Do you want to become a better defender but are unsure how? Well, you should probably study some of the greats. You can start by learning how to defend like Scottie Pippen.
Defense wins games.
You know this.
This philosophy has been preached for decades. But to become a great defender, you have to study the greats. And one player you can learn from today is Scottie Pippen.
Pippen is one of the best defenders to ever grace the hardwood.
When he plays, he defends the perimeter and the post and is always helping out his teammates. If someone loses their man, Pippen was the first one to slide over to help out.
“We had to worry about Scottie [Pippen] on defence the same way we had to worry about the league’s other great players on offence,” Brent Barry, a former opponent of Pippen’s, told ESPN.
The Time Pippen Made History By Recording 6 Steals and 5 Blocks
There was this one game in 1991. It was Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Chicago Bulls were going up against the Detroit Pistons.
This was the “Bad Boys” era Pistons that bullied and borderline harmed their opponents (almost every foul would be a flagrant 2 in today’s game).
Anyway, Pippen accomplished something in this game that very few players ever have. He recorded 6 steals and 5 blocks.
The only other player to have achieved this was the great Hakeem Olajuwon, who did it twice, in 1986 (in Game 1 and Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals).
In this game, Pippen was constantly looking for opportunities to deflect or knock the ball away from the player he was guarding.
His timing was impeccable.
Every time he saw a slight gap between the ball and its handler, he attempted to swipe it away. And every time the ball-handler went up for a close shot, Pippen was there to contest it.
He just put in effort on the defensive end and had fun doing it.
And this is one of the reasons why he is an 8-time All-Defensive player and was crowned the 1995 steals leader.
Why It’s Important to Study Scottie Pippen’s Defense
According to Kobe Bryant, who was defended by Pippen many times throughout his career, Pippen is the prototypical defensive player that all players should study and emulate.
“If I’m a young player coming into the league today, I would really focus on the defensive end of the floor and look at Scottie Pippen. I mean, this guy was a genius,” Bryant said in the introduction of his Details excerpt.
In the above video, Kobe breaks down how Pippen plays defense.
He talks about the skills that he uses on the court (knowing how to cut players off from open lanes and being able to read the opponent’s body or movement language) as well as his mentality on D (playing with aggression and having fun playing defence).
But the most important factor, that Kobe says Pippen possesses, is viewing defence as the most important component of the game.
And I agree with him. When you don’t view something as the most vital, you tend to not put much effort into it.
So when you view defence as secondary to offense, you put more energy and effort into scoring (and getting those offensive stats) and slack off on getting stops.
How to Defend Like Scottie Pippen
So, if you want to improve and become a better defender, you have to first change your mindset.
You have to truly believe that defense wins games. You also have to put defence first and put all of your efforts into preventing your opponent from scoring.
The second thing you have to do is increase your defensive knowledge.
You have to put in the time to study tapes of how the best do it and learn players’ patterns. This will also help you communicate effectively with your teammates on D.
This is how Pippen’s teammate, Dennis Rodman, became so good at rebounding.
He studied how his opponents shot the ball and how the ball bounced off the backboard or rim; Rodman experimented and studied the trajectory of the shots.
The final thing you have to do is get stronger and master the fundamentals of defending, which you can learn from Pippen’s teammate, Michael Jordan, here.
This includes doing squats, improving your footwork for defensive sliding, figuring out how to position your hands, and learning the correct defensive stance.
Playing defence is tedious.
It’s hard work that barely shows on the stat sheet. But it’s one of the most important aspects of the game and something that you need to emphasize in your training and when you play (like Alex Caruso does).
So go and master all three of these components.
Once you do, you’ll be on your way to becoming an unstoppable stopper like Pippen.