In basketball, you have more chances to score... if you play center. No so clear? It's normal. To clarify the 5 possible positions on a basketball team, here are a few explanations.
Do you want to know what position corresponds to your body type and abilities? Here you go!
The classic basketball positions
Time for a bit of strategy? We'll start by describing the positions in a classic lineup. First clue: basketball is played 5 against 5, and you can choose between… 5 positions on the court.
Second clue: your position depends largely on your body type and your physical and technical abilities.
What's more, the numbers are in the right order, from smallest to largest. And since basketball was born in Massachusetts, in the United States, all the terms are in English. If you think small ball is for small players, here is an old school lineup:
Position 1: Point Guard.
If you still have some energy after your warm-up, you'll have an idea: you will lead the game.
To begin with, you are often the smallest person on the court, whether in weight or height. Why? Because you need to handle the ball and the play. Your ability to dribble and pass, and your vision of the game, allow you to create the game with discernment for yourself and your teammates. When you're the first point of contact for the coach on the court, it's better not to ruin the scorecard.
Having a voice is also a bonus: it's a position where you need to act as a boss on the court and guide your teammates.
there are a few styles for position 1: scoring 3-pointers, moving forward, creating the game with your dribbling skills, managing play, and decisive passing... it all depends on your skills and the needs of your team. In any case, you are expected to make good choices of shots and have a good ratio of completed passes to ball losses.
your role is often the least showy on the court. Not as versatile as the other positions on this side of the court given your size, your responsibilities are again collective: guiding your teammates, communicating, and organising defence. Individually, the strong point on defence is interceptions, which always involve taking a risk.
Position 2: Shooting Guard.
With the point guard, you are the other half of the rear base. (To be accurate, you would talk about a rear leader and a rear shooter).
With a larger and more substantial build than your alter ego who leads play, you still need to share some of their dribbling and passing skills in order to move the ball forward and manage/create play.
And your own skills? Agility, speed, or technique, it's your choice (and the more, the better).
you'll often be asked to show yourself: shooting three-pointers or mid-distance with your shooting skills, playing on your own to create opportunities thanks to your dribbles, moving quickly and explosively towards the net… You see, the guard is often seen as a trigger, able to attack unrelentingly.
You can defend: depending on your physical or athletic abilities, you could be asked to lock up the opposing point guard thanks to your size advantage, or to try and bother the forward with your speed.
Position 4: Power Forward.
As it happens, stronger compared to your teammate, the small forward.
With the center, you are one of the team's 2 inside players. And often, you are physically a bit smaller than position 5, or in any case, more agile. In addition to calling the shots in the key thanks to your sense of placement and stature, you're increasingly asked to be able to leave and play outside of the key, to make room for the center.
And that works out nicely, since
, your role is as the hub. Playing low (back to the basket, in the key) to score under the rim or get the ball out, agility at mid-distance, and why not some 3-pointers, with as many rebounds, blocks, and defensive assists as possible.
You've got it: you're both a defensive anchor to stabilise your team and a Swiss army knife on offence. Basically, a focal point. And one of your specialities is combining forces with your guard using your screens.
How does that work? You set a screen for your guard, then you move towards the basket to receive the ball close to the hoop (pick and roll), or you move out to receive the ball and shoot a 3-pointer (pick and pop).
Position 5: Center.
We'll finish with the center, often the largest on the court. Formerly the most emblematic position, when basketball was above all a sport for tall people, and now a rare breed on the courts.
But there is still room for you on a team, even if just for the jump ball at the start of a game. What about the rest? You play in the key. Playing low (back to the basket, near the hoop) or high (facing the basket, at the top of the key), you are the one who plays closest to the basket. Hence the name "center": you often start your offence with your back to the basket, to see the game.
you aren't keen on footwork, feinting and playing low, you can use your body to multiply pick and rolls with your guards. In any case, you are expected to make good work of the opponent's key.
And in your key?
, you are expected to block, intimidate, protect the basket, rebound and rebound assists (screens to contain your opponent and let your teammates get the rebound). Clearly, you are the defensive soul of your team.
And since the role of center is often one of necessity, you can also use your dominant stature to set screens and make room for your teammates.
A tank with the footwork of a gymnast, or player in the shadows who helps your teammates shine: the choice is yours. But one thing doesn't change: your home is in the key!
Varying basketball positions
Those were the 5 classic basketball positions. But now that you can see a little more clearly into the coach's playbook, a few things become obvious. In the first place, you might not fit neatly into one position. Especially in a sport like basketball, where substitutions are common during a game.
Since there is a high probability of playing in several different positions during a game or a season, here are some alternative positions and profiles.
We're still all about versatility. If your shooting, body type, or defensive game makes you able to switch between positions 2 and 3, you could be a swingman. On the agenda: dribbling and passing like a guard, defending like a forward, and excellent shooting abilities. This is also called a wing or a guard-forward.
Combo for combination. To make it easy, you have the body of a position 1 but the offensive game of position 2. Modern basketball is more and more about offensive play or 3-pointers, so there are more systems of play with 2 point guards or 2 guards at the same time.
Is the key your thing, no matter the position? You might be a big man, able to switch between the role of center and power forward depending on the needs of your team. We also refer to inside players when talking about the 2 big positions, where play focuses on rebounds, screens, blocks, low post, pick and roll... essentially, play in the key.
If you have no preference between the 2 forward positions (small forward and power forward), you could be a cornerman. In general, this means that your body type allows you to play and defend from both positions, and that you are just as comfortable shooting from far away as from the low post area.
One more for the road? Much more rare, you'll sometimes hear about the
. If you have the body to defend like a position 5, but are able to play offensively from the high post area (top of the key, facing the basket) and direct play, you will be many of your opponents' worst nightmare.