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Basketball Defense Tips Leaving Your Opponents Intimidated by You!

Basketball defense isn't just "the other part of the game," it's the most important part of the game! It may not be as glamorous as scoring a lot of points, but being a shut down player gets you very much deserved respect (especially by your coach).

Remember: offense puts people in the seats, but defense wins games. If you can stop the other team from scoring, then you've got a much better chance of winning than if you just score a lot of points only to be matched by the other team.

Explore these basketball defense tips and become your team's shut-down player.

Defensive Fundamentals

If you've come to this page from the fundamentals page, then the first section will be repeating the same information on the basketball fundamentals page, but read on past the defensive fundamentals section for more basketball defense tips!

    Defensive Stance
    The defensive stance is the foundation of all of your defensive basketball movements, with proper stance aiding in making you quicker and that much more difficult to get by.

    1. Feet should be about shoulder width apart
    2. Knees slightly bent, a little under 90 degrees, back straight, head up (and centered over your body)
    3. On the balls of your feet.
      • You don't want to be "flat-footed" or on your heels; it will slow you down and be easier to get you off balance. Being on the balls of your feet maximizes your quickness abilities.
    4. Feet slightly staggered (one further in front than the other)
      • usually trying to lead your opponent to go to his/her weak side.
    5. Hands up and arms out.
      • You don't want your arms hanging by your side, you want to be "tracing" the ball when guarding your opponent.
      • Note that your lead hand should match your lead foot (i.e. if your right foot is forward in your stance, then your right hand should also be leading right over your foot). This helps to prevent your opponent from attacking your lead foot or slow them down enough for you to recover.

    Defensive Sliding
    Start out (and stay) in the defensive stance. To move right (slide right), push off with your left foot and slight it toward your right foot. When it's close to the right, step out with your right and slide the left toward your right foot again. DO NOT CROSS YOUR FEET. The same goes for sliding left, except you will be pushing off/sliding your right foot toward the left.

Basketball Defense Quick Tips


  • Stay Low
  • Develop Lateral Quickness
  • Force them where you want them to go
    • - make them use their weak hand
  • Watch opponents chest
  • Slap up at the ball instead of down
  • Get a hand in opponents' face and/or chest area
  • Develop quick/strong hands
  • Talk (and listen) to your teammates!
  • See the person you're guarding and the ball at all times
  • Alter your opponents' path, whether or not they have the ball or not
  • Get in their heads

Stay Low
The first baketball defense tip is to stay low! Staying low helps you to be quicker, both in terms of keeping your man in front of you and in jumping and/or reacting. As is also noted in the fundamentals page, the proper defensive stance is as follows:
  • Feet should be about shoulder width apart
  • Knees slightly bent, back straight, head up
  • You should be on the balls of your feet. You don't want to be "flat-footed" or on your heels; it will slow you down and be easier to get you off balance. Being on the balls of your feet maximizes your quickness abilities.
  • Feet slightly staggered, usually trying to lead your opponent to go to his/her weak side.

Where staying low for defensive basketball becomes a problem is usually in the fourth quarter when your legs are tired. To help counter this, of course, have proper basketball conditioning, but focus on the wall sit. The wall sit is great for basketball defense because it is designed to help strengthen your muscles that keep you low!

To perform the wall-sit:

  • Find a wall with enough space in front of it that you'd be able to set a chair there and sit down. You're NOT going to use a chair, though.
  • Stand with your back toward the wall, about 2 to 2 1/2' away from the wall, then lean your back against the wall.
  • Now, keeping your back and head straight and still against the wall, slide down until your knees come to a 90° angle with the floor.
  • Hold this position (90° at the hips and 90° at the knees) for a set time or as long as you can.

You should basically be in a position similar to sitting in a chair, but without the chair. You will feel it mostly in the quads, but other areas such as the hips, will feel some strain as well.

Depending on your routine and abilities, you may shoot for holding the position for a certain period of time. An example may be 60 seconds when you first begin. As you develop more endurance, though, you will want to extend this time a great deal.

Remember: This drill is designed to help develop endurance, so push yourself to hold the position as long as possible to maximize your basketball conditioning.

Use these lateral power boxes in the speed/training section to help develop lateral quickness for better defense.

Develop Lateral Quickness
Developing lateral quickness not only helps with your basketball defense, but, like staying low, it helps you in nearly all aspects of the game. Lateral quickness helps you to change directions faster as the offense you are trying to keep in front of you changes directions.

The first step, of course, is to have the proper footwork and use defensive sliding instead of crossing your feet.

To move right (slide right), push off with your left foot and slight it toward your right foot. When it's close to the right, step out with your right and slide the left toward your right foot again. DO NOT CROSS YOUR FEET. The same goes for sliding left, except you will be pushing off/sliding your right foot toward the left.

To help develop your lateral quickness you can browse the speed & agility training section.

Force them where you want them to go
I guess I shouldn't say "force" them, but "encourage" the person you're guarding to go a certain direction. If you're waiting to see which way they are going, then you're already behind in your basketball defense because you have to react. Make the offensive player the reactor so that you know where they are going.

Most players can't use both hands equally, so you usually want to force them to go to the hand they don't want to. Overplay their strong hand to make them use their weak hand.

You can also force the offensive player to spin a certain way if they're backing you down and anticipate the move. Depending on the defense your coach has you running, you will also want to force the player to certain spots of the floor where you have help defense or a trap waiting.

Watch Opponents' Chest
When playing defense in basketball, you of course want to follow the above of the defensive basketball tips to not be the reactor. Sometimes you can't avoid it, though. You can, however, anticipate the offensive player's next move by watching their chest.

A player can fake a number of different ways, but their chest will always show where they're going next. They can make a jab step with their foot one way and go another way, fake a shot with their head and shoulders, or fake a pass with their hands, arms, and shoulders. The one thing that will not be used to fake will be the chest. Focus on this and help prevent being faked out by other body parts.

Slap up at the Ball
Basketball defense can get quite aggressive, and can also get a lot of players into foul trouble. You're of course going to have to slap down at the ball at times, but when you can, slap up at the ball instead.

This should be utilized when trying to knock the ball away from a dribbler. If you slap down at the ball and actually do knock it away, then there's a better chance that the offensive player will regain control. If you knock it up in the air, however, it is more likely that the offensive player will have more difficulty regaining control.

The other reason you want to slap up at the ball when trying to knock the ball away from a dribbler is that you are less likely to be called for a foul such as reaching in.

Get a Hand in Opponents' Face and/or Chest Area
Basketball defense isn't only done with your feet, it's done with your hands, to.

Basketball Defense: Defensive Close-Out It's especially helpful if your not quite as fast as your opponent on your feet or can't jump high enough to block his/her shot.

If you put your hand in front of your opponent's face, they can't see as well to make a pass or drive to the basket. It will also distract them from focusing on the rim when they shoot. All shooters, however, usually have to bring the ball through their chest area. This is where you can anticipate the offenses movement and try to strip the ball. Be careful not to slap their arm, though, because you don't want to send them to the charity stripe. The next basketball defense tip will help you be more effective at stripping the ball...

Develope Quick, Strong Hands
Developing quick, strong hands is essential if you want to use your hands in defensive basketball effectively. Quicker hands will make it easier to annoy the offensive player and make them uncomfortable. Strong hands help not only in basketball defense, but also in rebounding. It's not going to help (as much) if you just get your hands on the ball but they're not strong enough to take it away from the other player.

Lifting weights will help strengthen your hands. You can also carry weights around or hold them to strengthen your grip (plates work better than dumbbells). To quicken your hands, do something like playing pingpong or learning to juggle (directions are available on the sports vision page.

Basketball Defense: Communicate

Talk (and listen) to Your Teammates
Basketball is a team sport, and basketball defense is done as a team, to. I'm sure you've heard of the term "help defense." This isn't one-on-one defense, it's the whole team playing defense as a unit.

No matter if you're in a zone or man defense, you should be talking to your team and listening to what they have to say. Call out screens and which side they are coming from, call out the switch if you switch on the screen, and let other defensive players know where the offense is cutting in the zone by yelling "low" or "middle," etc.

Likewise, you should listen to your teammates who are hopefully doing the same for you. If you hear of a cutter coming through your zone, cut them off, don't let them go where they want to. Also anticipate screens and try to fight through them (don't get caught overplaying them too much, though, or your man will blow by you the other way).

See the person you're guarding and the ball at all times
As mentioned above, basketball defense is a team concept. If you can't see the ball while you're guarding your man then you won't know when your help defense is needed. Try to keep your body in the path between your man and the person with the ball. This is, of course, unless it opens up a clear path for your man to get to the basket and get a pass from another player after a quick swing.

So to rephrase: know where the ball and your man is, as well as where the basket is. Developing your peripheral awareness can help you with this. Go to the sports vision page for tips.

Alter Your Opponent's Path
In basketball defense, you want to do this regardless of whether they have the ball or not. The offense is headed in a path where they want to go and has a purpose for going there. Cut them off and make them go where they don't want to.

This applies to people cutting without the ball, to. A lot of times this can cause a turnover because the passer doesn't see you or throws the ball where he/she thinks the cutter is going and you've made them go somewhere else.

Get in their Heads
Basketball is a mental game as well as a physical game. Basketball defense includes getting to your opponents mentally. I'm not talking about being a complete jack-ass out on the court, but a little trash talking may go a long ways if the opponent is easily affected.

Not a big trash talker? That's okay, you can get to your opponents mentally by being nice, to! For example, if someone on the other team keeps knocking down jumpers say something like, "Man, Do you ever miss?". The key word here is "MISS". Now you've got them thinking about missing and trying not to miss instead of focusing on making the shot.

Rebounding is included in the basketball defense tips because if you've caused the other team to take a bad shot and miss, what good is it when you give them another chance?
Defense involves keeping the other team from putting the ball in the basket, and the more you limit their opportunities, the less chance they have of doing so.

So, again, GET THE REBOUND. It doesn't have to be you, in particular, but make sure whoever you're guarding or blocking out doesn't get it or your coach won't be happy!

I strongly recommend going to the basketball rebounding page to get some pointers on rebounding.

Basketball Defenses
Learn about the different types of team defenses that you can apply these concepts to.

Speed & Agility: The Key to Defense
Speed and Agility training to make you quicker and more equipped to keep your man in front of you.

Sports Vision Training
Better sports vision will not only improve your basketball defense, but all other aspects of your game as well.

Basketball Rebounding Tips
Basketball defense isn't over until you rebound. Rebounding tips to help you rip down boards on both ends of the court.

Vertical Training
Increase your vertical to play better basketball defense and get more rebounds.

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