Organized basketball is a game played by five players per team. Historically, these players have been assigned to positions defined by the role they play on the court, from a strategic point of view. Broadly speaking, the three main positions are guard, forward, and center, with the standard team featuring two guards, two forwards, and a center. Over time, as more specialized roles developed, each of the guards and forwards came to be differentiated, and today each of the five positions are known by unique names, each of which has also been assigned a number: point guard (PG) or 1, the shooting guard (SG) or 2, the small forward (SF) or 3, the power forward (PF) or 4, and the center (C) or 5.
The point guard is the "leader" of the team on the court. This position requires substantial ball-handling skills and the ability to facilitate the team during a play. The shooting guard, as the name implies, is often the best shooter, as well as being capable of shooting accurately from longer distances. The small forward often has an aggressive approach to the basket when handling the ball. The small forward is also known to make cuts to the basket in efforts to get open for shots. The power forward and the center make up the frontcourt, often acting as their team's primary rebounders or shot blockers, or receiving passes to take inside shots. The center is typically the larger of the two.
Besides the five basic positions, some teams use non-standard or hybrid positions, such as the point forward, a hybrid small forward/point guard; the swingman, a hybrid small forward/shooting guard; the big, a hybrid power forward/center; and the stretch four, a power forward with the shooting range of typical shooting guards.
In the early days of the sport, there was a "running guard" who brought the ball up the court and passed or attacked the basket, like a point or combo guard. There was also a "stationary guard" who made long shots and hung back on defense before there was the rule of backcourt violations.
The point guard (PG), 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) with shoes.known as the one, is typically the team's shortest player and best ball handler and passer. They usually are very fast and are good at driving and short-range. Therefore, they often lead their team in assists and are able to create shots for themselves and their teammates. They are quick and are able to hit shots either outside the key but a majority are inside the 3 point line or layups, largely depending on the player's skill level. Point guards are looked upon as the "floor general" or the "coach on the floor." They should study the game and game film to be able to recognize the weaknesses of the defense, and the strengths of their own offense. They are responsible for directing plays, making the position equivalent to that of quarterback in American football, playmaker in association football (soccer), center in ice hockey, or setter in volleyball. Good point guards increase team efficiency and generally have a high number of assists. They are often referred to as dribblers or play-makers. In the NBA, point guards are mostly between
Point guards are required to do many things in the game of basketball that are very different from the other four positions on the court. While the other 4 positions are mainly focused on putting the ball in the hoop, the point guard must have a different, more team focused mentality.
The shooting guard (SG) is also known as the two or the off guard. Along with the small forward, a shooting guard is often referred to as a wing because of its use in common positioning tactics. As the name suggests, most shooting guards are prolific from the three-point range and long mid range. Some key aspects to being a shooting guard is having the ability to patiently and methodically circulate the three point line linear with that of the ball. This allows the ability to correctly get in open space for other positions handling the ball. Just like all positions in basketball, the ability to communicate efficiently with teammates is key. If a player's teammates do not know where/when a player will be open, they won't be able to deliver the ball when an efficient opportunity presents itself.
Besides being able to shoot the ball, shooting guards tend to be proficient at being able to move without the ball to create open looks for themselves, often creating their own shots off the dribble. A versatile shooting guard will have good passing skills that allow them to assume point guard responsibilities and function as combo guards. Bigger shooting guards also tend to play as small forwards. In the NBA, shooting guards usually range from 6 feet 1 inches (1.85 m) to 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) with shoes.
The small forward (SF), also known as the three, is considered to be the most versatile of the main five basketball positions. Versatility is key for small forwards because of the nature of their role, which resembles that of a shooting guard more often than that of a power forward. This is why the small forward and shooting guard positions are often interchangeable and referred to as wings.
Small forwards have a variety of assets, such as quickness and strength inside. A common thread among all kinds of small forwards is an ability to "get to the line" and draw fouls by aggressively attempting (post-up) plays, lay-ups, or slam dunks. As such, accurate foul shooting is a common skill for small forwards, many of whom record a large portion of their points from the foul line. Besides being able to drive to the basket, they are also good shooters from long range. They are the second-best 3-point shooters on the court along with the shooting guard and usually when stationary, sit just inside the 3-point line. Some small forwards have good passing skills, allowing them to assume point guard responsibilities as point forwards. Small forwards should be able to do a little bit of everything on the court, typically playing roles such as swing men and defensive specialists. A smaller small forward under 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) might play the shooting guard position some of the time and a bigger small forward taller than 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) might play power forward sometimes. In the NBA, small forwards usually range from 6 feet 4 inches (1.92 m) to 6 feet 9 inches (2.04 m) with shoes.
The power forward (PF), also known as the four, often plays a role similar to that of the center, down in the "post" or "low blocks". The power forward is often the team's most powerful and dependent scorer, being able to score close to the basket while also being able to shoot mid-range jump shots from 10 – 15 feet from the basket. Some power forwards have become known as stretch fours, since extending their shooting range to three-pointers. On defense, they are required to have the strength to guard bigger players close to the basket and to have the athleticism to guard quick players away from the basket. Most power forwards tend to be more versatile than centers since they can be part of plays and are not always in the low block. A tall power forward over 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) can be a forward-center, playing PF and C. A smaller power forward 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) can play combo forward, playing SF part-time. In the NBA, power forwards usually range from 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m) to 7 feet 0 inches (2.13 m) with shoes.
The center (C), also known as the five or pivot, usually plays near the baseline or close to the basket (the "low post"). They are usually the tallest players on the floor. The center usually scores "down low", or "in the paint" (near the basket, in the key), but some can be good perimeter shooters. They are typically skilled at gathering rebounds, contesting shots and setting screens on players.
The center position has been traditionally considered one of the most important positions, if not the most important. The range of players used in the position has transitioned from relatively slower but much taller "back to the basket" players to players who would normally be classified as power forwards but can dominate the position with their defensive skills, or mismatch ability to shoot from the high post. This has been due to the scarcity of players possessing the combination of great skill, ideal height, and durability. This has been matched by the development of more fast-paced and athletic basketball play, which calls for less traditional center play and a more up-and-down the court play style. They are usually over 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m) tall with shoes.
The presence of a center who can score in the low post (the area closest to the basket) helps create balance within an offense. If it becomes too easy to score from the low post, the center will get double teamed. This creates opportunity for open shots for perimeter players as the center will “kick it out” to an open perimeter or “wing” player. As perimeter players shoot better from long range, this creates easier opportunity for a center to score, since defenses will play out closer to the perimeter shooters.
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one, two or three one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.
The power forward (PF), also known as the four, is a position in basketball. Power forwards play a role similar to centers. They typically play 'offensively' with their backs towards the basket and position themselves defensively under the basket in a zone defense or against the opposing power forward in man-to-man defense. The power forward position entails a variety of responsibilities, one of which is rebounding. Many power forwards are noted for their mid-range jump-shot, and several players have become very accurate from 12 to 18 feet. Earlier, these skills were more typically exhibited in the European style of play. Some power forwards, known as stretch fours, have since extended their shooting range to three-point field goals.
The point guard (PG), also called the one or the point is one of the five positions in a regulation basketball game. A point guard has perhaps the most specialized role of any position. Point guards are expected to run the team's offense by controlling the ball and making sure that it gets to the right player at the right time. Above all, the point guard must understand and accept their coach's game plan; in this way, the position can be compared to a quarterback in American football, a catcher in baseball, or a playmaker in soccer. They must also be able to adapt to what the defense is allowing and must control the pace of the game.
The center (C), also known as the five, or the big man, is one of the five positions in a basketball game. The center is normally the tallest player on the team, and often has a great deal of strength and body mass as well. In the NBA, the center is usually 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) or taller. They traditionally have played close to the basket in the low post.
In basketball, the basketball court is the playing surface, consisting of a rectangular floor, with baskets at each end. In professional or organized basketball, especially when played indoors, it is usually made out of a wood, often maple, and highly polished and completed with a 10 foot rim. Outdoor surfaces are generally made from standard paving materials such as concrete or asphalt.
The shooting guard (SG), also known as the two, two guard or off guard, is one of the five traditional positions in a regulated basketball game. A shooting guard's main objective is to score points for their team and steal the ball on defense. Some teams ask their shooting guards to bring up the ball as well; these players are known colloquially as combo guards. A player who can switch between playing shooting guard and small forward is known as a swingman. In the NBA, shooting guards usually range from 6' 3" to 6' 7” while in the WNBA, shooting guards tend to be between 5' 10" to 6' 1".
The small forward (SF), also known as the three, is one of the five positions in a regulation basketball game. Small forwards are typically shorter, quicker, and leaner than power forwards and centers but taller, larger, and stronger than either of the guard positions.
Streetball is a variation of basketball, typically played on outdoor courts and featuring significantly less formal structure and enforcement of the game's rules. As such, its format is more conducive to allowing players to publicly showcase their own individual skills. Streetball may also refer to other urban sports played on asphalt. It is particularly popular and important in New York City.
The pick and roll in basketball is an offensive play in which a player sets a screen (pick) for a teammate handling the ball and then moves toward the basket (rolls) to receive a pass. In the NBA, the play came into vogue in the 1990s and has developed into the league's most common offensive action. There are however many ways in which the defense can also counter the offensive screen.
Zone defense is a type of defense, used in team sports, which is the alternative to man-to-man defense; instead of each player guarding a corresponding player on the other team, each defensive player is given an area to cover.
Basketball moves are generally individual actions used by players in basketball to pass by defenders to gain access to the basket or to get a clean pass to a teammate to score a two pointer or three pointer.
This glossary of basketball terms is a list of definitions of terms used in the game of basketball. Like any other major sport, basketball features its own extensive vocabulary of unique words and phrases used by players, coaches, sports journalists, commentators, and fans.
The triangle-and-two defense is a particular type of defense used in basketball.
The key, officially referred to as the free throw lane by the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the restricted area by the international governing body FIBA, and colloquially as the lane or the paint, is a marked area on a basketball court surrounding the basket. It is bounded by the endline, the free-throw line and two side lines, and usually painted in a distinctive color. It is a crucial area on the court where much of the game's action takes place.
Nellie Ball is an offensive strategy in basketball developed by NBA head coach Don "Nellie" Nelson. It is a fast-paced run-and-gun offense relying on smaller, more athletic players who can create mismatches by outrunning their opponents. A true center is usually not needed to run this type of offense. A large volume of three-point attempts is also a feature of Nellie Ball. This offense is most effective against teams that do not have the athleticism or shooting ability to keep up with the fast pace.
In basketball, small ball is a style of play that sacrifices height, physical strength and low post offense/defense in favor of a lineup of smaller players for speed, agility and increased scoring. It is closely tied to the concepts of pace and space, which pushes the speed of the offense and spreads out the defense with extra shooters on the court. Many small ball lineups feature a non-traditional center who offers skills that are not normally found from players at that position. Teams often move a physically dominant player who would typically play the small forward position into the power forward position. Examples of players who have been used in this role include Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James. That individual would play alongside either a traditional power forward, or alongside a center.
The 2–3 zone defense is a defensive strategy used in basketball as an alternative to man-to-man defense. It is referred to as the 2–3 because of its formation on the court, which consists of two players at the front of the defense and three players behind.
In basketball, a stretch four (sometimes called a stretch big) is a player at the power forward position that can generate offense farther from the basket than a conventional power forward. "Stretch" describes the effect such a player has on the opposition defense, and the power forward position is also known as the "four"; hence "stretch four". The stretch four is a fairly recent innovation in the NBA, but is still becoming increasingly common in today's game, as many NBA coaches now use the "small-ball" line-up/tactical play.
Basketball is a ball game and team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules. Since being developed by James Naismith as a non-contact game that almost anyone can play, basketball has undergone many different rule variations, eventually evolving into the NBA-style game known today. Basketball is one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.
Forward–center or bigman is a basketball position for players who play or have played both forward and center on a consistent basis. Typically, this means power forward and center, since these are usually the two biggest player positions on any basketball team, and therefore more often overlap each other.