The Alley Oop Basketball Skill and How to Perfect It

When we grow up watching our favorite basketball players, they seem like superstars. As we get older and, perhaps, start to play the sport ourselves, we often find ourselves wanted to do what they do. This means that there are certain kinds of shots, signature moves, and the like, that people have loved to learn during their training and have even made it all their own with new elements. One of the most iconic basketball moves, though, has got to be the alley oop, it is a move that involves incredible skill and teamwork and thus, deserves to be in a category all its own.

To get started, it helps to know the basics of this incredibly iconic basketball move and the history of the move is also incredibly fascinating. We will conclude the article with tips on how you can work to perfect your alley oop, or alley-oop, through tips and hints that will help you really tighten up your game.

An alley oop is a move in basketball, of course, that takes place between two players on the offense. To execute the alley oop, one player throws the ball off the backboard while another player—usually one with a very high vertical jump—is charged with jumping up and dunking the ball through the hoop before his feet reach the ground. This is a stunning play to watch and no matter how many times you see it, a well-executed alley oop truly is a thing of beauty. A lot of skill and chemistry is required for this be executed successfully. An alley oop takes teamwork, precision passing and impeccable timing.

So, now that we have a basic idea of what an alley oop is, mechanically speaking, let’s touch on the history of this incredible move. What is a vital part of the alley oop, the dunk, started to be seen a lot in the ‘50s and is now in the basketball glossary. It has been executed to perfection in the basketball game with famous players like Wilt Chamberlain (at Kansas University), Bill Russell (at University of San Francisco), and Johnny Green (at Michigan State University) for grabbing shots off that went off the backboard and dunking them through the hoop. The ubiquity and popularity of this move later required the tightening of rules and the initiation of the goaltending rule.

When it comes to the first actually alley oop, it is really hard to determine, but there are many who credit brothers Al and Gerald Tucker from  Baptist University as being the first when they played college ball in the mid-1960s. There are others, who feel that a lob pass was a vital requirement for a true alley oop move the first real alley oop to the 1970s. Those in this camp believe that David Thompson of North Carolina State University was the first to truly execute the move with two different players, Monte Towe and Tim Stoddard. It should be noted though that, at this time, dunking was illegal in college basketball, so Thompson had to just let the ball go gently through the hoop.

During the various periods of different types of regulations on the dunk, the alley oop has still maintained its lore, though, in the college ranks, this is mostly done in the vein that Thompson had to make do with in the ‘70s. Some teams made the alley oop a signature part of their game and it really was effective at boosting the team’s popularity. The pros, it should be noted, did not have any such compunction against dunking and so was in the NBA that the really good, classic alley oops, with that dunk finish, can be seen in all its glory.

In fact, since the 1990s, the alley oop has been one of the most common staples that teams will bring out to give their fans a bit of that flair. As the alley oop became more and more a part of the game, coaches even began to draw up plays where the alley oop was the actual planned goal of the play, rather than something off the cuff that happens when an opportunity opens up or someone messes up a little.

The origin of the term alley oop is a bit confusing and convoluted, but basically, it started as a French term, allez hop, which a circus acrobat would cry before making their leap. It became alley oop in America through its use of a cartoon in the 1930s. In sports, the term was actually originally used in football. It was used in by the San Francisco 49ers to describe a type of high arcing pass. It was also used to describe “The Catch” between Dwight Clark and Joe Montana.

Performing an alley oop yourself is no easy feat, but it is certainly not impossible either. It takes a lot (and we mean, a LOT) of practice and you have to have two people that have the right skills to perform and execute. You need someone who can pass with precision and has great timing, as well as hand-eye coordination. You also need someone that has a high vertical leap that can get those high back of the rim rebounds to bring down and dunk. One thing the person who will be doing the dunking needs to practice a lot is catching the ball above the rim and dunking.

It is also helpful to create some sort of eye or hand signal to your partner so that they know when you are about to begin the alley oop. Don’t get too creative at the start. Find a place on the court and work until you can successfully execute an alley oop from that part of the floor. Only once you have perfected this area should you move on to another part of the court, where you should remain until you have that down pat as well. As the thrower, you need to make a strong chest pass that will reach its apex at the height of your partner’s vertical leap. After that, it just takes lots and lots of practice to get all the mechanics right.