Positions in Basketball are a Thing of the Past

My first exposure to the positions on a basketball court came via video games. EA Sports’ NBA Live series introduced a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center in its starting lineup. Video games are gospel when you’re five years old so even trading out names for numbers (i.e. He plays the one or ‘John, go play the five’) was an odd adjustment. However, as my basketball wisdom has gained years of experience and missed three-pointers, I've realized that these labels are both antiquated and cosmetic.

In football, positions identify specifics such as alignment, responsibility, and skill set. While there is certainly room for flexibility, a running back, for instance, isn’t going to play on the O-Line, line up as a receiver, and then drop back five steps and issue a strike across the middle like a quarterback. In the NBA, however, there are players who can both stroke the three and post up on the low block very effectively. Some can be their team's best distributor and play above the rim. These athletes, with unparalleled combinations of size, speed, and strength, are Swiss army knives in sneakers.

So, honestly, what the heck is a small forward?

Baseball, like football, carries out its game in a way that clearly defines positions. A shortstop plays shortstop. He doesn’t move to left field in transition or get behind the plate when the opposition rotates to a zone defense. The only other sport that compares in the way its game flows is hockey, yet, even hockey players’ movements and positioning are consistent with their position.

Basketball has player-types more so than they have positions. You have a pass-first point guard and a scoring point guard. There’s the trendy “stretch-four” compared to your classic power forward. Centers can remain confined to the paint, or they can have the ability to knock down the three.

Sure, you have labels in every sport. In football you have a scrambling quarterback versus a pocket-passer, but that player is exclusively a quarterback. Basketball is the only sport in which people argue over the position of one of the game’s all-time greats—is Tim Duncan a center or a power forward? So while there’s no doubt that Colin Kaepernick has a different style to Peyton Manning, there’s absolutely no doubt what position they play: quarterback.

I play pickup basketball. No longer can I shoot worth a damn. My passing is average. I’m no longer lightning-quick. The best way to describe my defense is inconsistent. So, what position do I play?

No matter what the size or skill, one thing is for certain. You'll look sweet in our Awesome Sports Logos Basketball T-shirts. Check out a few of my favorites, the El Paso Luchadores, New Orleans Curse and the Albuquerque Chupacabras.


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Jared Sandler
Awesome Sports Logos Columnist