through on the pass so that the body rotates and the back leg comes up in front of the lead leg.

The whole motion looks similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball, hence the name “baseball pass.”

While there are certainly times when this pass will come in handy during a game, it’s more important that you perfect more commonly used passes before attempting a baseball practice. Once you’re ready to start working on the baseball pass, again, it will likely take a lot of practice to get your form right and your momentum up.

Watch this video to see how to do a baseball pass.

The Outlet Pass

The outlet pass is a move most often performed by defenders to start an offensive attack. When the other team attempts to score and the ball bounces off board, a guard will snatch the rebound, pivot to face a teammate on the offense, and pass the ball to them.

The key to a successful outlet pass is getting the rebound. Once the player has secured the rebound, they choose to perform any pass that seems appropriate to get the ball to their teammate. Most often, they use a basic chest pass, but there are scenarios when another type of pass may be the best option.

Check out this video for a visual of how to do an outlet pass.

The Wall Pass

Technically, the “wall pass” isn’t used during basketball games. It’s simply a term used for anyone practicing their passes alone, using a wall for the ball to bounce off of.

Using a wall as your “partner,” you can practice any number of different basketball passes. Aim to hit a particular spot on the wall so you can work on your accuracy with each pass. Practice passing from different distances in relation to the wall, as well as by throwing the ball harder or softer to get an idea how different passes should feel coming out of your hands.

What are the Three Main Passes Used in Basketball?

If you’re a new player, that long list above may have you feeling a bit overwhelmed. After all, that’s a lot of different types of passes. How will you ever remember all of them, much less learn how to perform them all?

The good news is, you don’t have to learn or perfect them all at once. If you’re new to the game, you can start out by practicing a few of the most basic passes. Practice them until you could do them with your eyes closed, then pick a few new ones to start working on.

But which ones should you start out with? What are the main passes you can expect to use more than any of the others?

The most important basketball passes to know, the ones you should learn first, are the chest pass, the bounce pass, and the overhead pass.

  • Chest pass. The chest pass, as mentioned above, is used more than any other pass in basketball. This is your basic pass that players use to move the ball from place to place on the court, and it is used in a wide variety of situations. 

In fact, as you may have noticed above, many of the more specialized passes are based off a simple chest pass. Learn how to perform this pass, get good at it, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a talented basketball player.

  • Bounce pass. The bounce pass is quite possibly the second most common in basketball, after the chest pass. It’s a great way to get the ball to a teammate who’s farther down the court, or to deliver the ball in a softer, less bullet-like manner.

Of course, it’s also easy to get wrong. If you bounce the ball too hard or too soft, or if it bounced off in a bad direction, it can be picked off by a defender pretty easily. That’s why it’s so important to practice this pass over and over again: you’ll be using it a lot, and you want to make sure you do it right.

  • Overhead pass. The overhead pass is almost always used for inbounding, skip pass plays, and for any situation when the ball needs to fly high above the defenders. It isn’t appropriate for every situation, but it’s used often enough that knowing how to do it well is essential for all players.

This is another type of pass that’s easy to mess up, and it requires good arm strength and muscle memory to be able to consistently get it high enough.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Pass

As you might expect, each type of basketball pass requires slightly different form, hand placement, and forward motion. This makes sense, as no two hand motions are exactly the same.

That said, there are a lot of good general tips for how to pass the ball effectively, no matter what type of pass you’re throwing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those tips.

Always Follow Through on Your Passes

Passing the ball isn’t just something you do with your hands and arms; it’s a full-body motion. Whatever type of pass you throw, be sure and follow through. 

Step in the direction of your pass, shifting your weight to your front foot as you do. Snap your wrists all the way, thrust your arms all the way; whatever motion you’re performing, don’t stop when the ball is released, but continue all the way through the motion.

Following through will put much more power behind your passes; it will also make them far more accurate.

Hold the Ball in Your Fingertips Instead of Your Palms

This is similar to the concept that you should keep your knees slightly bent and balance your weight on the balls of your feet–in this position, you are ready to move quickly in any direction as a particular play unfolds. 

When you hold the ball in your fingertips, your grip will be strong but light, ready to make a move and release the ball at a moment’s notice. If you’re holding the ball in your palms, it will take slightly longer to release the ball, and the pass may not be as accurate as it could have been.

Practice the Wrist Snapping Motion

Most passes in basketball require a snapping of the wrists as you release the ball. This snapping is an essential part of getting the ball where you want it to go in the least amount of time.

It may take a lot of effort to perfect this snapping motion, so you may want to practice it on its own. Practice this motion until you develop muscle memory and it starts to feel like a normal movement. Again, you’ll be using it a lot for many different passes, including the chest pass and the bounce pass. 

Snapping your wrists correctly will allow you to deliver the ball powerfully and accurately.

Keep Your Feet on the Floor

Your passes will be much more effective if you keep your feet on the floor when performing them. You should only be jumping up to shoot, not to pass.

Too much can happen between the moment you decide to pass and the moment the ball leaves your hands. Your passing lane may close up, forcing you to rethink your options or at least to hold off on throwing the pass. If you’re jumping up in the air, it will be much more challenging to stop the pass and survey your options.

Jumping up in the air will also draw more attention, not only to you as you throw the pass, but to your intended target as well.

Practice Passing At Various Angles

Most passes in a game will be thrown from the chest region or from above your head. But at the same time, games are unpredictable, and you may find yourself needing to get the ball out under less than ideal passing circumstances.

If you spend a lot of time practicing your passes from different angles, you’ll be better able to handle these circumstances that come up in games. Practice passing from below your chest, from either shoulder, from your knees, from each hand.

Even if you never end up using these exact passes in a game, practicing all different kinds of passes will help you become a more well-rounded and highly skilled passer.

Make the Pass that Makes Sense

Another way of saying this is, “don’t try to be the hero.” There’s no reason to make a super difficult, super risky pass to a teammate down the court who’s covered when you can make a shorter pass to an open teammate.

That’s not to say there’s never a time to take risks in a game. But more often than not, it’s best to simply make the simple pass to the player who’s open.

Practice the Correct Forms

When practicing the various types of passes discussed in this article, make sure your form is correct. Watch the included tutorial videos, then practice the correct hand placement, steps, and motions slowly to make sure you’re doing it right.

As you get better with the form, then you can start picking up speed and doing it faster. But it’s so important to make sure your forms are correct first because you don’t want to spend hours and days training your body to do something wrong.

As they say, “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”

Final Thoughts

By now, you should be a little more familiar with the many different kinds of basketball passes. Congratulations! You can now use this knowledge to become a better player or a more informed fan.

If you’re a player, following the tips above will help you to perfect your passing skills in general, no matter what type of pass you’re attempting to throw.

And if you’re a fan, why not wow your friends and family with your newfound knowledge? “Now would be a good time for a skip pass.” “Wow, that outlet pass was executed perfectly!”

Enjoy the game!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check “Basketball Shots – The 9 Most Important Shots in Basketball“.


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