“Know your roll!”
Former Washington Bullet Ledell Eackles, as relayed in :07 Seconds Or Less by Jack McCallum, once wrote, “Know your roll!” on a chalkboard as a member of the Miami Heat, in an attempt to inspire the team. Yes, “roll” and not “role” — the irony easily realized if you know Eackles’ issues with rotundness during his playing days.
But in terms of NBA players “knowing their roles” on the court… What, exactly does that mean? No, really. Because I’ve never quite understood it past being pseudo-code for: ‘Some guys are trying to do things they are not supposed to be doing, nor are capable of doing.’ And maybe that’s enough, although all the talk about knowing roles can still be confusing.
A player knowing his role in basketball makes sense, at one level, as all positions in the game are free-flowing. Sure, you have point guards and centers, but even the lines between those have blurred over time. Basketball is not like baseball where action is often solely focused on one person throwing the ball to a sole person responsible for hitting it; there’s sharing in basketball. Have you been to Lob City yet? (And to a lesser extent, John to JaVale Township?) Nor is basketball like football, where assignments on both offense and defense are specifically outlined. Or even hockey, where one guy’s role is to mind the net, others are more specifically geared toward defense or offense.
Basketball, with its diluted assignments, can thus be confusing when it comes to roles. Positions 1-5 can all score within the offense, or at the drop of a hat with a sudden change in possession. Players do need to know some sort of role for team structure, but even saying that seems overly robotic, and counterintuitive to how fluidly equal the game of basketball is meant to be.
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