The difference defense makes.

Defense in basketball is by and large a plain and unspectacular process.

Everyone likes the crossovers, the pullup-in-your-face-like-Kobe jumpers, the three ball, the double clutch, the alley oop and of course the dunk. Most video highlights are about offense, punctuated by the occasional spectacular block.

Seriously, who wants to watch a highlight that consists of five guys hustling like maniacs, with the shot clock hitting zero and the possession lost?

  • Good individual defense consists of staying in front of your man, forcing him out of his usual comfortable spots and making him settle for forced shots or difficult layups. Or in a very ideal situation, steal the ball or block that damn shot.
  • Team defense on the other hand is sadly an invisible process to the average spectator. You stay aware of how the offense is flowing, and hustle to help defend an attacker. You box out hard, just so that your teammate can get the rebound. Gritty little things, it’s all about closing out on their options, forcing the shot clock (if possible) and getting the defensive rebound.

Sounds boring doesn’t it? Solid defense is about good footwork, not sticking your hand into the opponent, staying in front and denying them the space they need to operate. Anticipating the offense is a tough job, since the defense is always a step behind in reading where the ball goes. As if things weren’t hard enough, there comes an extra level of difficulty; the icing on the cake, so to speak:

Not fouling.

By fouling, you have just given your opponent a chance to reset the possession. Be it an intentional foul or not, every bit of team hustle before that has been invalidated by that whistle. So it is absolutely essential that fouling be avoided.

The exception of course, would be if you were looking to cut their possession short with team fouls to give, or if you needed to stop an easy layup in transition.

Boring and difficult as it is, I like defense, especially individual defense. There is a satisfaction to closing their options out, and to know that you did a good job in forcing them into a lousy shot. I’ve probably written about this several times over the years, but the feeling of good defense is just, that.

Team defense is another tale altogether. Five guys have to work together, which is often difficult on pickup games. Talking on defense is not something everyone does, and that unfortunately is the key to good team defense. For example, do you switch on a pick or do you go over/under? What happens during zone defense, should you run out to the shooter, trusting that your teammate has got your defensive area covered?

Talking, listening, moving together and trusting your teammates to work together is the one sure way to execute good defense. Basketball is all about putting the ball through the hoop. Without defense though, you’re never going to catch up to the other team on scoring, or maintain your lead for that matter.

Remember how that phrase goes?

Offense comes and goes, but you can always play defense.

Offense is a fickle mistress. Defense, however is something that you can bring every game with energy and hustle. So don’t forget about defense.

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