The Art of Defense in Basketball

by : Jimmy Cox

In playing basketball, each player must be conditioned to change quickly from offense to defense. This mental trick must be learned before any kind of defense can become operative. Defense is a state of mind. It can be passive, active, weak-kneed, indefinite, or masculine and aggressive. To perform offensive skills properly, an athlete must be relaxed and confident. To execute defensive skills properly, he must be the very antithesis of relaxation.

He must be tense, coiled, and aggressive. He must be in a fighting frame of mind. He must be combative. This switching mentally from offense to defense requires time and experience. The difficult task is turning back to relaxed movement for offense. Most athletes can get themselves in a fighting frame of mind.

In the case of football, they have no need to change that mood during the course of the game. Basketball requires the athlete to play a mental game of hop scotch if he is to reach his potential on offense and on defense. Experience and time will help the young athlete develop this ability.

Defense begins as soon as the ball is lost. The player does not wait until he gets to the other end of the floor to begin to think about defense. He begins to think defense at that very instant. Unless he has been given the task of cutting the outlet pass (to stop an opponent's fast break), his first thought is to reach the other end of the floor as fast as he can run. This run is known as the defensive fast break.

Some teams are known as fast-break (offensive) teams; others are considered to be slow-break teams. Every good basketball team in the nation fast-breaks. They fast break, to the defensive end of the floor. This break should not be a trot or jog. It must be a full speed run. While the defensive player is executing his fast break he is looking up to spot his opponent. Some opponents are very obliging. They will always go into the pivot area or into a certain corner each time. This makes recognition very simple.

Other players are not so obliging. You never know where these men will line up. That is why it is necessary to be skilled and alert at spotting quickly the number and face of an opponent. As soon as you have spotted your man, determine his relationship to the ball. Is he in position to receive and score quickly? Can you reach him in time to defend your basket? Can you help a teammate who is momentarily in trouble?

As soon as you spot your opponent, go to him and assume a defensive stance, a defensive expression, and a defensive attitude. Let him know by your stance, expression, and attitude that you have come to hook up with him completely and without equivocation as long as his team possesses the ball. Let him know that as far as you are concerned, your life depends on stopping him. Let him know that in order to score he is going to have to break every bone in your body.

In playing the half-court press man-for-man, your first objective is to prevent the opponent from receiving the ball. Get an arm and, if possible, part of your body between your opponent and the ball. Block his vision if possible. Body check his movement to receive every time you can.

That is, stay in front of him and check his break with your body. In general, make a real nuisance of yourself even though your man has not received. You have won nine-tenths of the battle with your man if you keep him from receiving. The only thing left to do is block out when the ball goes up on the boards.

Practice this art and attitude of defense and you have the game half won!