How to Spin a Basketball on Your Finger

Have you ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters play live? Or have you ever seen basketball players do tricks with a basketball? They can be really fun to watch and one of the most popular ones is to spin a basketball on your finger. It looks really cool. It’s like the ball is floating or spinning in the air.

One of the great things about this trick is that almost anyone can learn to do it. It may look really hard and it does take some good balance and hand-eye coordination but, using the proper steps and with some practice, you too can be spinning a basketball on your finger like one of the Harlem Globetrotters.

What Do I Need to Learn to Spin a Basketball on My Finger?

Since spinning a ball could prove difficult initially, you may be apprehensive at first. Don’t worry! Below are steps and a few tips to start you on your ball spinning journey.

In fact, once you start learning how to do it, it becomes addictive. You will find yourself trying to spin any ball that you have in your hands even when you are walking around the house. Just be careful not to lose control and break that expensive vase in your living room.

This trick does not require any special equipment but below is a list of things you should have or consider before you start.

  • An old basketball – you will want to use an older basketball that is worn and possibly even slick. It will have less grip or friction and it will spin easier on your finger.
  • A finger – Of course you will need a finger to spin the ball on. Any of them will work but most people start with their index finger or middle finger. If you get really good you can try spinning the ball on other things like your head or your toes.
  • Trimmed Fingernails – You might want to give your fingernails a trim first. If they are too long it may make it more difficult and even worse, you might bend a fingernail back and that will really hurt.
  • Space – Make sure you have adequate space, especially when you start learning. The ball is going to be flying all over the place and as I mentioned, fragile objects in your house may not stand a chance.
  • Patience and Persistence – This trick does take some time to get good at and like any skill it will take repetition to learn. The more you practice, the better you will get and eventually your muscle memory will take over and it will be as easy as dribbling.

How to Spin a Basketball on Your Finger

Spinning a basketball on your finger, like any other skill, is something that you need to learn and then practice. The following are tips and steps to help you but keep in mind that there is always more that one way to learn or do something. The goal of this is to give some advice and direction to help you learn the skill.

Step 1: Preparation

Make sure you have everything in the list above and plenty of space for that trial and error period.

Step 2: Learn how to spin the ball in the air

Before trying to spin the ball on your finger, you first need to learn how to spin the ball well. You want to get a good straight rotation and the faster it spins the better. So, the goal of this step is just to learn to spin the ball in the air.

There are two methods of spinning that I will go over here. The two-handed spin and the one-handed spin. You can use either or both, whichever works best for you.

Method 1: Two-handed spin

This is my personal preferred method. It gives you more control and power and allows you to get more speed on your initial spin.

Holding the ball for the Two-handed spin. Photo by Melissa Medina.
  1. Hold the ball at about chest level on its side with the grips (black lines) vertical. Have one hand with fingertips extended around the bottom of the ball and the other flat on the side.
  2. With a slight upward motion, twist your hands, spinning the ball and releasing it up into the air. Don’t throw it to high in the air.
  3. At this point just work on getting a good feel of how to spin the ball and getting a good constant, stable spin in the air. You should see the stripes moving steadily around in a circle, not wobbling in all different directions.
  4. Once you can get a good steady spin work on getting more speed.

Method 2: One-handed spin

The one-handed spin looks a little cooler and can sometimes be easier to get onto your finger. The only drawback is its harder to get a fast spin, but once you get good you can speed the ball up by slapping it and spinning it more (we will discuss this a little later).

Holding the ball for one-handed spin. Photo by Melissa Medina.
  1. Hold the ball at about chest level in your dominant hand with the stripes vertical. The ball should be resting on your fingertips with your hand at the bottom of the ball. Your thumb should be pointing outward from your body.
  2. In one motion, twist your hand and fingers so that your thumb comes towards your body. This is important because it is much harder to spin the other direction. As you are twisting your hand move your hand slightly up in one motion and release the ball straight up into the air.
  3. At first, don’t worry about the speed. Just try to get a good steady spin on the ball.
  4. Once you have consistent spin, you can try to put more power into it to increase the speed.

Step 3: Spinning Ball on Finger

Once you can get a good consistent spin, it’s time to go for it. Use one of the methods above to spin the ball into the air, be careful not to get too much height on it or it will bounce off of your finger or even hurt your finger.

As you release the ball into the air, extend the index finger of your dominant hand and move it upward along with the ball as it is traveling upward, until your finger comes in contact with the ball. By moving your finger slowly upward with the ball, you can gently contact the ball giving it a soft landing so it does not bounce off. Your finger should contact the ball on the bottom center of the ball.

Once your finger comes into contact with the ball, you may need to adjust the position of your hand slightly back and forth until the spinning ball is balanced on your finger. At that point, the momentum of the spinning ball will help to keep it balanced and you doing it!

See the photos below showing both the two-handed and the one-handed methods.

Spinning using the two-handed method.
Spinning using the one-handed method.

Step 4: Keeping the Momentum

Eventually, the ball will begin to slow down and lose momentum. Once it slows too much it will fall. You can keep the momentum going by slightly slapping or grazing the side of the ball with your free hand to keep it spinning. Make sure you do this lightly or you will knock the ball off of your finger.

Additional Resources

If you want to see a video that uses a similar method to the one above, take a look at this.

Final Words

That’s it! It seems simple, right? It can be for some and for others it may take a while to get the hang of it. It really depends on your level of coordination. If you have trouble at first, don’t get discouraged, keep trying and keep practicing. The more you do it, the better you will get.

Do you know any other cool tricks with a basketball? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

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