Big Man

What is a Big Man in Basketball?

In the world of basketball, the term “big man” often refers to players who possess exceptional height and weight, allowing them to dominate in crucial aspects of the game such as rebounding, shot-blocking, setting screens, and posting up. Typically, big men play either the power forward or center positions and are usually over 6’9″ and at least 200 pounds. Their size and physical presence on the court make them essential to a team’s success, particularly on the defensive end.

In recent years, the role of the big man has evolved with the emergence of the “stretch big” phenomenon. Stretch bigs are players who, in addition to their traditional roles, can also shoot from the outside. This shift has expanded the big man’s impact on the game, making them a more versatile and valuable asset to their teams. As a result, the modern big man must be prepared to adapt and develop new skills to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing game.

Defining a Big Man

Position and Role

A big man in basketball typically refers to a player who occupies the power forward or center position. These players play a crucial role in both offense and defense. Their primary responsibilities include scoring points in the paint, grabbing rebounds, blocking shots, and setting screens for their teammates.

Physical Characteristics

The big man is usually characterized by their size and strength. In the NBA, a big man is generally over 6’9″ and weighs at least 200 pounds. Their exceptional height and weight give them an advantage when competing for rebounds, blocking shots, and guarding opponents close to the basket.

Key Responsibilities

  • Scoring points in the paint: A big man’s offensive prowess often comes from their ability to finish around the rim and use post moves to create shots for themselves.
  • Creating shots for teammates: Players in this role set screens, roll to the basket, and pass out of the post for open shots for their teammates, contributing to the overall flow of the team’s offense.
  • Rebounding: Big men are responsible for crashing the boards, securing offensive and defensive rebounds, which can be crucial in maintaining possession or preventing second-chance points.
  • Defending: Their size and strength make them effective at contesting shots and blocking opponents’ attempts in the paint area.
  • Setting screens: A big man’s size also aids in setting wide screens to help teammates create open shots or drive to the basket.

In recent years, the “stretch big” phenomenon has evolved, giving rise to big men who can shoot from the outside in addition to traditional post play. This versatility allows teams to spread the floor and create more scoring opportunities. The role of a big man in basketball is essential, and players who excel in this position can significantly impact their team’s success.

Evolution of the Big Man

Historical Significance

In basketball, the term “big man” traditionally referred to a player who played the center or power forward position, typically being the tallest and strongest player on the team. Historically, big men were seen as dominant forces inside the paint, using their size and strength to dominate the game through post moves, rebounds, and shot-blocking. Players like Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning are prime examples of the old-school big man that focused their play around the basket.

Modern Adaptations

As the game of basketball evolved over time, the role of the big man has also seen significant changes. The modern NBA game has shifted towards a more perimeter-oriented style, valuing spacing and three-point shooting. As a result, big men have had to adapt to this new style and expand their skillset.

Nowadays, big men are expected to have a more versatile game, being able to shoot from beyond the arc, put the ball on the floor, and defend multiple positions. Players like Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Nikola Jokic exemplify the modern big man. They possess a rare combination of size, agility, and shooting ability, which is highly valuable in today’s game.

To illustrate the change, consider the number of three-point attempts by big men:

YearThree-Point Attempts by Big Men

As seen in the table above, the number of three-point attempts by big men has more than tripled from 2010 to 2022.

Impact on the Game

The evolution of the big man has had a profound impact on the game of basketball. With their newly developed skills, big men have become a versatile weapon in the league. Teams now rely on their big men to stretch the floor, create mismatches, and help with the ball movement. This shift in playing style has made basketball a faster and more dynamic game with more emphasis on team play and individual versatility.

On the defensive end, the modern big man’s ability to defend multiple positions also plays a crucial role in their team’s success. By being more mobile and agile, they can switch on pick-and-roll plays more effectively, which is essential in shutting down modern offences.

In conclusion, the big man’s evolution from a primarily interior presence to a more versatile player has fundamentally changed basketball. This change has not only made big men more valuable and critical to team success, but it has also opened up new dimensions and strategies of the game for both coaches and players to explore.