What Does a Center Do In Basketball?

The center position in basketball is often considered the most crucial and physically demanding position on the court.

In this article, we will delve into the specific responsibilities and skills required of a center in basketball.

So, let’s cut right to the chase and begin with a concise summary of this basketball position…

Centers are a core part of any basketball team, and they are responsible for many important tasks, including rebounding, blocking shots made by opponents, creating scoring opportunities for their team mates through passing and playmaking, as well as scoring inside the paint themselves.

We shall now dig deeper into each task that they perform, so that when you’ve completed this read you have a thorough understanding of their overall contribution to the basketball game.

What is a center supposed to do in basketball?

There are a number of tasks that centers perform in matches that the casual fan/spectator can often miss.

It takes a keen eye to spot what exactly it is that they do when they’re out on the court, which is why this article has been written to help basketball enthusiasts learn more about a key position in the game.

Now, let’s get started with their responsibilities.

First up, we have…

1. Blocking shots made by the opposition

what a center does in basketball - blocking opposition shots

Centers are expected to anchor their team’s defense.

This means they are responsible for protecting the paint and preventing easy baskets for the opposing team.

This includes guarding players attempting to drive to the lane.

Centers generally excel at defending dribble penetration drives. Their size enables them to reach far enough across the court to either box out the driver or swat away the occasional shot.

Good defensive centers are able to use their size and strength to block shots, alter shots, and contest drives to the basket.

Finally, centers must also be able to communicate with their teammates and coordinate defensive rotations.

2. Making easy layups and offensive rebounds

what a center does in basketball - making layups and rebounds

While not all centers are known for their scoring ability, many are skilled at finishing around the basket.

This can include dunks, layups, and short jump shots.

Because they tend to be both strong and durable, they often serve as reliable backups to perimeter players, particularly shooting guards, who miss games with injuries.

Centers who can score efficiently can provide a valuable scoring threat for their team and open up opportunities for their teammates.

And another one of the primary responsibilities of a center is to grab rebounds on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

A rebound is when a player grabs hold of the ball after a shot is missed – whether that involves it bouncing off of the rim itself or the backboard.

Good rebounders are able to anticipate where the ball will bounce off the rim and position themselves accordingly to snag the rebound.

Centers are often the tallest players on the court, making them well-suited to compete for rebounds.

3. Passing and playmaking

what a center does in basketball - passing and playmaking

In today’s game, it is becoming increasingly common for centers to have good passing and playmaking skills.

This allows them to facilitate offense from the high post or the elbow and find open shooters or cutters.

Centers who can handle the ball and make smart decisions with it can be a major asset for their team.

Lastly, have a look at the video below as it offers a well rounded view and analysis of the role that professional centers perform on the court:

Examples of famous centers in basketball

It’s always great to include real life examples whenever we’re talking about a basketball topic.

There are a few standout players who really made the difference for their teams in this position, so let’s find out the identity of some of the best centers in the sport’s illustrious history.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Abdul Jabbar was a powerhouse when it came to performing as a center in the NBA.

He dominated the courts for almost two decades by way of his fluidity as a reliable scorer of baskets and his ability to block shots from the opposition.

Some of his top accolades include six NBA titles and 19 NBA All Star team selections.

Shaquille O’Neal

Big Shaq was another dominant force in the NBA, and his exemplary performances as a center earn him the recognition in this article.

His unique blend of size, strength and outrageous explosiveness consistently left opponents flat out on their feet.

During O’Neal’s peak seasons, some teams even had to devise specific strategies to solely deal with his offensive threat, because he was just that good of a center!

One of his most impressive career accomplishments was carrying the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA titles, which earned him a spot in the league’s history books.

Are centers important in basketball?

The most important job for any basketball player is to protect his team’s basket from being scored on by the opposing offense.

And because this is typically what a center player is involved with on the court, suffice to say that their role within a basketball team is extremely important.

The efficiency of executing the tasks required by this position can have a significant influence on the results of basketball matches and, by extension, the success of a competitive team.

For more information on the other positions that exist in basketball, you can have a look at the following pieces of related content on our blog:

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.