Every now and then, you’ll hear someone say about a basketball player: “he’s got really good hands”. (Or she.) What they’re talking about when they’re talking about “hands” is the ability to catch the ball, especially the ability to catch a ball that’s not so easily in reach, or to come up with a ball that seems out of reach. Like you’ve got glue on your fingers or some magic, magnetic relation to the ball. Slurp! Whoosh! Ball’s in my hands. A cartoon character or animation figure whose arm and hands extend and there, like an apple picked from a tree, is the ball.
Went to the “new Celtics'” game yesterday versus the Cavs at The Garden. About the only thing of interest (unless you call LeBron not playing interesting, which it is, but in the totally reverse way) was the play of Glenn “Big Baby” Davis, their rookie 2nd round pick. He was active on the boards, threw a couple good passes, leaned heavily on post defense, took a charge (and had another that was wrongly called a block) and even looked like he knew the plays better than Eddie House. He was enough of a force that Mike Brown, coach of the Cavs, was asked to comment on him. One of the things he said, of course, was that Big Baby has “great hands”. And he does. No fumbling, no passes lost streaming out-of-bounds.
So, how does he do it? Is it genetic? (And therefore if you seem to not have great hands you should give up?) Probably somewhat. But what it’s really about is vision, the coordination of hands and eyes, and the “feel” in your fingers. Your eyes determine the place in space that the ball, in flight, occupies. Your brain in coordination with your hands puts them in just the right place at just the right time to snare the ball. Does “Big Baby” think about all this? Of course not. He’s just playing, ‘havin’ fun’ (as they say)! He’s learned how to have great hands, through countless hours of ball games and throws and catches. His brain and eyes, arms and hands have gotten used to predicting it all.
What can you do to make your “hands” better? Play “wall ball“, for one. Another is practice catching a basketball thrown (or passed) from far away but catch it with just one hand, not allowing the ball to touch your body at all on the catch. Practice catching with each hand, concentrating on making soft contact with the padded parts of your fingers. This also forces you to watch the ball all the way into your hand, a good idea, a good fundamental to return to if you ever find yourself dropping a pass or two.
Now you can be a Big Baby, too!