The Basketball Dunk

Practice Regimen for the Perfect Slam Dunk

Basketball player doing a slam dunk

A well executed dunk is the most spectacular way to score in basketball. Not for nothing as not every player is physically able to dunk. In the following article we will tell you what makes a good dunk and how you can learn how to dunk.

What is a dunk?
What are the advantages of a dunk in basketball?
Achieving your first slam dunk
... practice with a lowered basket
... adjust ball size
... correct jumping technique
... the one-handed slam dunk
... practicing ball handling
Can shorter players learn to dunk?
Exercises to improve your jumping power
Other dunking techniques

What is a dunk?

A dunk is a type of basketball shot where a player jumps high enough to "dunk" the ball into the basket. The ball does not leave the player's hand. Officially, this is called a "slam dunk", which is typically shortened to "dunk". The dunk is especially popular in US-based leagues.

Not every player can dunk. After all, the top of the rim is exactly 10 feet (3.05 meters) above the court. Therefore, a successful dunk not only earns the player the adoration of the fans but also his opponents. A player who can dunk is harder to control and can more easily resist block attempts, which makes him an overall more dangerous player.

A successful slam dunk might be a spectacular shot, but just like a regular field goal it is only worth 2 points.


What are the advantages of a slam dunk in basketball?

There are several reasons for basketball players to incorporate jams into their arsenal. Here are some of them:

  • Stronger offense: When performing a successful slam dunk, a player is usually to vault over his opponents block attempts.
  • Earn respect: Not every player can dunk. Executing a successful dunk helps you assert your position on the court, fires up your own team and, above all, intimates the opposing team.
  • More varied offense: Learning how to dunk can teach you new movement patterns which ultimately results in a more varied offense.

Performing your first successful jam in basketball

If you want to learn how to slam dunk, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Practice with a lowered basket

When you first start training for a slam dunk, practising with a lowered basket can be a great tool. You will see results more quickly and you can progress more easily by raising the basket bit by bit until you reach the typical basket height of 10 feet (3.05m).

Player dunking with basketball
A successful slam dunk not only let's you leap your opponents block attempts but it also earns you their respect.

Adjust ball size

A smaller basketball can also help you learn how to dunk. As a smaller ball is easier to handle and control, you can better focus on the jump itself.

Only use a smaller ball when training specifically for the dunk so you don't get used to it too much. Once you are able to dunk with a smaller ball, you should try to move on to regular sized balls.

Correct jumping technique

Some players prefer to jump off of one foot while others use both feet. There are no set rules so go with what's more comfortable for you. This can change depending on your age, weight and build. The most important question for you should be which technique lets you jump higher. When training for a slam dunk go with your personal preference. The following guidelines might help you with that.

One-foot jump

With this technique you are only in contact with the ground for a very short time and your active leg has to quickly generate a lot of force to lift up your entire body. The lower your body weight, the higher you are able to jump. Therefore, jumping off of one foot is usually more suited for lighter, leaner and faster players.


  • Stronger offense: This technique makes slam dunks harder to block.
  • Practicability: This technique is easy to integrate into your game as the sequence of steps is similar to a traditional lay-up.
  • Cover more distance: This technique not only allows you to jump high but also further than when you jump with both feet.


  • Requires stronger ball handling: When using this jumping technique, the slam dunk is usually executed with one arm. This requires excellent ball handling in order to not lose the ball.
  • Impact on knees: Only one leg has to generate enough force to lift your entire body up. As you are only in contact with the ground for a short period of time, you can not generate this force from your hips, leaving all the work to your knees.

Basketball for slam dunk
Depending on your age, weight and physique you have to decide which jumping technique is right for your slam dunk.

Jumping with both feet

When jumping with both feet, you are in contact with the ground for much longer. This leaves enough time for your leg and hip muscles to generate power for the jump. Jumping with both feet is therefore more suitable for stronger players.


  • It's showtime: Players who use this technique are often able to dunk from a standing position which earns them admiration and respect.
  • Act fast: Players who use this technique don't need a lot of preparation time as it can be executed from a standing position.
  • Easy on the joints:This technique has a lower risk of injury as the jumping force is generated from the muscles putting less stress on the joints.


  • Easier to defend: This technique requires a slightly longer wind-up time, which gives the defender more time to react.
  • Harder to execute: This technique is harder to execute from a run as it requires one more step than a regular lay-up.

Tip: Older players are generally advised to jump with both feet as this requires less flexibility. As muscles tend to stiffen up the older you get, jumping with both feet brings less risk of injury compared to jumping with one foot.


The one-handed slam jam

While two-handed slam dunks are more common, it is considered a more advanced technique. It is therefore recommended to start learning slam dunks with one hand. Once you can do those, you can start working on dunking with both hands.

Practicing ball handling

Your slam dunk technique is only as good as your ball handling. While you are in the air, your arm is extended. Maintaining full control over the ball at this point is paramount to successful completion of the slam dunk basketball manoeuvre.

In this video you will learn how to effectively train and improve your ball handling:

Can shorter players learn to dunk?

Most players who can dunk are usually very tall, very light or both.

Both attributes can help you achieve a slam dunk. The most important factor, however, is a player's jumping power. Therefore, shorter players can also learn to dunk. A lower bodyweight can certainly help you with this.

Legendary: The dunk of death

At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games 6'6"(1.98 m) tall Vince Carter managed to jump over the 7'2" (2.18 m) tall center of the French national team, Frédéric Weis and ferociously dunked the ball. Carters spectacular dunk propelled Team USA on to a 106:94 victory over France, eliminating them from the competition. French media therefore dubbed this dunk „le dunk de la mort“ ("the dunk of death").

Exercises to improve your jumping power

When building up your jumping power, it is important to strengthen your hip and leg muscles as these are directly involved in generating the power necessary for jumping. Exercises like squats, lunges or weight training is recommended. This video will show you various exercises with which you can improve your strength for your slam dunk:

Other dunking techniques

Once you have learned the traditional basketball slam dunk, you can also train variations on it, to make it harder for your opponents to block you and earn you even more admiration.

Here are a few examples:

  • 360° dunk: For this type of dunk the player rotates 360° in mid air before completing the dunk.
  • Reverse dunk: In a reverse dunk, the player turns his back towards the basket in mid air, moves the ball over his head and into the basket.
  • Windmill dunk: In this variation, the ball is brought to the abdomen and then the windmill motion is started by moving the ball below the waist according to the length of the player's fully extended arm. Then following the rotation of the outstretch arm, the ball is moved in a circular motion, typically moving from the front towards the back, and then slammed through the rim.
  • Between the legs slam: From a run, the player jumps with one foot and raises the other leg. While airborne, they transfer the ball from one hand to the other beneath the raised leg before completing the dunk.
  • Backscratcher:During the jump, the ball is raised above, and often behind the player's head for a wind-up before slamming the ball down into the net at the apex of the jump. The one-handed version of this move is known as a "tomahawk".

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Photo credits: Title picture: © gettyimages/skynesher, Picture 1: © gettyimages/South_agency, Picture 2: © gettyimages/stevanovicigor.