6 Basketball Layup Variations, Part 4: Backhand Layup

Backhand Layup

The backhand layup is the signature go-to of NBA All-Star Steve Nash. Yet its emphasis on footwork and the finish cause it to be misunderstood and generally neglected.

For a backhand layup, you shoot the ball using your inside hand, making it appear like a standard layup. The difference is that when you release the ball, instead of your hand following through across your body, you shoot away from your body. If you're having trouble extending out and shooting toward the basket, slightly flick your wrist toward the rim. Do not twist your hand. You are not trying to spin the ball up.

Don't use the backhand layup as an excuse to avoid your weak hand. (Make it stronger with 18 Basketball Dribbling Drills That Develop the Fundamentals.) The main purpose of this variation is to enable shots from under a defender's arm when he or she is expecting the ball from the opposite side.

If you're by yourself in the paint, use a regular layup. With the backhand layup, avoid twisting your body to shoot. You should be able to move straight, just like when going in for a regular layup.

Backhand Layup

Start with attacking to the right:

  • Begin in triple threat position at the top of the key with the ball on your right hip.
  • Jab short and hard with your left foot at the left block. Keep the ball on your hip.
  • Step across your body towards the right block with your left foot and dribble with your right hand. The ball should hit at the same time as your foot.
  • Step with your right foot and dribble.
  • Step with your left foot and gather the ball. As you grab the ball in your right hand, bring your left hand over and slap the ball. Bring the ball to your chest.
  • Step with your right foot and jump up. Bring your left knee up and shoot underhand with your left hand.
  • Your two dribbles will be low and quick and even with your steps. 

Keys for Success

  • Shoot softly but get the ball all the way up and off the top corner of the square.
  • Be strong with the ball and make sure not to swing it. Swinging the ball gives the defense a better chance at knocking it away and means you have to do more to ensure you shoot straight.
  • Don't take small, choppy steps. Take long, powerful steps to cover more space faster. Speed and quickness are always advantages in basketball.
  • Many coaches tell players to slow down in order to score. I don't believe in this. Players never hear me say "slow down." Instead, practice going as fast as you can, once you have the form and rhythm down. Why give opponents a chance of catching up to you or getting in better defensive position.
  • Practice your off hand just as much. Neglecting your other side prevents you from being the best player you can be. Everything you do on your weak side will probably feel awkward. Remember that the muscles in one side of your body work the same as on the other side; they just have to be trained. Try to ignore the discomfort and focus on mirroring the same movements. You may be surprised at how quickly you can develop both sides with these steps.

Drills to Practice the Backhand Layup

In addition to getting shots up, Pivot Shooting works on your footwork and balance.

  • Start on the block with your back to the baseline
  • Spin the ball out so it comes back to you, but so you can jump to it and catch it at the elbow
  • Catch the ball with both hands, facing forward, with your feet balanced and your body low
  • Reverse Pivot on your outside foot and shoot
  • Reverse Pivot on your inside foot and shoot
  • Turn/Forward Pivot on your outside foot and shoot, making sure not to fade away
  • Turn/Forward Pivot on your inside foot and shoot, making sure not to fade away

After you finish your jump shots, use a shot fake and drive to the basket with one dribble. Finish with either a normal underhand or overhand layup or with a backhand or reverse layup. Work on every finish you know. Watch the video below to see the backhand layup in action.

Catch up on the rest of this layup series:

Photo: USA TODAY Sports


Mike Meister Mike Meister - Founder of Thunder Sports Institute (Irving, Tex.), Mike Meister has coached players and teams from the youth recreation level up to the professional ranks across the United States. He is currently the head coach and general manager of the Southwest Texas Mustangs in the United Basketball League.
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