How to dunk

If you’re given a task to single out one move, one aspect of basketball game that separates this game from all the others – what would that be? If your answer is dunk – you’re not alone. In fact, probably 99% of people would say that dunk is the most recognizable and most appreciated aspect of the game.

From Wilt Chamberlain’s dominant sky reach, through Dr. J’s signature one-handed hammers, all the way to Michael Jordan’s hang-time in the air – dunks have become some sort of holy thing in the game. Those who possess the ability to dunk with style are considered the chosen ones to play the game.

But as beautiful and profound dunking looks when you watch those numerous compilations on the internet, dunking the basketball is not an easy job at all. A perfect dunk requires from player combined efforts in several physical aspects, and only perfect coordination of body movement can lead to dunking the ball in a style.

For this reason, BasketballPhantom prepared for you a special edition – how to dunk like a true pro. Stay with us and find out what the elements that make a dunk are, and how to develop them.

Elements of dunk

As I said earlier, dunking the ball in a proper way requires a combination of several different aspects. While those aspects could be divided in many ways, for the sake of understanding it perfectly, we decided to keep it clear and simple for you.

So, let’s break down the dunking process. No matter which type of dunk you want to perform, these are the most fundamental parts every dunk possesses – grip (palming), leap, maneuvering, and landing. One last element is timing, and it’s present throughout the whole process.

Now it’s time to analyze every aspect mentioned above. We’ll talk about each one in some detail, and advise you with some tips on how to develop and improve at them. Let’s start.

The Grip (palming the ball)

For the first step in the process of learning how to dunk properly, you need to ensure that you have complete control over the ball all the time. Instability in holding the ball is not an option if you want to dunk, so you should make sure you’re in control all the time.

A good grip of the ball is not always easy. Some players don’t have required hand size to palm the ball firmly, and even if they do, controlling the momentum of the ball after catching it off the dribble in not easy.

Luckily there are some things you can do to solve these problems.

Palming the Ball

Tip1: practice with a smaller ball for start. By taking a smaller ball in your hands to perform dunks, you’ll get the feeling of how and when you should catch the ball. An important thing to mention is that you should use smaller ball only to practice palming and grip – don’t get used to dribbling with a smaller ball, for that use regular size. Just hold the ball in your hand throughout the whole process.

Tip2: Place the ball above your hand. If your hand is too small to palm the ball, the thing you should practice is simply taking the ball after the last dribble and use momentum to place your hand beneath the ball. This way you’ll have better control of it in the air, but be careful – the ball is not firm in your hands, so it could wiggle out in mid-air if you don’t handle it correctly. So practice this move until you perfect it.

Tip3: Practice with dribbling only after you overcome the grip issues. For start, don’t bother with dribbling – just learn how to hold the ball, so approach the basket with as many steps as you need with the ball in your hands (traveling is not counting on practice, don’t worry). When you finally get comfortable with the ball in your hands, then start with dribbling prior to dunk.

The Leap

Without a good jump, there is no dunk. It’s simple. We don’t need to mention that, in order to dunk the ball, you need to have high leaping ability. But vertical leap is not enough to become elite dunker, so you have to work on your technique as well.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who knows your body the best. So it’s up to you to decide how and where you’ll propel in the air. Some players are better jumping on one leg, some like to use both. It’s your choice. The important thing is to build forward momentum and elevate far enough from the basket to use the momentum to carry you upward.

Tip1: Practice and find out where near the rim is your best jumping point. Try without the ball first, just elevate from different positions and figure out the spots where your hand is the highest above the rim as it can be.

Tip2: Improve your vertical jump. Stay with this site, and look here some exercises that will improve your vertical jump. We also provide you with the right outfit for the practice, as we covered some basketball shoes that help with your elevation. Also, when we were talking about basketball strength training, we mentioned plyometric exercises. This type of training is a great way to work on your jump, but also the flexibility that is required for dunking. You can check out some of the best plyometric exercises for you vertical jump here.

Maneuvering in the air

After you learned to hold the ball safely, and worked on your jump to perfection, you can start practicing all sort of mid-air moves. As you know, there are lots of different dunking variations, and each one has its own specific requests regarding positioning of the ball and your body in air.

For start, practice the most basic one-handed dunk. Dunking with two hands is more difficult and requires a larger reach, so it’s good to start with the basics. The thing you want to pay attention to in the beginning is how to perfectly position your body in order to get the best reach. For example, keeping your other hand down when dunking with one hand will improve your aerodynamics and overall reach.

This part of dunking process is the most creative one – this is where new dunks can be born. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with your body and the ball once you’re in the air. If you’re into dunking, you probably saw a huge number of variations so far, so we don’t have to guide you a lot in that way.

But, just in case, here are some explained examples. Every dunk type is different and requires various body movements in the air. So it is very important to practice a lot, and be careful – it’s not easy in the beginning. Don’t put the dunk ahead of your safety. If you feel like you’re not gonna pull it out, just land safely, and don’t worry, you’ll try again.


No matter how badly you want to perform some flashy dunk, the most important thing is your safety. It’s not rare that players get injured during dunk attempts, even on practice, and the most vulnerable part of your body in the process is your ankles and knees.

Landing properly is of great importance for you in dunking process, and often overlooked when talking about dunk. So we advise you to pay close attention to how you land after a dunk – especially during the game when you’re not the only one on the court.

Proper landing usually comes natural, but in game situations, there might happen some unexpected movement, whether your guard clinches you, or there are players beneath you while you’re in the air. So here are some important things to have in mind.

Tip1: Land on both feet. When you’re high in the air, the power your legs have to absorb when landing is big. So when you land only on one leg, the power that leg has to absorb is doubled. This could lead, over time, to injury. So try to land on both of your legs after every dunk. It is also desirable to bend your legs in your knees a bit, which will additionally absorb the landing.

Tip2: Don’t hang on the rim! In basketball today, hanging on the rim is sanctioned by the officials. And the reason for that is not only damage you impose for the rim and construction. Grabbing the rim after the dunk kills your momentum, but since your feet are still free, they naturally continue moving forward. This may cause great risk when landing, as you are off the balance and could fall on your back. So be careful!

And there you have it, our guide on how to dunk. Dunking is for sure the most attractive part of the game. But, as you can see in this article, there are a lot of things you need to cover to perform it with style and safely. As always, we’re here to answer all of your questions and read your comments, so feel free to leave them in the section below. And now, start practicing, and we’ll see you above the rim!