NBA 2K22 received a host of gameplay enhancements this year, but none were bigger than the adjustments Gameplay Director Mike Wang and the development team made to defense. Everyone enjoys throwing down massive poster slams, but after a while it starts to feel like the All-Star Game, lacking a certain competitive intensity. As the saying goes, defense wins championships, and the Gameplay team was adamant about improving the defensive settings in the latest NBA 2K installment. In this edition of Up Your Game, we’ll detail the defensive controls, what’s been tweaked, and how you can quickly learn to be a lockdown defender.


The simplest way to guard the ball-handler is to press the Swap Player button. With a single tap of the Swap Player button, you’ll change to the player closest to the ball; as the opposing team moves the ball around, you can move with it by switching defenders. Using the Swap Player button is a fast and effective way to control the player closest to the ball, but it’s not the only way you can change defenders. Tap the Icon Swap bumper and icons will appear above the players on your team. You can choose any defender with this tool by selecting the icon hovering above them. This is useful for defending the player with the ball or shadowing someone who's roaming on the perimeter.

As mentioned earlier, Mike Wang and the gameplay team approached NBA 2K22 with an intent to turn up the defensive intensity. The Intense Defense trigger has always been a factor in NBA 2K, but this year you’ll notice a more aggressive and physical brand of basketball. By holding the Intense Defense trigger, you’ll feel the tension as you negate your opponent’s drives to the hoop—but not every player will be so easily cut off. Keeping up with speedy players can be a challenge, even if you hold the Intense Defense trigger. Try combining it with the Sprint trigger so you can move quicker, especially side to side.


Up Your Game - Shot Contest

Every team needs a force to be reckoned with in the paint—someone whose mere presence intimidates even the deadliest of offensive wizards. Rim protection and close-out speed around the perimeter are crucial if you want to be a formidable defensive-based squad. To contest shots in NBA 2K22, try to match the timing of your opponent’s jump shot and press the Block button to get a hand in their face or go for the block. Regardless of whether you’re actually able to get a finger on the ball or not, contesting shots can drastically change the outcome of your opponent’s shot. 

Similar to the Intense Defense trigger, if you hold the Sprint trigger while pressing the Block button you’ll perform a more aggressive swat attempt, which can be rewarding, but may also result in costly fouls. You can avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations by holding the Left Stick away from the shooter when you press the Block button, causing you to be more vertical when you contest. The aggressive block is all about having situational awareness, knowing when you can afford to take a chance on defense even if it doesn’t pan out. As much as you feel the urge to spam the Block button, playing elite defense requires a certain level of patience.


Up Your Game - Steal

Rule No. 1 of Stealing: Don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar. It’s a common mistake players make, spamming the Steal button in hopes of prying the ball free for an easy open-floor dunk, but it rarely works out that way. Blocks and steals are the easiest ways to get into foul trouble, but if you’re smart about them, you can avoid winding up on the bench. Timing your steal attempts and recognizing a ball-handler's weak hand can lead to those open-floor slams we all covet so dearly.

The best time to pick an opposing player’s pocket is in the middle of a dribble move or when the ball is exposed on the same side as your player’s dominant hand. You’ll only have a small window of opportunity, but if you can execute your attempt and press the Steal button at the right time, you’ll come away with it.


Up Your Game - Double Team

Sometimes, even the best defense won’t stop the best players in the world—it’s bound to happen—but you can try to take them out of the equation by placing your best defender on them, or opting for savvy defensive tactics such as double teams. To assign your best defender to the opposing team’s best player or hottest shooter, tap the Icon Matchup bumper and select the icon displayed over the defender on your team. Depending on the player you choose, this should have some impact on the opposing player. In the event your best defender is still getting cooked, you can increase the pressure by calling for a double team. To do this, hold the Icon Matchup bumper to send a second player to help. Double teams are an excellent way to force errant passes and deflections resulting in turnovers.

It’s a tad cliché, but the “hand down, man down” mantra rings true more often than not. Failing to get a hand in the passing lane or in your opponent’s face to contest their shot will typically lead to a less-than-desirable outcome (i.e. them scoring). You don’t have to press the Steal button or the Block button, however, to make an impact on defense. You can get a hand up by simply moving the Pro Stick left or right to obstruct the opposing player’s line of sight or passing lane. It’s important to maintain active hands throughout the game, because eventually you’ll cause the offensive player to make a mistake.


It sounds dramatic, but in a team sport like basketball, you must be willing to sacrifice your body for the benefit of the team. In other words, be prepared to step in front of larger-than-life players to draw a charge and force a turnover. Charges can shift the momentum in a tight game and give you an opportunity in clutch time. 

When a player is attacking the basket, try to step in front of them and hold the Take Charge button. If you’re successful the opposing player will bulldoze into you and send you tumbling to the floor, but it will ultimately give you possession of the ball. Another clever way of fooling your opponent is in the post. When a larger player is backing you down, tap the Take Charge button to pull the figurative rug out from underneath them. It’s a move that can catch any player by surprise and throw off their balance.

In NBA 2K22, there are many ways to play impactful defense, but combining them will make you a lockdown defender. Learn more about how you can improve your skills by checking out more Up Your Game content.