Know Your Role: Functional Basketball Positions
Traditionally, basketball has been played with five positions - point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. However, much like the game, the players have evolved.
Basketball players are getting better, and teams are coming up with unique strategies to one-up their opponents. So, oversimplifying the positions and pigeonholing the players into one of these roles cannot accurately portray their specific skill sets.
In an interview posted on Maxim.com, former NBA player and long-time basketball analyst Jalen Rose explained why positions in the NBA are pointless. “It has become a league of judging only by talent and not by pushing you into a specific position. When I came along people were hell-bent on trying to tell me what position I was. We could talk endlessly about where Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook play and what position Lebron James or Anthony Davis play — is Anthony Davis a 4 or 5 and is Lebron a 3 or is he a 4, is he Batman or is he Robin? I just think talent is all that matters -- not what position you play.”
Because of the influx of talent, the game has undergone a positional revolution. The lines between positions are being blurred as multidimensional players emerge. Players are no longer being designated to positions according to their physical traits but according to their style of play. The terms stretch four/five, point forward, combo guard, swingman, 3-and-D, tweener, and unicorn were all coined to accommodate such talents
A testament to this change is when Golden State Head coach Steve Kerr went small ball during the 2015 NBA Finals. Down 2-1 against the Cavaliers, Kerr inserted swingman Andre Iguodala at power forward and moved tweener Draymond Green to center. This proved to be a successful strategy as the Warriors went on to win the Championship.
The New Positions According to Data Science
Several new roles have been identified with the advent of basketball analytics. While interning for a data visualization company in 2012, Stanford University senior Muthu Alagappan used the company’s software and crunched the data set of 452 players.
He identified 13 new ways of grouping the players according to their performance and playing style.
- Offensive Ball-Handler. This type of player moves with the ball and aims to score.
- Defensive Ball-Handler. This type of ball handler specializes in assists and steals.
- Combo Ball-Handler. This player makes an impact on both the offensive and defensive end but does not stand out in either category.
- Shooting Ball-Handler. Characterized by an above average field goal percentage, this player is talented at making shots
- Role-Playing Ball-Handler. Usually seeing action during “garbage time,” this player only plays for a few minutes and does not have any statistical impact on the game.
- Three-Point Rebounder. This player is adept at rebounding the ball and thrives beyond the arc.
- Scoring Rebounder. A double-double guy, this player is an excellent rebounder and an offensive threat.
- Paint Protector. This player is usually a big man known for grabbing boards and blocking shots.
- Scoring Paint Protector. This type of big man is a great scorer, defender, blocker, and rebounder.
- NBA First Team. These are elite level players that are excellent in every statistical category.
- NBA Second Team. These are above average players that make a statistical impact when they hit the floor.
- Role Players. This less talented group delivers a solid performance despite their limited playing time.
- One-of-a-Kind. As the name suggests, this is a special kind of player that the software cannot group with anyone else.
Inspired by Alagappan’s prize-winning study, Alex Cheng from Fastbreak Data conducted a similar analysis in 2017. With the goal of classifying players according to their skill set, he uncovered eight natural positions that are common among today’s NBA players. Listed below are his findings along with some player examples.
- Defensive Centers: DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, and Rudy Gobert
- Three-and-D Wings: Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson
- Scoring Wings: James Harden, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade
- Versatile Forwards: Draymond Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Dirk Nowitzki
- Floor Generals: Chris Paul, John Wall, and Rajon Rondo
- Shooting Wings: Devin Booker, J.J. Redick, and Avery Bradley
- Combo Guards: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard
- Offensive Centers: Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love
Footwear Science: Choosing the Right Basketball Shoe According to Your Playing Style
The game of basketball requires different movements that are highly dependent on a player’s style. So, choosing the right footwear is crucial to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury.
For the most part, basketball shoes are the only performance-enhancing equipment a player has on during a game. Most players are starting to realize the importance of wearing a good pair that complements their style of play.
Because of this, the demand for high-performance basketball footwear has steadily increased over the years, making it a billion-dollar industry. Shoe brands have taken advantage of the situation by releasing a wide range of options that appeal to different types of players.
What is a good basketball shoe?
Choosing the right kind of footwear has become increasingly difficult because of all the available options. With basketball shoe prices ranging from $100-$200, it is important to know your style and find out what a shoe has to offer before making a purchase.
A good pair of basketball shoes should complement your style. It should give you the confidence to run, jump, and move more effectively on the court. It should also be versatile and supportive to decrease the chance of injury.
What should I look for in a basketball shoe?
In 2012, a study authored by Torsten Brauner from Technische Universität München, Conservative and Rehabilitative Orthopaedics, Munich, Germany; Marc Zwinzscher from Chemnitz University of Technology, Institute of Sports Science, Siezenheim, Austria; and Thorsten Sterzing from Lin Ning Sports Science Research Centre, Beijing, China aimed to investigate what type of footwear a player preferred according to position and physical game requirements. Below is an excerpt of their findings.
“Results: The three playing positions have very different physical profiles: (1) guards require speed and agility, (2) centres require strength and strong leaping ability, and (3) forward players are versatile all-rounders. Overall, ankle stability was rated the most important shoe characteristic and mid-cut uppers were favoured by the majority of players. Shoe preferences differed only marginally between playing positions: guards put more emphasis on low-weight and more flexible shoes whereas centre players prefer shoes with high stability and injury protection. Accordingly, centre player favoured high-cut uppers.
Conclusions: The findings reveal the potential for two position-specific basketball shoe models: (1) a low- to mid-cut agility shoe model for guards and small forwards that has high traction and is supportive during acceleration and cutting movements, and (2) a mid- to high-cut stability shoe for power forwards and centres with the focus on ankle stability and jumping performance. The stability shoe could easily be complemented with additional ankle braces.”
As the study suggests, mid-top basketball shoes are the way to go.
Mid-Top Basketball Shoes
Mid-top basketball shoes offer the best of both worlds. It is less restrictive than high-tops and more supportive than low-top basketball sneakers.
For this reason, mid-top basketball shoes are preferred by most players. It is a versatile shoe style that is ideal for quick, explosive, and even powerful players.
What are mid-top basketball shoes?
Cut right at the ankle, mid-top basketball shoes offer added support and allow freedom of movement. Because it is lighter than conventional high-top basketball shoes, it provides players with increased speed so that they can run and react faster.
Mid-top basketball shoes provide support, stability, and quickness. Out of the three styles, it has the most to offer to a broader range of players. It is an all-around shoe style that does a little bit of everything.
Best Mid-Top Basketball Shoes
Here at RunRepeat, we try to make your life easier by giving you the lowdown on the latest and greatest basketball shoes. From the least to the most hyped, we give it to you straight so that you can zero in on a pair that will suit your style and meet your budget.
Listed below are just some of the best mid-top basketball shoes each brand has to offer.
Adidas Explosive Bounce. Despite being a budget team model, the Adidas Explosive Bounce packs a lot of punch. These mid-top basketball shoes feature a molded heel piece that provides enhanced support as you zoom past the defense. The shoe’s full-length Bounce midsole allows you to harness all your raw energy so that you can explode to the rim.
Adidas Dame 4. From the youth basketball circuit to becoming one of the most clutch players in the league, Damian Lillard’s fourth signature sneaker shows his evolution as a player. In an interview with Slam, lead designer Jesse Rademacher explains how much Lillard loves his sneakers. “He’s always wearing these shoes. Whether he’s boxing, whether he’s in the gym, whether he’s in the studio, he wouldn’t give us the shoes back. We tried to tell him to keep quiet on social [media], but you could see that he wouldn’t take them off,” Rademacher said with a chuckle. The Adidas Dame 4 features a compression collar that wraps the foot for a comfortable and snug fit. Its evolved traction pattern prevents slipping to give Lillard confidence during crunch time. His favorite Bounce midsole offers superior court feel and keeps him going when the game is on the line. Because of its beastly performance, these mid-top basketball sneakers are popular among fans and even NBA players.
Adidas D Rose 5 Boost. Released in 2014, the fifth Derrick Rose basketball shoes were the first D Rose model to include Adidas’s groundbreaking Boost technology. "Having the Boost cushioning in my new signature shoe makes it the most favorite of mine that we've ever done," Derrick Rose said during the shoe’s launch. "I've played in them for a couple months, but every time I put them on it feels like a new shoe, and it's the most comfortable shoe I've ever worn. Now, I can't imagine playing without Boost in my shoes," he continued.
Aside from Boost, the D Rose 5 also boasts several supportive features. It has a ShockWeb upper overlay, an EVA fit-cage, and an updated Sprintweb for enhanced strength and support. One of the highlights of the D Rose 5 Boost is its new collar design. The unique cut gives it the mobility of a low and the stability of a mid.
Adidas Crazy 8. Launched in 1997, the Adidas Crazy 8 was Kobe Bryant’s first-ever signature sneaker that was originally called the KB8. Featuring the innovative ‘Feet You Wear’ technology, the KB8 is arguably one of the best mid-top basketball shoes Adidas has ever created. It captivated sneakerheads and propelled the Three Stripes into the future. Because of its popularity and beastly on-court performance, the Crazy 8 has been retroed several times and has been spotted on the feet of numerous NBA players including Derrick Rose. It is also a staple among the German brand’s college basketball programs.
Anta KT2. Klay Thompson cruised through the 2017 NBA Finals while wearing his signature Anta KT2. Overjoyed with his accomplishment, Anta Sports Chairman and CEO Ding Shizhong congratulated Klay. “We commend Klay Thompson for his brilliant performance throughout the whole season, and for his role in achieving this stunning victory. The KT2 sneakers worn by Klay Thompson, which are one of the most iconic products in the KT series, were not only designed to help him perform well and excel on the court but were also developed to support his thriving and legendary basketball career.”
These functional mid-top basketball shoes feature a multi-layered midsole for superior cushioning and long-lasting comfort. A TPU heel counter offers support while a TPU shank provides torsional rigidity. “Since 2015, the ANTA KT series have played a major role on my journey to the NBA final. I have had the privilege of wearing the sneaker series during the highest points of my career, and I am grateful to ANTA for designing shoes that are highly functional, well-designed and give me an advantage every time I go on the offensive or whenever I run,” Klay commented.
Air Jordan 11. The Air Jordan XI is possibly one of the best mid-top basketball shoes Tinker Hatfield has ever designed. “The 11 is probably the most remarkable shoe, yes. It was a bold approach to use new materials and new technology. We worked so hard on the 11 – and Michael liked it way too much. We showed him the final design in spring of 1995. He was so enthusiastic that he wore the shoe way earlier than everyone at Nike wanted it. But he didn’t care. He saw the shoe and couldn’t wait to wear it on the court,” Tinker said during an interview in 2015.
The AJ 11’s most iconic feature is its patent leather mudguard. In another interview with Nick DePaula, Tinker explains why the Air Jordan 11 remains his favorite. “The XI, out of all of those shoes, is my favorite one. The reason I like it the most is partly because it has patent leather, the nylon, and the carbon fiber shank–and some of those things had never happened before–but it was also designed, believe it or not, when Michael Jordan was retired.”
Michael Jordan predicted that these shoes would become a hit off the court. “The first thing he said was, 'You….you….y….' He couldn’t get a word out. [laughs] Then, the first real sentence that he said was, 'People are going to be wearing these with tuxedos.' I just said, 'You’re kidding,' and didn’t believe him." he recounts. “The shoe sort of developed a life of its own because it transcended basketball a little bit, and ended up in modern culture and music history. It’s my favorite because of all of those things.”
Jordan Why Not Zer0.1. Right before the conclusion of the 72nd NBA season, Russell Westbrook added another feather to his cap. Entering the OKC Thunder’s final game of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies, Brodie needed at least 16 boards to average 10 per contest. With a little over nine minutes left in the third quarter, he grabbed his 16th rebound of the game and became the first person in the league’s history to average a triple-double in more than one NBA season. He finished the game with six points, 19 assists, and a career-high 20 rebounds. ''I'm very, very thankful and blessed, man, to go out and compete,'' he said after the game. ''Like I've said many, many times, I don't take this game for granted. I don't take going out on the floor and competing for granted.''
On his feet that night was a pair of metallic Why Not Zer0.1s. Throughout his playing career, Westbrook has been following one simple rule, “If I face a challenge, I run at it — not away from it,” he declares. These innovative mid-top basketball shoes perfectly capture his ‘Why Not?’ mentality. During the shoe's launch Nike said, "Crafted for the dynamic game and personality of the reigning MVP and fashion king, the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 is highlighted by its smooth vamp, which, fitting for Westbrook, offers dual purpose. First and foremost, it serves the MVP’s key footwear need: forefoot containment. Westbrook plays high on his toes, always ready to push to the hoop or convert a rebound or steal into a fast break. For this, he needs stability over the sole unit, such that no added movement minimizes response when shifting direction or getting maximum bounce to the rack. Combining his style, specific performance needs and Jordan Brand soul, the end result is a futuristic silhouette that features a fused mesh upper, full-length Zoom Air unit and a compression-molded phylon foam piece engineered for flight."
Air Jordan XXXII. Staying true to Jordan Brand’s DNA, the AJ XXXII delivers the perfect balance between innovation and style. “We’ve always explored new materials and technology to create the best game shoe. That was evident when we went to Italy to make the II, and it still rings true today. On the XXXII, we challenged our designers to push the limits while staying true to the brand’s DNA,” Michael Jordan explained. The Air Jordan 32 features a Jordan-specific Flyknit upper that delivers a new level of performance and comfort on and off the court. Newly-pistoned Zoom Air bags are aided by a fresh traction pattern for smoother transitions and maximum court feel. "The Air Jordan game shoe line has always produced some of my favorite shoes,” says Jordan frontman Russell Westbrook. “The XXXII is a great combination of performance and style. The way I play demands that I have the best performing sneaker on my feet and style is something that is ingrained in me as a person and player."
Nike Kyrie 4. Kyrie Irving is one of the most unpredictable players in the league. Because of this, he needs a truly cutting-edge sneaker to complement his game. With a new designer on the helm, Nike plans to do just that. “Kyrie always challenges us as we get into design. He always goes back to this question: ‘Is this shoe going to make me better?’” Kyrie 4 lead designer Benjamin Nethongkome told The Undefeated. The Nike Kyrie 4 is built for performance. It features a decoupled outsole for flexibility and a heel Zoom Air unit for responsive cushioning. These Kyrie Irving shoes are also one of the most famous signature shoes in the NBA. According to a twitter post on June 01, 2018 by NBA on ESPN, 32 players were spotted wearing the Kyrie 3 while 22 others preferred playing in the Kyrie 4 during the 2017-2018 season.
Nike LeBron XIV. LeBron James is unlike any other NBA player. His combination of size, speed, power, and high basketball IQ makes him a matchup nightmare for any team. He is silent yet confident; stealthy yet savage. The Nike LeBron 14 embodies his attitude of attack. "When LeBron's on the court, out there doing it all, he doesn't need to be thinking about anything else," the design team stated. "This shoe is built to be super simple." These mid-top basketball shoes are equipped with a forefoot strap for dynamic lockdown, four Zoom Air units for ultimate responsiveness, and a perforated upper for breathable support.
Nike KD Trey 5 V. A budget offering from Nike, the Nike KD Trey 5 keeps things simple with its light yet supportive mid-top design. It boasts a forefoot Zoom Air unit for responsiveness, a dynamic lacing system for adaptive containment, and an articulated outsole for flexible traction. Made for the all-around player, these versatile KD shoes keep you locked in and ready to score from every angle.
Reebok Answer IV. Launched during the 76ers 2000-2001 campaign, Allen Iverson played some of the best basketball in his 14-year career while wearing his signature Reebok Answer IV. He carried the Philadelphia 76ers to a conference-best 56 wins and became the first player since Michael Jordan to lead the league in points (31.1) and steals (2.51) per game. He also became the first 76er since Moses Malone to win the league MVP award in the process. “I had no space for error. But I never stopped and worked on all the things people said I couldn't do, and now I'm the MVP of the league. It's something I always wanted," Iverson revealed after receiving the award.
These cutting-edge mid-top basketball shoes feature full-length DMX cushioning and a unique shrouded upper complete with a zipper closure down the middle. The hall of famer also had one of the most iconic moments in NBA Finals history while wearing a black and white pair of his Answer IV. On June 06, 2001, Allen Iverson did the infamous “Step Over” during the first game of the Finals. As the clock was winding down, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Lakers found himself guarding Iverson one-on-one. Iverson then crossed up Lue to get some separation to hit a crucial jumper. Trying to recover, Lue hurriedly attempted to contest the shot and then fell to the floor as he watched it go in. While Lue was on the floor, Iverson decided to emphatically step over him as if he were an unworthy opponent. The 76ers bested the heavily-favored Lakers that night as Iverson finished the game with 48 points, six assists, and five steals.
Under Armour Curry 3. Despite its disappointing sales, the UA Curry 3 is one of the best mid-top basketball shoes Under Armour has released. "As we launched the Curry 3 late last year, our expectations continued to run high. And while the 3 played very well on court for Stephen Curry and our athletes, a sluggish signature market and a warm consumer reception led to softer-than-expected results,” UA CEO Kevin Plank admitted in an earnings call last April 2017. The groundbreaking Curry 3 is a step in a different direction.
“For me, beyond the performance side that also starts to play the versatility side, too. You start to get that 24/7 wear. It’s a gateway into a new space for us, which Stephen and I have talked about a bit in the past,” UA design director Dave Dombrow said in an interview. The third Stephen Curry shoes feature an innovative Threadborne upper and Meta-wing carbon fiber shanks for stability, strength, and support.
“I think for me [the Curry 3] symbolizes growth, symbolizes elevation, and something that I’m very proud of,” Stephen Curry himself explained. “This is our third go-around and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
What is the brief history of basketball?
"The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play 'Drop the Handkerchief.'"
— James Naismith
During the harsh New England winter of 1891, James Naismith, a 30-year-old graduate student and member of the physical education teaching faculty at Springfield College, gathered his students of surly young men at a gymnasium and played the very first match of a new indoor game he invented.
Prior to this, Naismith was challenged by Luther Gulick, head of the physical education department, to invent an indoor game to keep the young YMCA class ‘exercised and distracted.’ “Naismith, I want you to take that class and see what you can do with it,” he said.
Gulick stipulated that the game must take place in the confines of a gym since it will be played in the winter (between baseball and football seasons). The game should also provide plenty of exercise and must be complex enough to be interesting.
At first, Naismith was reluctant and tried to talk himself out of the situation, so Gulick encouraged him. “Work on that new game that you said could be invented,” he told Naismith.
Naismith went to work and studied the most popular games at that time. He tried to incorporate the best aspects of each sport in his new game. The result is a combination of lacrosse (use of a goal), English rugby (the jump ball), American rugby (passing), soccer (the use of a ball), and a children’s game called “Duck on the Rock” (arching a shot into the basket).
On December 21, 1891, Naismith asked the school janitor for two 18-inch square boxes to use as goals. Instead, the janitor returned with two peach baskets. Naismith then proceeded to nail the baskets (one on each end) on the lower rail of the gymnasium balcony (which happened to be ten feet high). His secretary typed up a list of the 13 rules and posted it on the bulletin board.
Upon entering the gym, Frank Mahan, one of Naismith’s students, noticed the peach baskets and his instructor standing in the middle with a soccer ball. “Huh! Another new game!” he scoffed loudly.
18 students played the inaugural game. Naismith explained the rules then two team captains were selected. The class formed two teams of nine composed of three centers, three forwards, and three guards. Two of the centers met in the middle of the court and Naismith tossed the ball. The game itself was divided into two 15-minute halves with a five-minute break in between. No dribbling was allowed, and a jump ball restarted the game after each basket. The game ended with a score of 9-3, and the rowdy class was won over by this novel game.
Members of the class continued to play the unnamed game and introduced it to their respective YMCA branches during their Christmas break. The rules were published in a magazine, and the game grew in popularity.
After their vacation, Mahan approached Naismith to inquire what he intended to call the game he invented. Naismith drew a blank since he had not really thought about it. So, Mahan suggested to call it “Naismith Ball” after its inventor. Naismith became embarrassed and immediately brushed off the idea. Then, Mahan said, “Why not call it basket ball?” To this, Naismith answered, “We have a basket and a ball, and it seems to me that would be a good name for it.”
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