What Is A Pivot in Basketball? (Pivoting Techniques Explained)

What Is A Pivot in Basketball? Complete Guide 2022

What does it mean to pivot in basketball? Have you ever come across the term and were uncertain how to do it and what its purpose is? This article should clarify the issue for you!

In basketball, players in possession of the ball have a limited range of moves they can perform without being penalized. For example, they may only run while dribbling the ball. And they cannot begin dribbling again after they finish. 

However, if they are standing still while in possession of the ball, they can perform a certain maneuver that allows them to change direction. It’s called “pivoting”, and it could be one of the most useful techniques a player could learn. 

What is Pivoting in Basketball?

“Pivoting” is a specific basketball maneuver in which the player stands still while taking a step with one foot. The ‘pivot’ is the foot that remains in a fixed position on the floor. 

While the pivot foot remains locked in place, the player can pivot forward or backward to control the ball and shoot or pass it to a teammate. The player can even perform a 180° spin or change positions as they see fit, as long the pivot foot stays in place. 

Players may decide which foot to make the pivot before dribbling or after picking up the ball after dribbling.

Also Check: The Most Basic Youth Basketball Positions

How to Determine the Pivot Foot 

What Is A Pivot in Basketball? Complete Guide 2022

It is crucial for players to have a keen understanding of which foot is the pivot for the following reasons:

  1. They will have to begin dribbling the ball before lifting the pivot foot
  2. They may only lift their pivot foot if they pass or shoot the ball before placing the foot being back on the ground

Here’s how to identify the pivot foot:

  • If the player catches the ball with one foot on the court, that foot is the pivot.
  • If the player catches the ball with two feet on the court, they can choose which foot becomes the pivot. However, they cannot switch to the other foot after making their initial decision. 
  • If the ball is caught in the air, the player’s foot that first comes into contact with the ground is the pivot foot. The player may choose either foot if they land on both feet at the same time land at the same time. This is commonly referred to as a jump stop and pivot basketball maneuver.

Why is it so Important to Learn How to Pivot?

Learning the different types of pivot in basketball can be beneficial to players of all levels. It allows experienced players to perform complex maneuvers that leave their opponents in the dust and enables less experienced players to improve their playing performance quickly. 

Pivoting can be useful in a wide range of scenarios, from setting up scoring opportunities to evading defensive guards, or even maneuvering into a more advantageous position. Watch some videos of Kobe Bryant or Hakeem Olajuwon, and see how pivoting masters use the move to clear up space or avoid defenders.

Perhaps the most important reason for younger players to learn pivoting is that it gives them better control over their movements without being penalized for traveling. Furthermore, it’s a crucial element of many advanced techniques, including the triple threat position.

Benefits of Mastering Pivoting 

Mastering how to pivot can help a player in the following ways: 

1. Improves Control 

Inexperienced players often struggle with control issues, whether involving the ball or their own movements. Learning how to pivot effectively can help with these concerns, enabling players to handle the ball and play more effectively. 

In a fast-paced and high-pressure game situation, players may become stressed, panic, and make wrong decisions. By learning how to pivot, they can maneuver into a more favorable position, assess a particular situation more clearly, and buy some time to make the right decision. Over time, they will develop more control. 

2. Establishes the Foundation for More Advanced Techniques 

Pivoting itself can be a complicated maneuver for inexperienced players, and can take a long time to master. But doing so lays the groundwork for even more advanced and complex skills. 

Pivoting is a common element of these advanced techniques: 

1. Spin moves while dribbling

2. Faking defensive players and opening up to receive the ball

3. Up-and-unders or spin moves under the basket 

All these maneuvers can take place several times in the course of a single game. Therefore, learning how to pivot effectively will open up many opportunities to score, evade guards, and assist teammates.  

How to Pivot Like a Pro 

What Is A Pivot in Basketball? Complete Guide 2022

Experienced players pivot in a controlled and balanced motion, usually with the legs bent slightly. This improves balance and stability, making it easier to launch into a subsequent maneuver. 

Players may pivot forwards or backwards, the backward pivot being commonly known as a “drop step”. When pivoting backwards, players should first look back over their shoulder to see if there are defensive players behind them that could steal or tap the ball away.

Many inexperienced players make the following mistakes when pivoting:

  1. Twisting only the upper portion of their body instead of taking a step 
  2. Standing with legs straight, impairing their balance
  3. Bending down towards the ground, affecting balance and making it difficult to see their teammates

Teaching Players How to Pivot

When teaching inexperienced players how to pivot, it is usually best to explain the theory behind the maneuver. Coaches should explain the basic concepts as detailed previously, and provide a short demonstration of how it should be done. 

Most right-handed players will instinctively pivot with their left foot, and left-handed players with their right. But it is important for players to practice pivoting from both feet as early as possible, because the optimal position changes depending on the playing situation.

Pivoting Drill 1: Basic Stationary Pivoting

  1. First, each player takes a ball and forms a line standing a few feet apart from each other. 
  2. Next, they assume an athletic stance while holding the ball up to their chest.
  3. At the coach’s signal, each player pivots 90° clockwise or counterclockwise.
  4. After performing the specified number of reps, the players perform the maneuver in the other direction.

Coaches should watch all the players closely to see if they are performing the move correctly. All players should maintain the same height throughout each rep. 

Pivoting Drill 2: Forward/Backward Pivoting    

  1. Players begin with the left foot as the pivot. 
  2. They then pivot forward 15 times.
  3. Next, they pivot backward 15 times.
  4. The players then switch the pivot foot and do forward pivots 15 times.
  5. They finish off by performing backward pivots 15 times.

Watch this video to learn about Pivot:

Applying the Pivot in a Game Situation 

Players that have learned the fundamentals of pivoting can apply the move in a real-game situation. Here are some possible scenarios where pivoting can be useful: 

Scenario 1: Progressing player/Stop-shoot-pass

What Is A Pivot in Basketball? Complete Guide 2022

After receiving the ball while progressing, a player can take two steps before they stop, shoot, or launch a pass. 

Let’s say the player catches the ball with one foot in contact with the ground. This could take place while dribbling or receiving a pass while progressing. The next foot to touch the ground represents the first step.

If the ball is received with both feet in the air, the next foot to come in contact with the ground represents the first step. In either case, the player’s options are to stop after the second step or shoot or pass the ball before the pivot foot touches the ground again. 

Scenario 2: Progressing player/Star dribbling

What Is A Pivot in Basketball? Complete Guide 2022

If a player starts to dribble the ball while progressing, it will have to be released before the player takes a second step.

If the player receives the ball with one foot touching the ground and progressing, the next foot to touch the ground represents the first step. The ball should then be released before the player takes a second step and begins dribbling.

If the player receives the ball in the air, the next foot to touch the ground is considered the first step. The ball should then be released before the player takes a second step and begins dribbling.


A player that can pivot effectively is a force to content with on the court. Learning to pivot as early as possible expands a player’s skillset considerably and helps them develop the skills to perform more advanced footwork. Players that master the art and science of the pivot will be a valuable addition to any team.

So this was all about pivot in basketball. Now let’s answer some of your questions.


How long can you pivot in basketball?

Players can’t hold on to the ball for more than five seconds. After coming to stop and pivoting, they will have to shoot or pass the ball to a teammate within this time. 

How many pivots can you do in basketball?

Players can pivot as many times as they want as long as they maintain the same pivot foot and keep it planted on the same spot on the court. They also have to shoot or pass the ball within five seconds.

Can you dribble the ball after pivoting?

A player that has come to a full stop and performed a pivot maneuver may begin dribbling only before the pivot foot leaves the ground. 

Can you pivot after dribbling?

If the player comes to a stop after dribbling, they can perform a pivot to evade a defender or pass the ball to a teammate.

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