IF I were more than 6 feet tall with long arms and God-given athleticism, plus an insane work ethic, then I’d like to be known more for my defense than anything.
There’s no greater pleasure and satisfaction for a defensive player than knowing he shut down the other team’s best player.
Altered and forced shots, steals and blocks are what a very good defensive player can produce.
Defending the other team’s best player is never easy. Playing defense is never easy. As comedian Bill Murray’s character in the movie Space Jam said, “I don’t play defense.”
The two-way players are a special breed. They can both score and defend. They can score 30 and stop the other team’s leading scorer.
Throughout the history of basketball, be it professional, amateur or college, we’ve seen players step up to the challenge of stopping an offensive juggernaut.
I remember Dennis Rodman in his prime defending Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and he’d do a decent job slowing them down.
Rodman was athletic, had long arms and could get under your skin. He wasn’t able to shut them down, but he slowed them down and gave them a hard time. He made them take tough low-percentage shots. He also had great lateral movement, which made it easy for him to draw charges.
I also remember one anecdote. A late high-ranking government official who was a basketball freak used to brag how he would average about 20 points per game in the inter-office league of his department. Most of these baskets were made on fast breaks—he would wait at one end of the court for his team’s big men to throw baseball passes at him. He would then grab the pass, sprint a few steps and score unopposed.
Later on, one of his teammates, one of his staff, got fed up with his bragging and mustered enough courage to tell him, “You scored 20, 25 points by simply waiting for the pass But have you ever realized that the man you’re defending scored 30 points? “May utang ka sa team ng five points [You owe our team five points].”