The box out is one of the simplest basketball skills to complete and can be taught to the youngest and smallest of players.
But despite how relatively easy it is to perform, it could still be argued that boxing out is also the most forgotten skill in the game as it requires strict discipline to execute each possession.
Regardless of age, position, or even defensive system, boxing out is an essential action that should continue to be emphasized and practiced each day.
What is a Box Out in Basketball?
A box out is the first step of the rebounding process. It is the action of preventing an offensive player from chasing down an offensive rebound following a shot.
It requires keeping that player from getting to the ball by physically using your own body and keeping it in between the offense and the potential rebound.
The end goal of a box out is to keep all 5 offensive players away from a missed shot so that the defense may gain possession and advance the ball the other way.
How to Box Out in Basketball (4 Steps)
The box out is a fundamental skill that can be practiced the very first day a player begins playing basketball using 4 simple steps:
To begin a box out, you must make the first contact.
This is an absolutely crucial step that cannot be skipped.
Use your forearm to physically “hit” the offensive player and stop them in their tracks.
Your aiming point for this contact is between the sternum and the opposite shoulder.
Strike quickly with your knees bent so that you don’t lose your balance or contact with the offensive player.
Your overall goal for this first step is to stop the offense’s progress and to create contact so that you can go straight to the next step.
Once you have gotten your forearm on the offensive player, you're now ready to turn your body so that it is your backside making contact with the offense.
If you used your right hand to “hit” with, then you should step across the offense’s body with your right foot, putting your butt into the offense’s midsection.
Think about trying to sit on the offense’s thighs to give yourself some sort of visual challenge to accomplish on the turn.
The goal here is to maintain contact throughout the whole process so that the offensive player cannot get away.
The difficult part during this step is staying square on the offensive player and not getting stuck too far on one side or the other.
Merely making first contact and maintaining it is not enough for an effective box out.
Your job is to create space for a missed shot to come down and also get the offensive player as far away from it as possible.
So you must physically move that player away by driving them back.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart while still keeping your butt on their midsection and use short, powerful steps to move them away from the basket.
The direction you move them is not overly important as long as it takes them farther away from the basketball.
Your elbows should be out wide and hands up in case it is an awkward shot that comes off the rim fast so that you are ready to grab it.
Now that you’ve done the job of moving the offense away from the basket after the shot, there’s one more essential step to complete the box out process.
This seems pretty basic, but for some reason it doesn’t happen a lot of times.
A strong, physical box out is completely worthless if your team doesn’t wind up with the basketball.
So once you have physically driven the offensive player back, you must then go after the basketball and secure it with two hands.
Tips to Box Out Correctly
Now that you know the steps to box out, here are some key points to remember while you’re completing the process to make you more successful:
1. Yell “Shot!”
If you're guarding the player who takes the shot in a possession, yelling “Shot!” to alert the rest of your teammates what is happening is extremely beneficial.
Yes, in theory every defender should have sight of both their player and the basketball, but that doesn’t always happen.
So by alerting them a shot is taking place, they can begin the box out process instead of being caught off guard when their offensive player crashes the glass and they’re forced to react.
Beginning every rebounding drill by requiring players to yell “Shot!” is a great way to not only emphasize how important this is, but it also begins to cement this habit so that it carries over to games.
2. Stay Away from Under the Basket
For whatever reason, basketball players just love to run to the basket on most shot attempts.
The problem with this is that the only rebounds you will get under the basket are either airballs (which are fairly rare) or made shots (which don’t need rebounded).
That’s why it is so essential to emphasize the first step of the rebounding process - the hit.
By stressing that initial action of physically going toward your player to make first contact, it prevents the defensive players from taking themselves out of the play by running under the hoop into no man’s land.
3. Don’t Turn Early
When players initially start boxing out, they often turn right away during a box out and expect the offensive player to just automatically run into their back.
Obviously that isn’t going to happen, especially if your opponent is any good.
That’s why it is so important to wait to turn until AFTER you make the initial contact with the “hit.”
Not only does that “hit” stop the offense from coming forward more, it allows you to latch on to them and increase the likelihood you’ll be able to maintain contact as you complete the turn.
4. Get Off the Ground for a Rebound
Again, the box out isn’t finished until your team has secured the rebound.
And the best way to do that is to get off the ground to go get the ball while it’s still in the air.
Many players do the initial steps of the box out correctly and then wait for the ball to bounce off the rim and into their hands. But only very rarely will that ever happen.
By waiting on the ground for the ball to find its way to you, you are risking that another offensive player on the floor will come out of nowhere and snag the rebound. Just because you are boxing out doesn’t mean all of your teammates are.
So work on that transition from making contact and driving the offensive player to then jumping and grabbing the basketball in the air as high as you possibly can to secure that rebound for your team.
The box out is one of the most simple and essential skills in basketball.
Yet it is often forgotten by players on each possession.
Disciplined teams that consistently box out will find themselves getting more rebounds and giving the opponent fewer opportunities to score.
And since the objective of every defense is to give up the fewest points possible, boxing out to finish a possession should be a skill at the top of the priority for every basketball coach out there.