The Sporting Iconoclast
Challenging the conventional wisdom, sowing new ideas, sending some old ones to the compost heap

If the bank shot is dead, the bank pass has yet to be born

By Ed Cohen

In basketball you see the bounce pace and chest pass and variations on each, like the lob, the hand-off and the alley-oop.

There’s one pass, however, you almost never see, even though it’s legal and could be a potent weapon:

The bank pass.

A pass intentionally banked off the backboard.

A basketball backboard is 6 feet wide and 3½ feet tall. That’s about the size of a smaller standard-size pool table. Like the pool table, a backboard provides opportunities for creative use of geometry. Yet, other than for layups, the backboard seldom comes into play in shooting anymore. And it’s almost never used intentionally for passing.

The exception is in showboating when player on a fast break intentionally tosses the ball up off the backboard for a trailing teammate to snatch out of the air and slam.

With a little imagination and a lot of practice, however, the backboard could be used for much more.

The most obvious application would be for moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other. The defense inevitably cheats toward the strong side of the court, the side with the ball on it. A team desiring to move the ball to the opposite side typically has three options:

1. Swing it around the perimeter through several players;
2. Throw a so-called “skip pass,” a rapid-fire overhead pass over the defense; or
3. Pass the ball into a player set up in the low post, who can then relay it to a teammate on the far side of the floor.

A faster alternative would be to bank the ball off the backboard. A bank-pass thrown at an oblique angle to the background could be used to get the ball to a teammate in the far wing for corner. A sharper angle could be employed as a diversionary tactic on a feed to a player driving down the lane.

Such passes may sound like a recipe for turnovers. But if practiced diligently, the bank pass could be a devastating maneuver, especially until defenses learn to defend it. If that’s even possible.

When the ball is thrown toward the hoop, the defense inevitably drifts toward the basket, creating room for offensive players out on the floor. A well-executed bank-pass could yield open looks for quick catch-and-shoots.

Looking for a new offensive tactic, coach? You just found one to work on in the offseason.

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