How to Play Defense in Basketball

There's a saying, "A good attack wins games, but a good defense wins championships." That's a very common statement when describing the most successful teams in basketball - at all levels of play. However, most players and coaches still don't make defense a top priority when developing their game. Why is that? To start with, learning how to play basketball defense is hard work, but you can do it. Sadly enough, most players and coaches aren't willing to put in the time and effort needed to become successful on the defensive end of the court. The other reason most players and coaches are not dedicated to improving their defensive game is that it isn't as fun as other aspects of the game. Yes - shooting, dribbling, passing and the other aspects of offense are often more enjoyable to teach, learn and practice, so that's where most players and coaches focus their time and effort. But in order to become complete and well-rounded in all aspects of the game, players and coaches must dedicate a portion of their time into learning how to play basketball defense. It's critical to their success!

The ten criteria listed below will help determine whether a player can be considered a complete defensive player.


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    Man to man in the open and Post defense. If your coach wants to run a zone, trap or whatever, it is his choice but ultimately it comes down to One man vs another man.
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    First you must develop the proper defensive stance, find out if your opponent is right handed or left handed and try to place one foot and one arm forward to try to force him to his weak side. With your hand in the middle, if he crosses over you will be in position to steal the ball.
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    You will then slide with him to wherever he goes all the while being aware of when he crosses over because that is your time to steal the ball.
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    If he decides to drive in, keep your body, not arms between them and the basket. if he goes up for the shot put your strong hand up and try to block the shot or at least distract him. if he is a lot taller put your hand in his face. Only jump if he jumps because he might pump fake.
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    In the post if he gets the ball you are already in trouble because he is only a few feet away from the basket so there are a couple of ways to start off.
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    3/4 defense which means that you put one arm in front of your man and try to knock the ball down if somebody tries to throw it to him.
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    If he is taller than you, try getting in front of him. Then the person passing might decide it is not worth the risk and if he does you can steal it easier but if he does catch it , they will be easily able to score. This is a gamble but a winning one if done right.
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    If he does get the ball in the post get totally behind him and get your BODY between him and the basket with and arm bar to his back and the opposite hand up. This way you lower his chances of making a hook. then when he shoots put both hands up and when he jumps then you jump and try to block the shot with your strong hand. Don't be afraid to bump him a little, but if the refs are calling everything adjust and don't do it.
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    Keep your hands up. For this increases the chance of blocking a pass or shot.


  • When the man you're guarding has the ball, keep your eye on his chest. He can fake with his head, the ball, etc., but not with his chest. And use your peripheral vision to keep track of what he's doing with the ball, what's going on on the court, etc.
  • Try to trick your opponent. Use fakes just like you would on offense to force him into doing something he doesn't want to do with the ball.
  • Use a wide stance, for good balance, good reaction in either direction, and so it's more difficult for the opponent to get around you. Look at how wide Dennis Rodman's stance was.
  • The criteria listed above are helpful for coaches and players alike. How so? Well, coaches can use these criteria to help develop their approach to the defensive game. They can use it as a foundation for success. Players can use this information to help them focus on the importance of becoming a defensive specialist! Again, they can use this as their foundation for success on the defensive end of the court!
  • In order to improve their defensive game, players must become completely dedicated to this aspect of basketball.
  • Find out which hand a player favors when dribbling, and overplay on that side to force him to use his weaker hand, and to drive to his weaker side.
  • Adjust to what the refs are calling, if they are calling everything don't take huge swats or things like that, if they aren't calling anything it allows you to be more physical.
  • Do not move if you are screened by another player of the opposite team. It is a foul.


  • Players should have a solid foundation of the defensive fundamentals before moving on to more advanced techniques and strategies.

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Categories: Basketball