Friday, April 20, 2012

The Importance Of Role Players In Basketball

In basketball, star players are usually admired and idolized (if you're an NBA player).  However, what most people forget is that role players also contribute to the success of basketball teams well.

While Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and other stars get the lion's share of the credit for their team's success, role players make a big difference between a good team and a great team.  If you think of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, he had a Scottie Pippen as the second star, Luc Longley and others at center, Dennis Bodman to get rebounds and John Paxson and + other guys were the spot up shooters.  Without all of these guys, Jordan couldn't have won his six NBA championships.

The problem is some players don't know their roles or don't want to play their roles.   For me, when I was younger, I was purely a spot up shooter.  I was just put up a ton of shots.  As I got into my mid 20's, I turned into a rebounder.  As I have gotten older, I am going back to shooting but hitting my 12 to 15 foot mid range jump shot.   When I was younger, I didn't focus on defense or rebounding.  I just thought shooting equaled to playing basketball.  It took me years to realize that there was more to basketball.

To be fair, just having role players doesn't guarantee success.  If you have five shooters / scorers but no one plays defense or rebounds, that will prove to be bit of a problem.  Even if flip it around and have five defenders with no offense, that will also be a problem.  

The solution is to have a good mix of stars and role players that complement each other.   Each team will have a different mix and it's up to the team / coaches to determine which mix works the best.

I found this out when I was coaching youth basketball in my younger days.  I never had superstar players with my teams.  However, I had some good players with differing skill sets.  For whatever reason, I naturally knew how to find the best mixes for my teams.  Due to participating rules, I couldn't keep my best mixes in the game all the time.  However,  whenever I could, I would put the best mix in there to give my teams a competitive chance.

It's a little harder with adult leagues, but I've had some success in putting solid teams together.   The reason some of my teams were successful was that people were playing to their strengths and didn't try to do too much.  If players are forced to play outside of their strengths, the team sometimes will not do as well.

As a player, identify your strengths and play to them.  Identify your weaknesses as well and work to improve them OR minimize them.  As a coach, your job is put the best team out there.  Not necessarily the best five shooters, best five defenders, or even your five "best players".  The job is put together the "best team" out there that knows how to work and play well with each other.

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