Which Basketball Positions Resemble Soccer? (Sweeper & More)

which position in basketball most resembles the sweeper in soccer

Soccer and Basketball are both fantastic sports, they are different is so many ways, yet they’ve got some interesting similarities!

These similarities are mainly related to some common positions that have similar roles and responsibilities.

In this article I dive deep in those resemblances, hopefully, you will found them interesting especially if you are practitioner and lover of both sports!

Let’s dive right in!

Which position in basketball most resembles the sweeper in soccer?

1. In soccer

The sweeper in soccer is usually a deep lying central defender on a soccer field, and the position gets its name because they are expected to sweep up behind the defenders and midfielders ahead of them.

Indeed, their main job is not only to stop defenders scoring, but also to instigate attacks and counter attacks.

That is why anybody who plays as a sweeper normally needs a higher level of technical ability than a normal defender. Not only must they be able to tackle, head and mark attackers, but they must have a good passing ability, vision, and tactical awareness.

Quick Tip: Sweepers usually have a playing style that requires a strong Grip to quickly change directions & perform at the best of their abilities. One Tip to help improve this capability is to use Soccer Shoes with a good Grip. You can have a quick look at these quality soccer cleats to get an idea!

2. In basketball

In terms of basketball, the position that most closely resembles the sweeper in soccer is the point guard.  They are often the best ball handler and passer on a team, and usually acts as the leader of the team on the court.

They often have the role of playmaker, setting up the play from deep, and they have a broader role than the other four positions who are mainly focused on putting the basket through the hoop.

A point guard must have an overview as to what is happening on the court at all times, just like a sweeper in soccer.

3. A bit of history regarding this position

The concept of the sweeper (or libero as it is sometimes known) in soccer is widely credited to be the brainchild of Austrian manager Karl Rappan, who began to use it with the Swiss club Servette during the 1930s.

It then became popular in Italy where it became associated with the style of football known as Catenaccio.

One of the problems with the system, though, is that some exponents used it solely for defensive reasons and not as a means for building attack from deep as well. Some teams played their sweeper behind the other defenders so deep that their role was simply to cover for their teammates.

A more modern definition of the position was given by German captain Franz Beckenbauer who was tasked with not only defending but advancing forward into midfield and starting attacks with their passing ability and vision.

They effectively became a second playmaker, although they rarely found themselves in the opposition box apart from set-pieces.

How important is the sweeper for both soccer and basketball?

1. For soccer

The sweeper as a position has largely gone out of fashion in top level soccer. That is because changes to the offside trap and zonal marking have made the position rather obsolete, and, since the points for a league win were changed from two points to three, there is more of an emphasis on offensive football than when a scoreless draw was considered a good result.

There are still some players who retain elements of the position. For example, David Luis with Arsenal, played as a central defender who will often start attacks from deep, with long searching diagonals.

However, he will either play as a two in a conventional 4-4-2 formation, or as the spare man in a three-man defence, with two wing backs either side.

You can learm more about the sweeper position in soccer

2. For basketball

In basketball the point guard is the nearest equivalent and arguably this is the key position on court.

They are often the most vocal on the court, and they often have a broader view as to what is happening both on and off the field. They are the ones who know the game score, how much time is left on the shot clock, the number of timeouts remaining for both teams and many other details.

Of course, one key difference is the size of a basketball court compared to a soccer pitch. A soccer pitch is at least three times longer and wider than a basketball court, which means that there is a lot more distance to be covered.

That means also whilst all basketball players will have both defensive and offensive responsibilities, positions on a soccer field are more defined.

There is more room for the position of sweeper in soccer than in basketball, where several players may get to perform elements of the role.

One key difference between the two sports is that whilst Point Guard is often the shortest player on a basketball team that does not necessarily apply to a soccer team. A sweeper is picked more for their technical ability rather than their physical attributes.

Other common positions in both soccer and basketball …

Unlike many other sports, there are no defined player positions in basketball. Soccer has a goalkeeper, for example

Instead the five traditional positions on a basketball court are part of the overall defensive and offensive strategy of the game. It also means that players can be interchangeable with the ability to play in several different positions.

Nevertheless, there is some overlap with soccer in terms of role on a court and pitch.

1. The Center

The Center is usually the tallest or biggest member of a basketball team, and whilst they can be big point scorers, they also tend to be the centre of defence as well.

Some commentators argue that any great team needs a strong presence in the center if they want to win a major championship like the NBA finals. Wilf Chamberlain and Shaquille O’ Neal are examples of commanding basketball centers.

Arguably the position can be compared to a modern centre half like Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid. Not only is he the captain and leader of their team and the heart of their defence, but he also gets more than his fair share of goals for them at the other end, particularly from set pieces. He is also their regular penalty taker.

2. The Power Forward

The Power Forward’s role is to clear out space under the basket, and they need to be big and strong.

They are responsible for rebounding, and, whilst they can and do score, many of them are not prolific. Instead they help create chances and opportunities for others.

In this they can be compared to the traditional number nine forward in some soccer teams, the old-fashioned target man.

They have the job of holding the ball up and bringing other players into the game.

Some of them may have good goal scoring records but sometimes their contribution may be overlooked because it is other teammates who get the final glory of scoring the goal.

Olivier Giroud, now with Chelsea, who won the World Cup with France in 2018 is one such example. He may not have scored in the final against Croatia, but he made a major contribution to their victory, which is why he continues to be picked by his national team manager.

3. The Shooting Guard

The Shooting Guard is the player with the responsibility on a basketball court for making long outside shots and three-pointers.

They also need to be a good passer of the ball and assist the point guard with ball handling. Probably the best player in the history of the game of basketball, Michael Jordan, was a Shooting Guard.

Jordan was an incredibly versatile player who exceled in all facets of the game from shooting and rebounding, to doing his share of work in defence.

The equivalence in soccer is the central midfield player who is responsible for supporting the attack but who also has their defensive responsibilities are expected to track back when the opposition has the ball.

Two examples of such players are the England duo of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

Both scored more than their fair share of goals from outside the box. But they could also support their forwards and get on the end of chances in the box itself.

But when their team was defending, they were still expected to get behind the ball, make their tackles, and to try and help protect their back line.

4. The Small Forward

The Small Forward has many of the same responsibilities as a Shooting Guard. They are responsible for ball handling, getting rebounds and also making outside shots, but they will often be a good defensive player as well.

They are often smaller and faster than other players on a team, enabling them to cover more of the court, and also to defend a number of positions.

Lebron James and Larry Bird, both NBA legends, were Small Forwards.

There is no exact version in soccer, rather it is an amalgam of several midfield positions. And, whilst describing anybody as Small in Basketball terms is a relative descriptor, height is no impediment to success in soccer.

Two of the greatest players in the history of the game, Lionel Messi and his Argentine compatriot Diego Maradona were hardly giants.

Messi is 5 ft 7inches and Maradona two and a half inches than that. That did not prevent either of them being able to outwit most opponents with regular flashes of brilliance.

Final Thoughts …

This was a challenging article for me, because I am not as knowledgeable in basketball as I am in soccer! However, I’ve chosen to make the necessary research to provide you with position similarities between both sports …

… Really, hope you’ve found it useful!

Lastly, if you are tall, then you can check those great soccer positions for taller players … You will find those really helpful!

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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