How To Dunk A Basketball

Dunks in basketball are viewed by many as the most exciting play in the game. What seems like such an easy feat to pull off for a tall professional is a dream for many others. While not everyone will have the opportunity to dunk at some point in their life, there are ways to make improvements and increase the chances of success. This is a step-by-step guide on how to dunk, providing tips for those trying to pull the feet off if they are incredibly close.

Vertical Jump Training

Other than merely having natural size and athletic ability, the number one factor in being able to dunk comes down to having a solid vertical jump. Look up dunking programs, and all of them will focus on improving leaping ability before getting into the technicalities of other dunking aspects. It makes sense because a high vertical leap can make up for many other deficiencies.

Everyone has a slightly different approach to vertical jump training, but some basics do not require much time or money to start. It does take dedication multiple times a week, but those wanting to see improvement will find time to put in the work. Below are some of the most effective drills to improve your vertical jump.

1. Squats

Leg squats are going to help build strength where a person needs it most for jumping. It does not have to be a heavy weight all the time, but enough for people to do 8 to 10 reps at a pretty consistent pace. A player might jump multiple times in the game, so this is not about building up to a max. Players want to have leaping ability and explosiveness, so higher reps are always recommended.

2. Lunges

Both regular and reverse lunges can help with building up calf muscles significantly. To start with, using just bodyweight is a great way for people to get an idea of just how much in shape they are. If that is not that much of a challenge, carry weight during the process to help out as well.

Just like with squats, lunges should have enough weight to be a challenge, but not so much that it is tough to do more than a few reps at a time. Go deep with the lunges to also provide a bit of a stretch in the leg muscles, as those will come in handy.

3. Jumping Rope

This schoolyard activity is a great exercise for people looking to improve their jumping ability. It helps particularly with explosiveness, as people are doing a lot of quick jumps while also getting an arm workout. The great thing about jumping rope is the versatility in location.

There are different variations of jumping rope to switch things up. Some will go for speed, while others will purchase a weighted jump rope to target other muscles.

Dunking Technique

The next step in pulling off dunks involves having the right technique. Some people have very high vertical leaps, but they do not have specifics down to jump in a basketball way. There is actual technique that goes into jumping on the basketball floor, and this can be the difference between dunking easily, and struggling to get anything down with a level of consistency.

Jumping Off 1 Foot Or 2 Feet

Without thinking, a lot of athletes have a preference in the way they jump. There are 1-foot jumpers and 2-foot jumpers in all sports, and both can work as far as dunking is concerned. The best players are capable of jumping either way, but the vast majority of people should focus on one way or the other to improve their technique.

Jumping with one leg is a more natural way to launch in the air, and it is faster. Players who are exceptionally fast and want to develop a natural way to get to the basket and dunk in one motion should focus on 1-foot dunking. Most people will jump off of their strong leg, which means they will use their off-hand to put the dunk down.

Two-foot dunkers tend to use both hands when going up for a dunk, and it takes a little bit longer for those players to gather. It is recommended more for bigger and heavier players, as they can use their muscle strength instead of only relying on the quickness to get up to the basket. It might not be as easy to pull off in the game, but it might be the only way players can get that extra bit of boost.

Getting That First Dunk Down

So the vertical leap is there, and the type of jump is determined. This is great, but it eventually comes down to execution once the ball and the hand is above the rim. Players who are just barely dunking only have a short amount of time to throw it down, so they must be doing everything correctly to be ready.

Controlling The Basketball

Players who can palm the basketball have a great advantage when it comes to dunking. Not only can they rely on just one arm, but they do not have to worry about controlling the ball when flying through the air. That does not mean that people with smaller hands can’t dunk; they just need to be more creative.

If palming the basketball is difficult, think of other ways to make it work. For example, some players will cuff the ball until the last possible second, and then roll it to their fingertips to throw the dunk down.

There is also the option of receiving a pass or bouncing it off of something to put the basketball near the rim. Some players will throw their first dunk down by throwing a pass to themselves off the backboard, or bouncing it off the floor and time in a jump up.

This might not help as much in a game, but a dunk is a dunk for a lot of people. With such a small margin of error, it is important to try out a few different techniques and see which one opens up the biggest window.

Staying Safe

A lot can go wrong with a dunk, and plenty of people have injured themselves trying to get one down. Putting too much stress on the legs is a common issue, but there is also a lot I can go wrong near the rim.

It is important to stay safe when trying to execute dunks. The rim is a hard piece of metal, and they can do some damage to a person’s hand or arm if they are not careful. Do not recklessly throw the hand at the rim, or there will be some consequences.


Timing is such a big deal when it comes to trying to dunk. Not only do people need to get their steps down when they are on the ground, but they need to rise up and maximize the jump at the top.

On the way to work with timing is to jump without a basketball at first. Some will progress as they use smaller basketballs so they control the ball a bit better. There are a lot of people who have the vertical leap to dunk, but the timing is off, and they do not realize it. Once the timing is down a bit more, it makes life so much easier to execute.

A Final Word On Dunking

Those who are persistent enough to work on dunking will eventually maximize their potential at some point. If the margin for error is small, it is going to take perfect execution to get a dunk down. Everyone would love to evolve into a player who can dunk with ease and not have to follow perfect technique, but that is just not the reality for the vast majority of players.

By following the steps above, players have their best chance of getting a dunk down. Develop muscle memory, and it becomes very easy to replicate the dunk and make it seem easier and easier. Of course, growing and maturing also helps for the developing basketball player.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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