Modern Basketball Defense Explained

by : Jimmy Cox

A decent share of the credit for a good defense can be traced to the mental attitude of the team's players. Their defensive attitude should be aggressive. Too many athletes get the idea that defense is passive. Passivity creates negative actions. Aggressiveness is positive. The top defenders are all aggressive minded and aggressive acting athletes. Even while defending a goal, the players should all be inspired to think and act like attackers.

Where does the offensive attack begin? It starts on the opponent's end of the floor when ball possession is gained. The outstanding defensive basketball player really believes he can jam the ball down the throat of the man he is guarding. He believes he can "shut him out" that particular evening. He knows that the real fun of basketball - the real sense of satisfaction - is in observing the frustrations of a top scorer he has just stymied for the evening.

The great defensive performer is ready to start guarding his man when he comes out of his dressing room and will guard him if he goes into the balcony and until the final whistle. He is ready to "hook up with" him, to "marry" him for that 32 or 40 minutes of action. The opponent should go home with the vague feeling that a "leech" or giant octopus has attacked him. He should have nightmares dreaming about the aggressive tactics he has been made to submit to, by a wild man who wouldn't give him one minute of peace.

All our recent great teams have been good defensive clubs. California won the N.C.A.A. championship one year and went to the finals the next year. They lost in the finals the second year because their opponents played great defense even though their reputation was obtained by offense.

Many of the top teams such as West Virginia have developed great reputations for their offensive play, but they readily admit that they win many games with defense. The public wants 100 points a night and some coaches have decided to give them what they want.

In the meantime, they are very careful to develop a sound defense to keep their opponents from scoring 100, too. Coach John Mc-Lendon of Tennessee A. & I. told me that their defense never received the credit it deserved. A. & I. won three straight N.A.I.A. national championships, running up big scores. The casual observer did not take note of the fact that their opponents usually scored in the sixties.

When 100 points are scored, the opponent gets ball possession many times if only after a basket is scored. To hold them to a score in the sixties requires great defense. Usually, too, the team that scores 100 points fast-breaks at a great rate of speed. To return to defense at the same speed requires much more effort than it does for the team that does not fast-break.

The big basketball upsets are nearly always provided by defensive basketball teams. The great scorer left unattended will humiliate mediocre teams with mediocre talent. These same mediocre teams and players can cause some great offensive teams many moments of anguish. Check the scores of all the major upsets that occur in basketball during one season of play. You will find that nine-tenths of them are brought about by an outstanding job of individual and team defensive play.

The current basketball trend is toward defense. I will not say back to defense for I feel that defense was never played any better than at present. Actually, defense is almost new in scope. Never in the history of the game has defense been played as it is currently played by top teams.

It has never received the attention - it has never been played individually and collectively as modern teams are playing it. Some contemporary coaches who have been active for years, such as Hank Iba and Adolph Rupp, have always played good defense. As a matter of fact, they have almost had a corner on the market because for many years no one challenged them defensively.

Now more basketball teams and coaches are realizing the value of defense.