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The three basketball positions normally employed by organized basketball teams are guard, forward, and center. More specifically, they can be classified into the five positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. The rules of basketball do not mandate them, and in informal games they are sometimes not used. They are grouped into two conceptual units: the backcourt and frontcourt.

Basketball positions


Back court (guards)


Point guard

The point guard, also known as the "1", is the team's floor general and the best ball handler on the team. In football terminology, the point guard is a basketball team's "quarterback." The point guard is essentially the team's captain, and his/her job is to make his/her teammates better and to hand out assists. Prime examples are Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash,John Stockton, Chauncey Billups, and Deron Williams. Examples of players earlier in the league's history are Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy and Gail Goodrich. Thee point guard is typically the smallest player on his/her squad. At the NBA/WNBA level, most point guards are 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) to 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m). Of course there are a few exceptions. Examples include Earvin "Magic" Johnson of the Lakers is the NBA's tallest point guard ever to play the position, standing at 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m). Many rookies start their NBA careers as point guards and then transition to other roles later. LeBron James (6'8) and Dwyane Wade (6'4) were both point guards in their rookie seasons, and though transitioned, still occasionally play point guard.

Shooting guard

The shooting guard, also known as the "2", is usually the team's best shooter. The shooting guard can also be the team captain as well. A quality shooting guard should be able to consistently hit 20-foot (6-meter) jump shots. Besides being able to shoot the ball, shooting guards must also have good ball-handling skills because they have to be able to create their own shots off the dribble. Finally, they should also be able to make good passes. The shooting guard needs to be able to take long-shots, around the three-point line. This is because there will be much tighter defense inside the key; thus, the shooting guard needs to learn how to get free for his shots. Typical NBA shooting guards are 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) to 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m). However, there are exceptions. For instance; Allen Iverson is only 6 feet (1.83 m) tall.

Kobe Bryant is arguably the NBA's current top shooting guard along with Dwyane Wade and Tracy McGrady. Brandon Roy and Andre Iguodala are both rising shooting guards in the NBA. Iguodala and McGrady are large enough that they also play in the small forward position. Perhaps the best example from NBA history is Michael Jordan. Other examples may be Richard Hamilton, Ray Allen, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Ben Gordon and Vince Carter.

Frontcourt (forwards)

Small forward

The small forward, also known as the "3", is typically somewhat shorter, quicker, and leaner than power forwards and centers. Thus, in the NBA, small forwards range from 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) to 6 feet 11 inches (2.11 m). The small forward position is considered to be perhaps the most versatile of the main five basketball positions, due to the nature of its role, which is sometimes similar to that of a power forward, and other times more resembles the role of a shooting guard. The small forward and shooting guard positions are often interchangeable.

Small forwards have a variety of weapons, such as quickness and strength inside. One common thread between all kinds of small forwards is an ability to "get to the line"; that is, have opposing players be called for committing shooting fouls against them, as fouls are frequently called on the defense when offensive players "take the ball hard" to the basket, that is, aggressively attempt post-up plays, lay-ups, or slam dunks. Therefore, accurate foul shooting is an imperative skill for small forwards, many of whom record a large portion of their points from the foul line. Small forwards should be able to do a little bit of everything on the court. Examples include Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Hedo Turkoglu, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and Carmelo Anthony.

Power forward

Also known as the "4" position and abbreviated as "PF", the power forward plays a role similar to that of the center, down in the "post" or "low blocks". On offense, he can "post up", playing with his back to the basket, or set up for mid-range jump shots. On defense, he plays under the basket in a zone defense or against the opposing power forward in man-to-man defense. Typical NBA power forwards are 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) to 6 feet 11 inches (2.11 m) tall, though some power forwards, like the 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) Charles Barkley, have compensated for a lack of height with exceptional bulk and strength. The greatest power forwards of all time include Bob Pettit, Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, and Kevin Garnett. Popular All-Star power forwards today include the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, the Utah Jazz's Carlos Boozer, the Phoenix Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire, the Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh, and the New Orleans Hornets' David West. It is very rare to find 3 point shooting power forwards but Peja Stojakovic of the New Orleans Hornets, Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic and Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors specilaze in the area.


The center, also referred to as the "5" or the "pivot", usually plays near the baseline, close to the basket (referred to as the "bottom of the key" or the "low post"). The tallest player is most likely to be assigned to the position of center, with typical NBA centers being about 7 feet (2.13 m) in height, though Chuck Hayes filled this role at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m), and NBA Hall of Famer Wes Unseld filled this role while being 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m). Few are much taller, like 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) Yao Ming. The center usually scores "down low, in the paint" (near the basket, in the key). Centers contribute to the team by using their physique and skill to score close to the basket, as well as both gather rebounds and "set the pick" in pick and roll plays. Some centers can be good perimeter shooters, which can draw a good rebounding and shot-blocking center away from the basket.

Kendrick Perkins of the Boston Celtics, Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, Shaquille O'Neal of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, Greg Oden of the Portland Trail Blazers, Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic are examples of current centers in the NBA. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and George Mikan are considered all-time greats at the center position.[1]


See also

External links

Basketball positions
Guards Basketball half-court 1. Point Guard Combo Guard (PG/SG)
2. Shooting Guard Guard-Forward/Swingman (SG/SF)
Forwards 3. Small Forward Combo Forward/Cornerman (SF/PF)
4. Power Forward Point Forward (PG/SF, PG/PF)
Center 5. Center Forward-Center (PF/C)
Captain | Head Coach | Referees and officials


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