“Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” In basketball, preventing the opponent from scoring is just as important as scoring, if not more. When you block a shot, that’s the epitome of a stop and possibly a momentum shift. That is why blocking a shot is such a treat, and probably the best type of defensive highlight one can pull off. This article teaches players how to block a shot in basketball, plus clips of some of the best game-winning blocks the NBA has seen.
What is a Blocked Shot in Basketball?
In basketball, a blocked shot is a shot attempt successfully deflected by the defense before it reached the hoop. “Before it reached the hoop” is a critical part of blocking a shot because if the ball is touched on the way down, it’s a violation.
A blocked shot could happen from anywhere, but most of the action occurs around the shaded area near the basket. This is because taller players, most often the power forwards and centers, protect the rim and usually go for blocked shots. Taller players generally block opponents’ shots much easier because they have longer arms and are bigger than everyone else.
While a block brings in the intimidation factor, it also brings disadvantages to the defense. For example, trying to block a shot may result in shooting fouls. It could put the big men in foul trouble, especially if they lack discipline against fakes and feints. Thus, even though contesting shots is a must in basketball, it is imperative that defensive big men remain composed to avoid getting called for fouls.
Why is Blocking an Important Skill in Basketball?
A player with the ability to block shots can help a team’s defense by making it tough for opposing players to shoot near the basket. The best shot blockers know how to keep the ball in play after making contact with it in mid-air which often results in easy fastbreak and transition opportunities.
There is also a mental side to basketball; getting your shot blocked is one thing that chips away at a player’s confidence. It may also affect the psyche of the team. On top of that, it also gets the crowd into it, which is always a big plus. That is why having a player who can consistently block shots is a big deal in basketball.
When Can You Block a Shot in Basketball?
A block can be done anywhere on the court, except when the other team is shooting free throws. Any defensive player can block a three-point shot, a layup, or a dunk. The only thing that matters is that defenders should deflect the ball on the way up and not on the way down. Another thing that shot blockers shouldn’t do is touch the ball after it hits the backboard. If that happens, the referees will automatically count the basket even if the ball did not have a chance to go in.
How to Block Against Different Basketball Shots: 5 Tips
Many basketball players ask, “Is blocking the shot technical or tactical?” Believe it or not, it’s both. Blocking a shot is more about skill than just size and height. If you are gifted with height and jumping ability, blocking is easier, but having the skills to match makes it much simpler.
If you want to know how to block in basketball without fouling or how to block a layup in basketball, these are the necessary skills and tips to make you an excellent all-around shot-blocker:
1. Timing is key when blocking a jump shot
The hardest to block is a jump shot. Not only does the offensive player jump high to release the ball, but the defender is also in danger of fouling, maybe by hitting the arms or preventing the offense from landing correctly. It’s always a tricky proposition if you’re trying to block a jump shot.
Unlike blocking a layup, swatting a jump shot needs that you jump early so that you can get to the ball before the offensive player is at the apex. Even this is not foolproof. Players may pull off a pump or ball fake to get around you if you’re jumping early. Therefore, it needs a combination of experience and a keen eye to know a legitimate scoring attempt. Otherwise, the offense will just literally run circles around you.
2. Learn how to jump straight up
You probably wouldn’t block a jump shot if you jumped straight up, but it’s effective against layups and dunks. The downward motion of the arms will often result in a foul, so this is one of the things that a defender should be very disciplined about. That being said, blocking a dunk is a precarious thing to do. You’re either going to be on a poster or get called for a foul (sometimes both), with nothing in between.
3. Learn the tendencies of offensive players
This is when you can take your defensive acumen to the next level. In the NBA, the best defenders are not just dynamic but also very cerebral. In what way? They pay attention to scouting reports. They know Player A likes to go all the way to the hoop when driving to his left and shoot a jump shot going right. Or Player B doesn’t know how to finish inside with his left hand so they can sit on his strong hand all the way. If you familiarize yourself with your opponents’ tendencies, you are more likely to make a defensive play on them.
4. Do not try to block every shot.
The legendary Bill Russell did not try to block every shot. This is to conserve energy and give opponents a false sense of security. You can attack them defensively when they are most vulnerable and get a blocked shot. Of course, Russell’s defensive instincts are probably the best basketball has seen, but that doesn’t mean you should not try this tactic.
One way to hone a skill is to practice until it feels second nature. Always try to be dynamic and aggressive but also smart. Let them feel your presence, but do not bail them out with a last-second reach-in. Even if you’ve gotten quite good at shot-blocking, it’s a good idea to keep pushing yourself until you can do it without consciously thinking.
Top 11 Game Winning Blocks in Basketball
1. Horace Grant on Kevin Johnson
What’s better than a game-saving block in an NBA Finals? Horace Grant pulled off the impossible, contorting his body backward as he tried to prevent Kevin Johnson’s runner. Grant managed to get to the ball, eventually sealing Chicago’s third championship in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals.
2. The Dream became John Starks’ Worst Nightmare
A year after Grant saved the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, it’s Hakeem Olajuwon’s turn to pull off a similar feat. With the Rockets leading by two with a few seconds left, Hakeem rotated over to John Starks and blocked his game-winning attempt in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals. That play secured the first of back-to-back championships for the Rockets.
3. Amare Blocks LeBron
It didn’t have the significance of the first two clips, but it was a beauty nonetheless. Amare Stoudemire made a good read, leaving his man to help on LeBron James. Stoudemire got his fingertips on the ball and saved the game for the Knicks.
4. Pre-injury Derrick Rose stuffs Rajon Rondo
At this time, Rose was still an athletic monster, while Rondo was probably the best pure point guard in the NBA. If you noticed, D-Rose was already out of the play by half a step as Rondo managed to fake him out. What allowed Rose to recover was sheer explosiveness, and it was game over for the Celtics in Game 6.
5. Super Mario denies LeBron James
For a high lottery pick, Mario Hezonja had a pretty dismal career. However, he manages to pull off highlights every now and then, including a game-saving block on the great LeBron James.
6. The Joker got the last laugh
Jokic is not your idea of a shot-blocker, but what he has is a great basketball IQ. This time around, he used it for good measure. Jokic waited for the unsuspecting Zion Williamson and forcefully swatted his shot from behind, knocking the ball out of Zion’s hands along the Pelicans’ chances of winning.
7. LeBron James denies Jimmy Butler and hits the game-winner
When people think LeBron James single-handedly carried that Cleveland team in 2018, they were not wrong. Here was one play that epitomized James’ insane carry job that year. He saved the game with an intense block from the weak side on Jimmy Butler and proceeded to hit the game-winner on the next play. That’s awesome stuff right there.
8. Bam Adebayo says “Get it out of here!”
Mock the Bubble all you want, but it has some of the best basketball we’ve seen in years. One play in the last seconds of the Eastern Conference Finals was this game-saving swat by Bam Adebayo on Jayson Tatum. Miami eventually advanced in six games, but what if Bam did not block Tatum and this game went to OT? It would have been a completely different series.
9. Lu Dort flies behind John Wall
Lu Dort was one hell of a defensive player and that’s what he showed here against John Wall. From out of nowhere, Dort erased Wall’s shot, saving the game for the Thunder over the Rockets, 113-112.
10. James Harden’s insane defensive play on Lu Dort
James Harden’s defense has been the subject of memes and mockery, but he does come up with special ones every now and then. With the Rockets’ season hanging in the balance, Harden blocked Lu Dort’s jump shot and secured Game 7 for Houston in the bubble.
11. Bismack Biyombo prevents an Ariza dunk
Do you want to know why you should go straight up for the jump when blocking a dunk? A rookie Bismack Biyombo gave the masterclass with this insane game-saving block on Trevor Ariza in 2012.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Block a Shot in Basketball
Coming up with a blocked shot is probably the hardest thing you can do in basketball. Additionally, defense has always been overshadowed by offense, and the latter has always been viewed as somewhat “uncool.”
Well, if you want to make yourself more valuable, especially as a big man, honing your shot-blocking skills will do a lot of good. It is one of the best equalizers and momentum shifters in basketball. It makes the opponents lose confidence and get intimidated.
If you want to know how to block a shot in basketball, you have to develop your timing and reads while regularly practicing the skill so that it becomes second nature. Always remember that defense wins championships and that you should make a difference at this end of the floor.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.