How To Defend In Basketball – 5 Top Tips

In basketball, the glory goes to the guys who put the ball in the basket. That leaves the guys who play great defense being forgotten when the box score is printed for all to see. The truth is defense wins just as many basketball games as an offense that puts up good numbers.

At times, playing defense seems to have become a lost art. It doesn’t get much focus on the playground. Once kids get the chance to start playing organized basketball, it’s incumbent on the coaches and teaches to teach the kids the importance of good defense. That includes using proper techniques.

Here’s five tips you or your child can use on the way to becoming a top “two-way” player on the court. Remember: Larry Bid was slow and couldn’t jump, but he is rated as one of the 100 defensive player’s in NBA history. As this video shows, he was always in position because of his dedication to defensive fundamentals.


1 – Focus on Balance

All great defensive players have one thing in common, great balance. In order to effectively follow an offensive player up and down the court, a player needs to keep their center of gravity. According to Coach Jesse Mitchell (video), it’s easier to maintain your center of gravity if you stand on the balls of your feet and keep your feet and arms spread wide.

Consider the typical side-step that’s employed by a defensive player when the offensive player is dribbling left and then right. Keep in mind, the offensive player has an advantage because they know where they are going. You, as the defensive player, have to react by moving your feet as quickly as possible in the proper direction. Without good balance, you will trip over your own feel or be left guarding air.

Likewise, the defensive player’s balance is going to be put to the test when the offensive player is dribbling the length of the court. The offensive player is apt to make a few cuts and throw in a cross-over move or two. Good balance will help you stay centered in front of the offensive player at all times.

Finally, a player with good balance is going to be able to jump higher when guarding shots or reaching for rebounds. The more you can center your balance, the more lift you will get when you jump.

two basketball players tussle

2 – Keep Your Eye on the Player You are Guarding

When playing defense, you have one responsibility, guard your assigned offensive player when playing man-to-man defense, or guard the player in your zone when playing a zone defense. You have to know your responsibilities and keep your eye on the offensive player who falls in your area of responsibility.

With that being said, it would also be very helpful if you have an idea where the ball is at any given point. It can get a little tricky because the second you look away to find the ball, your assigned offensive player might cut to the basket for a layup. The more experience you gain, the more likely you are to learn how to position your head and body so you can get a broader view of what’s going on around you.

3 – Challenge the Shooter, the Block Out

As a defender, your job is to force your player to turn the ball over or make a bad shot. As former NBA Head Coach Hubie Brown points out in his “5 Commandments (the 5th commandment)” video, you need to contest all shots and do it without fouling. You can do this by staying three feet from the shooter and raising your hands straight up, in is face if possible.

You responsibilities don’t stop there. After the shot is released, you now have to block the shooter away from the rebound. This is done by moving your body straight into the shooters body with your back to him, your elbows out and your hands up to grab the rebound when possible.

4 – Keep the Offensive Player from the Middle of the Court

From the website (tip #9), former NBA Head Coach Del Harris reminds us about the importance of communication. The entire defense benefits when they know which way the ball is moving or when a screen is being set.

This is the essence of team defense. A defense can still be great even without the presence of a great individual defensive player. As long as you are guarding your man to the best of your ability while communicating with the rest of your team, you can earn a reputation as a top defender.

two players play basketball

5 – Practice, Practice, Practice

As stated in the second paragraph, good defense seems to be a lost art. However, you and everyone else can become a great defensive player with the right attitude and dedication.

A good basketball teams doesn’t need five great scorers with average defensive skills. If you want to stand out above the crowd, learn to become a great defensive player who is equally capable of putting the ball in the basket.

It’s like anything else you might do in life, the more your practice, the better you stand to get. If you want to know what it really takes to mentally become a great defensive basketball player, we encourage you to review this information provided on the website.