Bit of History
In 1891 a teacher, at a YMCA in Springfield, Massechussets, named James Naismith was tasked to create an indoor sport to keep students active during the winter seasons. Once Naismith came up with his game, he divided his class into two teams with 9 students each (because his class had 18 students). He created his game to be as non-violent as possible unlike rugby and american football. However, he wanted it to be something that his students would enjoy. In his sport he used two peach baskets and one soccer ball.
The First Basketball Game The first game to be played was in the gym at the YMCA in 1891. It was a small gym and he had the two peach baskets nailed on the wall 10 feet off the ground. Naismith had created 13 rules to keep the game from getting out of control. One of them was that players couldn’t run with the ball, so they would have to throw the ball from where he catches it. Every time a player would shoot a ball into a basket, their team would score a point. After somebody would have to climb up a ladder to the peach basket to take the ball out. And you can imagine how much of a pain that was. Eventually, he had the brilliant idea of cutting the bottoms of the baskets. At the end of the game, the team with the most baskets scored is the winner, much like how basketball is currently.
Basketball has evolved greatly since 1891. For instance, instead of peach baskets there are metal rims with glass backboards. In the NBA, players have 24 seconds to shoot the ball. Also games have two teams with 12-15 players on each. Instead of 9-on-9, only five people from each team are allowed on the court at once. Each player plays a position which gives them roles.
What is a Point Guard?
The point guard, also known as the point or the one, is the person who can control tempo of the game. Similar to a quarterback in football, the point guard is the leader of the team and directs the team’s offense. Point guards generally are the shortest players on the court measuring from 6’4” and below. They are the conductors of their team and are a crucial factor for initiating plays. Most times, as point guards dribble the ball down the court, they would call a play. A play in basketball is a plan of action, usually created by coaches, to generate points. Point guards need to be able to dodge defenders with their dribbling which requires the ability of excellent ball handling. Another skill that most point guards have is driving. In basketball, driving means to charge toward the basket with the ball to get an easier shot. Overall, the point leads their team in scoring and communication.
Offensive Point Guards
A current point guard, on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook often drives to the basket. According to NBA Stats, 68.1% of the time Westbrook is successful in scoring when he is within 5 feet of the basket. Factors that allow him to be this efficient is his upper body strength, and his split-second decision making.
Most Point guards usually have great three point shooting abilities. One of the most efficient shooters in the NBA (National Basketball Association) right now is Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors. His three-point percentage currently is 51%! The NBA three-point line is 23.75 feet from the hoop. Curry practices daily on his basketball skills, which contributes to his amazing shooting rates.
Another point guard named Kyrie Irving, from the Boston Celtics, has a specialty of dribbling and handling the ball. His strong hands give him precision when dribbling which makes it difficult for defenders to steal the ball from him. In my opinion, Irving is one of the most agile basketball players presently in the NBA. He has a talent of changing speeds quickly. According to ESPN, Irving is capable of driving at 10 mph and rapidly slowing down to 2.8 mph in just 0.7 seconds. Most defenders can’t keep up with him which makes it easier to create open shots.
Defensive Point Guards
Point guards don’t just play offense, they make an impact on the defensive end. One of the point guard’s tasks on defense is to prevent the other team’s point from shooting 3 point shots. Another to try to intercept or steal passes that come towards the opposing point guard. A perfect example of a defensive point and arguably the best defender that is currently in the NBA is Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans). Holiday’s height is 6 foot 4 but his wingspan is about 6 foot 7 which discourages defenders to try to score on him. Due to his length, he is exceptional at creating steals.
Chris Paul is another excellent defender. Because of his quick hands, he is 12th on the career steal totals. When guarding an opponent, Paul stays low to the floor making him well balanced and difficult to dribble past (Figure 1). Paul was a 9x NBA All-Star and was on the NBA All-Defensive Team 6 times.
What is a Shooting Guard?
The shooting guard also referred to as the off-guard or the two, is similar to the point guard only just several inches taller. They range from about 6’4” to 6’7”. Most off guards specialize at driving and/or shooting from the 3 point line. The shooting guard’s main role is to generate points for their team. Sometimes, if told by the coach, the two will dribble the ball down the court instead of the point guard. This task requires remarkable ball-handling skills. Additionally, the two has to move well without the ball to receive an opportunity for an open shot. Defensively, the shooting guard usually defends the “wings” (See Figure 2). With their speed, shooting guards often steal the ball on defense.
Offensive Shooting Guards
In the 2017-2018 year, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award was given to James Harden from the Houston Rockets. He’s an all-around terrificbasketball player. He’s efficient from beyond the three-point line, he is marvelous at dribbling, and often draws fouls. Another skill that Harden has is his isolation offense. Isolation offense is when one player has the ball on one side of the court, and their teammates all stand on the other. This allows the player with the ball to go against just one player rather than multiple.
Another skilledoff guard is Klay Thompson on the Golden State Warriors. He holds the NBA records for the most three-point made shots in a game and the most points in 30 minutes. He is one of the best of all time in spot-up shooting. Spot-up shooting is when the player shoots the ball right after catching it. According to the Bleacher Report article “Metrics 101: The Top 5 NBA Defenders at Every Position”, Thompson averaged 20.0 points per game in the 2017-2018 season (Fromal).
Defensive Shooting Guards
Michael Jordan was probably the best basketball player that ever lived. He retired as a shooting guard from the Chicago Bulls in 2003. Jordan wasn’t the best shooter, but his offense near the basket and his defense were exceptional. Jordan had strong hands allowing him to swat away any pass coming to his opponent. His 48” vertical was the reason that he produced numerous blocks. It is also how he won the NBA Slam Duck Contest in 1985, 1987, and 1988.
In 2016, Kobe Bryant retired from his 20 year career as a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career he was selected for the NBA All-Defensive Team nine times. NBA Stats recorded that he had a total of 181 steals, 564 rebounds, and 67 blocks in the 2002-2003 season. His flawless fundementals is how he achieved his amazing. When defending an opponent one-on-one, he has a wide, low stance. Futhermore, his great footwork allows him to beat his opponents to wherever they are going.
These players play their role excellently and demonstrate how shooting guards are wonderfulon both the offensive and defensive ends.
What is a Small Forward?
A small forward or the three, are well balanced players. Some can shoot from far from the basket just as good as their ability to create shots in the post. They can also shoot from mid range. But typically, they specialize in just one or two of those skills. Ranging from 6’6” to 6’9”, small forwards are quick and powerful players. Small forwards are like a mashup of a guard and a forward. Their height and athleticism allows them to defend both guards and forwards from scoring. Since they are stronger than guards they can set a “screen” for them to produce oppertunities for open shots. A screen in basketball is when a teammate stands upright a so they can block the defender to free them from the opponent.