LeBron James often plays a point forward role, alternating from handling the ball similarly to a point guard on offense to then playing defense on opposing forwards.

Point forward is a nontraditional position in basketball, with a small forward—or sometimes a power forward or combo forward—adding the responsibilities of point guard to their play.


Generally, teams employ a point forward when their best playmaker is a forward[1][2][3] rather than a guard.[1] A point forward is typically responsible for bringing the ball up the court and being the primary facilitator on offense to generate assists,[4][1][2] but they may merely direct play once a guard brings the ball up-court.[5][6][7]

Assuming the role of point forward may cut down on that player's scoring, as distributing the ball to others decreases shot attempts. Basketball Hall of Fame small forward Larry Bird, a prolific scorer with exceptional passing skills,[8] quipped "I'm a point forward now" after his coaches sought him to score less and pass more.[9][10]

Don Nelson, a coach often associated with the point forward in his Nellie Ball system,[11] used the role when his guards were not strong ball-handlers.[1] Other coaches have used point forwards to free their guards to score more,[11] a strategy of increasing importance as the three-point shot has become the sport's primary offensive weapon.

ESPN analyst Dave Telep maintained a point forward needed to be more than merely an adept passer but also had to facilitate the offense for teammates at least half of the time.[4]


The origin of the term point forward is cloudy. Two former members of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks claim to have coined it: Bucks small forward Marques Johnson maintains he created it during the 1984 playoffs when the team became short on point guards after Nate Archibald was sidelined with a hamstring injury. When coach Don Nelson instructed Johnson to run the offense he says he responded, "OK, so instead of a point guard, I'm a point forward".[12] Then-Bucks assistant coach Del Harris claims he first mentioned the term to Nelson while discussing how to best use Paul Pressey. Harris says he came up with the term while coaching Robert Reid with the Houston Rockets. Harris credits his predecessor as Rockets coach Tom Nissalke's use of small forward Rick Barry as originating the point forward position.[12]


Scottie Pippen exemplified the point-forward role in the 1990s.

Historically, one of the first to fill the role was John Johnson, who played it for the 1970s Seattle SuperSonics alongside two scoring-minded guards, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson.[13] During the 1980s Milwaukee Bucks Marques Johnson and Paul Pressey played point forward under coach Don Nelson.[14][15] Larry Bird, a 6'9" small forward who excelled at both scoring and rebounding in that position was also an exceptional passer and facilitator of others on offense. In the flow of games, he often played a point forward role for the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s;[16] the 6'9" Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who orchestrated the Los Angeles Lakers' offense in the 1980s as the team's point guard, moved to a point forward role upon returning 27 pounds (12 kg) heavier after his HIV announcement.[17]

Scottie Pippen who played with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls is one further example of a modern point-forward.[18][19] He was the team's small forward, but he played point-guard in high school, and brought the ball up the floor against the press in college.[20] On the day he was drafted, Pippen can be quoted during his interview "Going in, I'm looking to play probably the 3 position but some day I'm looking to work my way in to the point guard position".[21] Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman noted "Pippen is most probably the innovator of the power/point forward position."[22] Pippen could also defend point guards.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Guile, Aaron (October 17, 2013). "Aaron Guile: Gordon Hayward — the emerging point forward". Deseret News. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Frazier, Walt; Sachare, Alex (2004). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Basketball. Penguin. pp. 97–8. ISBN 9780786549894. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  3. ^ Windhorst, Brian (September 28, 2012). "LeBron eyeing 'point power forward' role?". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Halley, Jim (July 20, 2012). "Analysts say point forwards are few and far between". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Eisenberg, John (August 19, 1992). "Imaginations soared with the best Bird". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Smith, Sam (July 8, 2010). "WHAT WOULD MICHAEL DO? NOT THIS!". NBA.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014.
  7. ^ Berkow, Ira (2004). Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball. U of Nebraska Press. p. 209. ISBN 0803262299. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  8. ^ Bjarkman, Peter C. (October 2002). "Boston Celtics Encyclopedia". Sports Publishing. pp. 40–1. ISBN 9781582615646. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Winderman, Ira (November 26, 1989). "Impact Players? Ask Teams They Control". Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  10. ^ Smith, Sam (December 3, 1989). "Pro Basketball". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on June 10, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Winn, Luke (March 16, 2009). "From This Point Forward". Sports Illustrated.
  12. ^ a b Aschburner, Steve (December 21, 2010). "LeBron a point forward? Well, he wouldn't be the first". NBA.com. Archived from the original on April 22, 2012.
  13. ^ "John Johnson: Point Forward". NBA .com. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  14. ^ "Basketball U on Swingmen". NBA .com Canada. Retrieved 2007-09-06.
  15. ^ "Original point forward". hoopshype .com. Archived from the original on 2012-05-15. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  16. ^ Ventre, Michael (January 30, 1996). "He Will Give Us All a Lift". Daily News. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved December 7, 2012. A point power forward. Think of it. It will be similar to the days when Dennis Johnson or Danny Ainge brought the ball across midcourt for the Celtics, passed to Larry Bird, and then let him direct the offense.(subscription required)
  17. ^ Meinecke, Corky (January 30, 1996). "Magic waited too long". The News (Boca Raton). p. 5B. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  18. ^ "Scottie Pippen – Chicago Bulls History".
  19. ^ "Adande: Pippen was the ultimate wingman". ESPN.com. August 12, 2010.
  20. ^ "Now You See Him".
  21. ^ "NBA Draft 1987 - Scottie Pippen (Pick NO.5)" – via www.youtube.com.
  22. ^ Kher, Trikansh (February 21, 2023). ""Scottie Pippen Revolutionized the Point Forward Position": Dennis Rodman Once Heaped Praise on Bulls Teammate's Offensive Ability". The SportsRush.