When you hear the word "shimmy," your mind might dart to a dance floor rather than a basketball court. But in the world of hoops, a shimmy can be just as dazzling as any dance move. Let's break down this move that keeps both players and fans on their toes.

What is a Shimmy in basketball?

This move is typically used by a player with the ball to throw off a defender’s timing or to create space for a shot. It's not about shaking your hips but rather giving your shoulders a quick shake. The shoulder shimmy is a classic example where the player holding the ball quickly rotates their shoulders back and forth to mislead the defender about their next move.

Imagine you're watching a skilled guard with the ball. As the defender squares up, the guard performs a swift shoulder shimmy, causing the defender to hesitate or lean in the opposite direction. This split-second of confusion can open up opportunities for the guard to take a shot or drive with the ball.

Why do players use the shimmy? It’s simple. In the heat of the game, a well-executed shimmy can make the defender spin the opposite way, opening up a clear shot. It’s not just about the flash; it’s a strategic move to gain an advantage.

Shimmy vs. Spin

While the shimmy and the spin might sound like dance-off contenders, in basketball, they serve very different purposes. The spin move is all about using your body to physically maneuver around a defender, often involving a complete 360-degree turn. The shimmy, on the other hand, is more about deception. It's a mental game, using minimal movement for maximum confusion.

Consider a scenario where a player uses both in a single play: the shimmy to freeze the defender and the spin to glide past them for a layup. It’s like watching a chess game where every move is calculated, but with the added thrill of athletic prowess.

When to Shimmy

Timing is everything in basketball, and knowing when to pull off a shimmy can make all the difference. It’s most effective when used by players who are known for their quick shots or sudden drives to the basket. This reputation makes defenders more anxious and susceptible to such tricks.

A well-timed shimmy can be particularly devastating in one-on-one situations or when the game clock is winding down, and the pressure is at its peak. It’s not just a move but a statement, often followed by a crucial basket that sends the crowd into a frenzy.

Famous Shimmy Moments

The shimmy has been popularized by several NBA stars who have used it not just as a move but as a signature flourish that delights fans. Perhaps the most famous proponent of the basketball shimmy is Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who often adds a little shoulder action after sinking a particularly challenging shot, much to the delight (or dismay) of fans and players alike.

Curry shimmy
Source: https://www.skysports.com/nba/news/36244/11693426/stephen-curry-fires-golden-state-warriors-to-game-1-win-over-los-angeles-clippers

These moments are not just about showing off; they inject a bit of fun into the game and can be a psychological tactic to unnerve opponents. After all, a relaxed player who can afford to shimmy in the middle of a tense game is a player who’s in control.

Shimmying Beyond the Court

The concept of a shimmy can apply to various sports where misdirection and sudden movements are key. In football, a quarterback might use a shoulder fake to mislead defenders about the direction of a pass. In soccer, a quick shoulder drop can precede a sudden change in direction to bypass an opponent.

The shimmy, therefore, transcends basketball, embodying the art of deception and quick thinking that defines many sports. It’s a reminder that sometimes, a little shake can make all the difference.

Basketball Shimmy FAQ

Browse through the frequently asked questions to learn more.

Can any player perform a shimmy in basketball?

Yes, any player can attempt a shimmy, but it's most effective when executed by those who are already threats from various spots on the court, making the deception more believable.

What is the main purpose of a shimmy in basketball?

To create space for a shot by misleading the defender.

Is the shimmy considered a legal move in basketball?

Absolutely, it’s a legal and common tactic used in games.

Is the shimmy considered unsportsmanlike?

Not typically. While it can be seen as showboating, most players and fans view it as a fun and integral part of the game's psychological aspect.

Has anyone ever been penalized for shimmying?

No, shimmying is not against basketball rules, though it must be timed well and not interfere with gameplay or sportsmanship standards.


The shimmy in basketball is a strategic, deceptive move used by players to outsmart defenders and create shooting opportunities. It involves a quick shoulder fake to mislead the opponent. It’s used effectively by players to create shooting opportunities or to simply add a dash of flair to their game. Whether it’s a strategic move or a spontaneous celebration, the shimmy adds an exciting layer to basketball.