Pivoting is one of the most basic fundamentals of basketball. In a pivot a basketball player must keep one foot still and may move the other around freely as long as the still foot (the “pivot foot”) remains planted on the ground. A player can actually spin all the way around on their pivot foot (360 degrees) in either direction. Once a pivot foot is established you can not change that pivot foot. From a pivot position a player can jump into a shot, lay-up, or dunk and not be called for a travel.
The pivot stance: It is important to keep your balance while pivoting. The player should get nice and low with a good bend in their waist and knees. The head should stay up and be constantly surveying the floor, and the ball should be held strongly on the hip, on the chin, in the “running back” grip, or sweeping the ball low across the ground.
Forward pivot – A forward pivot is exactly what it sounds like. This is when a player has an established pivot foot and steps forward into their field of vision. If you were pivoting on your left foot, you would be spinning in a counter-clockwise direction.
Reverse pivot – A reverse pivot is the opposite of a forward pivot. You will be moving a foot backwards and will need to move your head to see the direction you are going. If a player were pivoting on their left foot, they would be spinning in a clockwise direction. This is sometimes referred to as a drop step.
Selecting a pivot foot: For guards and wing players: There are different opinions on which foot to use as a pivot foot. For perimeter players, a common practice is for right handed players to always use their left foot as the pivot foot, and left handed players to use their right foot. This generally feels pretty natural to players.
For post players: A player receiving the ball in the post should attempt to catch on a jump stop, so they may strategically select which pivot foot they would like to use.
Picking up the dribble and/or stopping
It is important for a player to know when to pick up their dribble and when to maintain the dribble to avoid traps and other dangers. Once a player makes the decision to pick up their dribble, there are a couple of different ways to do so.
Jump stop: The jump stop is best used when catching the ball in the post, or when you are in the clear and in the middle of the court (i.e. a big man catching the ball in the middle during a press breaker). To use the jump stop the player lands both feet on the ground simultaneously. The last step before stopping is a bit of a hop. Be careful to keep your weight back and stay balanced during a jump stop because sometimes a player’s momentum will carry them forward.
*Important note: At advanced levels players will often dribble drive to the basic then do a long “hop” and land on two feet. There is controversy over whether or not this player is allowed to pivot after this jump stop (If you are simply catching the ball with a jump stop, and not doing a jump stop after dribbling, there is no controversy…you ARE allowed to pivot). The actual high-school rule book says a player may not use either foot as a pivot foot after dribbling into a jump stop. At the college level this is sometimes called a travel, and sometimes it is not. And at the NBA level, it is almost never called a travel. You must cater your actions to how the referee is calling the game. If you want to make the move, give it a try…and you are not called for it, it is probably safe to continue, but if you are called for traveling…you must make the adjustment and use the “two step” from then on.
Two step: The two step is when a player stops on the move, landing one foot, then the other. In this example we will say the player is right handed and wants to have a left pivot foot. They would take one last dribble then land on the left foot, then the right. The foot that lands first (the left) is established as the pivot foot, and the right foot is allowed to move. This is a great way to stay under control on a basket drive, or as preparation for an “up-and-under” or other types of moves.