“Defense Wins Championships”?

Defense Wins Championships”

We’ve heard it a thousand times. From a coach. From a parent. From the announcers on TV. Even from professional players. It’s stamped on our brain like a song that you just can’t stop singing. But just because everyone (or most) believe it, does that make it true?

In the 15th century it was a “fact” known among all members of society that the world was indeed FLAT. Then there was this crazy man down the street named Christopher Columbus who didn’t believe that the world was flat. “WHAT ON THIS FLAT EARTH IS HE THINKING?!?!” I’m sure was the thought racing through everyones minds. But Chris wasn’t just going to lay down and conform to everyone else’s false beliefs. Well Mr. Columbus, we know how you feel!

Now, don’t go all medieval on me and start screaming off with my head! Hear me out… I do 100% believe that defense is crucial to having a winning team. I mean come on, your not just going to let the opposing team have their way. You have to play hard and create confusion and make it as difficult as you possibly can for the opposing team to score, but come on. To say that defense is the reason for winning a championship is to ignore the fact there is a rather large chunk of the puzzle missing here!

In a game that determines the winner by points that can only be scored by putting the ball in the basket it’s a little bit of a stretch to pin the reason for winning on defense. The only way this could hold true is if it was common to see teams scoring 0 points in a game on a regular basis. And that’s never been the case!

If fact, this quote isn’t even a basketball quote to begin with. This quote is best identified with Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. A FOOTBALL COACH! Which makes much more sense because teams get shut out in football games on a much more frequent basis! The original quote is “Offense sells tickets; Defense wins Championships.”

So how did this quote become so popular and widely used. Well, as coaches go, control seems to be the issue. You see, coaches like control. Control makes a coach feel more comfortable with what is happening. It’s when coaches have no control that they panic. I believe this is why this quote is so widely used! Defense is very much about attitude, work ethic, desire, and self motivation. These are huge factors that coaches really don’t have a lot of control over with their players. These things have to be players driven as defense is a much more grueling thing than offense. Everybody loves offense because with the ball the game is much more fun and you have the opportunity to score. With defense however, it seems a lot more like work to most players. Therefore coaches like to put the emphasis on defense because there is less of a control factor. The team that dominates the ball typically controls the games pace and style of play.

Defense allows you to keep a game close but offense can put you over the top. It’s funny to me how often we look at championship teams and want to praise how great of a defensive team they are and we ignore the fact that they are great offensive teams as well.

A quote I’ve heard and believe is that good offense beats good defense every time. You could even take that a step further and say a great offensive / good defensive team will beat a great defensive / good offensive team the majority of the time.

The movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt talks about statistical analysis in the game of baseball and how it has affected the game and made teams successful.

So, Let’s apply this to basketball. In the book “Basketball on Paper” by Dean Oliver, Oliver does just that, crunching numbers and statistical categories to come up with the 4 factors that best determine if a team will win.

Oliver’s findings were as follows:

#1 Shooting Percentage – It should be no surprise that the winning teams consistently shot the highest FG%. The best teams can shoot the ball and can shoot the ball well!

#2 Turnovers – The next factor in determining the success of a team was their ability to make good decisions and take care of the ball.

#3 Free Throw Percentage – The next factor is a teams ability to convert at the charity stripe.

#4 Rebounds – The fourth factor in determining the success of a team is their ability to rebound.

It’s no surprise to me that shooting is both the number one and number three factor in determining the success of a team. It’s what I’ve based my coaching philosophy around for the majority of my coaching career.

Just look at some of the best teams in your conference, your region, your state and ask yourself are they good shooting/scoring teams or are they below average shooting scoring teams?

Every year Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils are consistently one of the best teams in the nation, and while they do well defensively there is a reason they compete for championship after championship year after year.

This is because his team can flat out shoot with the best of them!

They rank among the top teams every year in FG%, 3PT%, and FT%. I believe it’s only fitting that he is currently the all time winningest Men’s Basketball Coach. He obviously knows that this game is all about scoring the basketball.

I also believe it is no coincidence that when former All-Time winningest College Men’s Basketball Coach Don Meyer was once asked if he had any “secrets” for his coaching success, he replied, “I only recruit shooters”.

One of my favorite sayings is “if your team can shoot, you will compete for a title”

At UCLA, Coach John Wooden knew that offensive skills were just as important as defensive skills but the offensive skills took longer to develop. This is why Coach Wooden in practice would put an emphasis on Offensive skills and spend 2/3 of his instruction often on offense and the remaining 1/3 on defense.

One of the best ways to avoid this is watching film. It’s the reason why Pro Shot uses video footage to the extent we do. We want you to see what biases and myths that exist in beliefs on basketball. So let’s put aside our nostalgia and work together to better the level of basketball being played at all levels. Put aside these “Old Ideas” and start seeing the reality in front of us.

Winning Championships is not just about defense, as the quote can lead some to believe. It’s about having a well a well balanced team that can both stop a team from scoring and in turn put the ball in the basket at an efficient rate. (good shooting)
I’ll leave you with another quote from a basketball great.

“What these youngbloods have to understand is that this game has always been and will always be about BUCKETS!” -Bill Russell