Basketball players come in all shapes and sizes. Some specialize in scoring, some in rebounding, and some in dribbling. That being said, there are five basketball positions that traditionally accommodate certain skills.
Before I breakdown the positions, I want to clarify the numerical labels commonly associated with each position. For example, the point guard is referred to as the one, the shooting guard the two, the small forward the three, and so on.
Point Guard (1)
The point guard—often referred to as the floor general— has the ball in their hands the most. They are usually the best ball handler and passer. The offense runs through them, and it’s their job to dictate the pace of the game. Point guards create off the dribble with their quickness and are a viable scorer. Famous NBA point guards include Allen Iverson, Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul.
Shooting Guard (2)
The shooting guard is a secondary ball-handler and usually more of a scoring threat than the point guard. They live up to the namesake of their position and are the best shooter most of the time. Shooting guards can also be pesky perimeter defenders that guard opponents’ best outside threat. Famous NBA shooting guards include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Klay Thompson, and Clyde Drexler.
Small Forward (3)
The small-forward is the hybrid position between guard and forward. They’re usually one of the more versatile players on the floor and can guard across multiple positions. Small forwards operate on the wing and can make plays from inside and on the perimeter while possessing good ball-handling skills. Famous NBA small forwards include Larry Bird, Kawhi Leonard, Scottie Pippen, and Kevin Durant. Perhaps the most famous is LeBron James, whose prowess as a dribbler and on the fast break helped him mold a new style of the position as a “point forward.”
Power Forward (4)
Power forwards are generally the second tallest players on basketball teams. They can rebound well and work down low or in the mid-range. However, power forwards have evolved into spot-up shooters in today’s game, as the three-point shot is more valuable than ever. Famous NBA power forwards include Tim Duncan, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love.
Centers—often referred to as the big man—are the tallest players on the court and work almost exclusively in the post. They’re the best rebounders on the team and can score with efficiency around the basket. Their favorite shot is a lay-up, and they can be disruptive shot blockers. Famous NBA players at the center position include Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Joel Embiid, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Hopefully, this guide can be a point of reference next time you take the basketball court or a game is on.