The current NBA lockout means basketball fans will have to take their hoop dreams into their own hands. Literally. Here, some tips on how to spin the ball on your finger Harlem Globetrotters-style.
Remember the three Ps
Patience, practice and more practice. Unlike the almighty slam-dunk, or scoring from the three-point line, finger spinning is a skill that almost anyone (read: even the short and/or non-athletically inclined) can master. "It's all about putting in the time," says Kenny "Blenda" Rodriguez, the Globetrotters' top dribbler, named for his ability to spin balls around so it looks like they're in a blender. Mr. Rodriguez recommends practising the trick consistently, "even if it's just for five minutes a day before you're going to bed." The key is to build up wrist strength and reflexes. Unfortunately this can't be done overnight, but unlike most training exercises it can be done in front of the TV.
Rotation, rotation, rotation
There are a few different ways to set the ball on its spin cycle. "I do it with one hand, but my teammate Scooter [Christensen, current world record-holder for longest time spinning a basketball on his head]likes to start with one hand on the bottom and one on the top," says Mr. Rodriguez. To get started, cup the bottom of the ball in the palm of your dominant hand (if using two hands place the second hand slightly off-centre on the top). Flick your wrist in the direction where the thumb will be leading – so, clockwise if you're holding the ball in your right hand, counterclockwise for your left. It's important to fully master your spin before moving to the next level. "The more you practise, the more you will build up strength in your wrist, the faster the ball will go and the more control you will have," he says. Work on this for a few days, just spinning the ball in your palm, then try launching it into the air and catching it again in your palm.
Just the tip
Once you've got mad spin skills, you can bring in your finger of choice. Most people prefer the index, but the thumb and the middle digit also work, so see which feels natural. Be sure to have good control over the ball so it doesn't go too high and come down too hard – this could land Peter Pointer in a cast for the rest of the season. "You want the ball to land gently on the tip, not the pad, of your finger," says Mr. Rodriguez. To ensure balance, it's important to catch the orb on its bottom centre. As long as it's spinning fast and straight enough, this location will be obvious. If you can't bend the ball to your will, simply return to spin school, then try again. When you're ready, cue the Sweet Georgia Brown (the official anthem of basketball trickery) and find someone to show off in front of.
And don't do this: Buy shiny new equipment. For most basketball tricks, the well-worn ball in your garage (with less-defined grooves) works better.
Special to the Globe and Mail