How to Play Defensive in Basketball?

Solid defense is one of the pillars of winning basketball games. Being a good defender starts with a strong, solid and stable defensive stance. Thus, keeping your feed wide apart and bending your legs are a must for better defense!


Indeed, the combo of the right athleticism and mentality is a must in effective defense. Add the proper defensive stance and your game will improve because:

  • You’re readier to move in any direction needed to grab the scoring opportunity.
  • You’re able to contest every move and shot by the opposing team.
  • You’re able to enjoy the benefits of active hands. These include the readiness to steal the ball and tip the passes. You’re making the offense work harder at their jobs!

Without a good defensive stance, you will be unable to make a goof defensive slide. You will likely be off balance and out of position, thus, enabling the offensive players to score. With that being said, here are three major principles of a good defensive stance.

Feet Apart, Legs Bent - the Foundation of Good Defense

Low and wide, as if you’re standing in a room with a low ceiling. This is the basis for your feet, knee and leg positions in an effective defensive stance.

1. Feet Position

Start with your feet since everything starts here. You must spread your feet shoulder-width apart and point them forward. With your feet pointing forward, you can exert more force against the floor, thanks to the angle.

Your feet should also be a bit wider than your knees. But avoid such a wide gap that you’re unable to drive through your foot.

You must place slightly more than half of your weight to the balls of your feet. Be sure to not place your weight on your toes. Your heels should be off the ground without losing your solid balance.


This feet position also allows explosive push off from the ground. Your momentum is essential in maintaining your defensive position. The wide base also allows for quicker movements away from the opposing player.

2. Leg and Knee Position

With your feet in place, your next step is to ensure proper leg and knee position. Bend your knees until you can reach the floor with the fingers of your hand. You should be able to touch the floor with ease without breaking your balance.

You must be as low as possible without compromising your ability to move fast. If you can’t move, then you’re too low. If you can move with fluid motions while staying low, then you’re in the right position.


You have to keep your core muscles engaged during the stance. Otherwise, you can easily become off balanced. You’re well-advised to enroll in a weight training program to build strength and stamina.

Shoulders Slightly Ahead, Back Straight

With your low and wide stance, your next step is to check your shoulder and back. Keep these tips in posture in mind.

  • Keep your shoulder slightly ahead of your knees. You must avoid letting it stick way out in the front.
  • Check the flatness of your back. Your back should be flat with a slight arch (i.e., not completely straight). You can stick your chest upwards when reaching down to keep your back level (i.e., shoulders to hips).

Think of it this way: When you’re standing up, your back is on a straight plane. When you’re in your low and wide position, your back is flat.

You will likely feel uncomfortable with this position at first. But remember that keeping your chest up has its advantages. Your back can be kept flat, thus, keeping your balance and preventing your fall.

Think about the stance this way, too: You’re in a back squat, a weightlifting exercise. The difference lies in the wider feet and greater forward lean. Your weight is also off your heels and your eyes are looking upwards.


Your buttocks should also be behind your heels. You’re engaging your glutes, the most powerful muscles, in the defensive stance, too. You can keep your balance better instead of leaning too far backwards or forwards, as well.

If you’re leaning forward too much, you can bring your hands over your head. Your torso will be more upright so your forward lean can be reduced.

If you’re too upright, you can keep your hands straight in your front. You’re forcing your buttocks to push back into the desired position.

Keeping your back level also means keeping your head up. You will not only have a better center of gravity. You can also keep an eye on your defender – to be exact, on his belly button.

Hands Up, Arms Moving

Your hands should be up and moving instead of down at your sides. You have many hand positions to choose from depending on your intent:

  • Hands out the sides
  • One hand digs at the ball while the other hand is out wide
  • One hand is out wide and the other hand is by the offensive player’s hip

Basically, hands up for defending a shot or for dribbling. Hands up also means obstructing the player’s view and mirroring the ball.


Your arms should also be constantly moving. You want to knock down passes and block possible passing lanes. You also want to make the ball handler work harder to see openings from his teammates.

Keep These Defensive Playing Position Tips in Mind

  • Constantly harass the ball. Keep your palms facing up during the defense.
  • Tip the ball up on the dribble. Slapping down on it will result in less control.
  • Mirror the ball with your hands. Shot and pass attempts can be deflected in this manner.
  • Always stay between the basket and the opposing player. Keep the ball-you-basket order in mind and adjust your position, as needed.
  • Challenge every move made by your opponent. Better yet, try to think ahead.

Final Words

Mastering the defensive stance is as important as learning the defensive moves. In fact, the stance is the foundation of every move! You and your coach should work toward it until it becomes second nature. The more you’re in the defensive mode, the better your game will be!

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