A Dime Guide: Which Basketball Position Is For Me?

James Naismith

James Naismith

Basketball used to be simple. Back when James Naismith invented the sport in 1891, the game looked very different. Players didn’t dribble. There were no three-pointers. Here’s the craziest part of all: there weren’t even positions. Teams had this weird idea that they could just play their five best players.

Nowadays everyone has a position. Expectant fathers stare at ultrasound pictures trying to figure out if their child will be a post player like daddy. Even the chubby 40-year-old guy at the park freaks out when you tell him to give up the ball because he can’t dribble.

(“Man, I’m a point guard!”)

But what if you don’t know your position? What if you’re completely new to the game?

As part of Dime’s continuing commitment to youth basketball, we present the following guide for our youngest readers. It is a reference tool designed to help the beginning hoopster find his or her place on the court. After all, it should never be left to the coaches to tell you what position to play: we saw Blue Chips, and those dudes are totally crooked.

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Point Guard

The point guard is the player who dribbles the ball up the court. This is usually done while holding two fingers in the air, which doesn’t mean anything at all. To be a good point guard you have to develop several important skills: dribbling, screaming at your teammates and doing that thing where you slap the floor on defense.

The point guard position was invented a long time ago so that short people could play basketball. Casual fans LOVE point guards, especially small white ones. They call these players “floor generals.” If you have ever been called a floor general, what this really means is you’re annoying.

Point guards call the plays on offense. They are usually the captains of their teams. And point guards generally grow up to become coaches, because, let’s face it, short people try to control everything.

Shooting Guard

Mothers and fathers, if you have an only child, he or she will grow up believing they are a shooting guard. They are strange creatures, aloof and odd. A shooting guard will wear rubber bands on his wrist, a sweatband on his head, a padded shooting sleeve that covers his entire arm, a brace on his knee, and will think nothing of holding up the team’s practice to tape a pinky finger on his shooting hand that has never been injured.

Deep down inside, every shooting guard believes that he or she has been chosen. They have grown up watching Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and in their minds they believe that the best player on any team is always the shooting guard. During games they will spend long stretches on offense standing in the corner, brooding and waiting for teammates to come and set screens. Some shooting guards believe that it is against the rules for them to venture inside the three-point arc for any reason.

The one exception to this is the end-of-game scenario, where the shooting guard sprints out to midcourt and demands the ball as the clock winds down. He then waves all of his teammates away and begin to dribble back and forth while everyone stands and watches. When the clock reaches six seconds, he will jack knife towards the hoop and chuck up an off-balance jumper, often with two or three defenders draped all over him. This almost never works.

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