Game Inspiration: The Best Basketball Quotes of All Time

Every basketball player knows there’s no better feeling than playing game. Stepping onto the court is not about getting the most points in a game, making a dunk, or scoring the buzz-beater. It’s about the passion for basketball that puts you there in the first place and drives your talent.

You can be the most athletic person around and spend all your time weight training and running drills. But, without heart, you won’t make it far in the game of basketball, or in any sport.

Here are some of the best basketball quotes of all time to fuel your passion.

1. When You’re Not Practicing, Someone Else Is Getting Better – Allen Iverson

As important as the love of the game is, that’s not enough to prepare for each game. The key is to use your love of basketball as your driver to get on the court and make things happen, every single day. Success happens through consistency.

You should be practicing in some form from Monday through Friday and on weekends. Practicing may be playing pickup with your friends or shooting hoops alone. It may be going on runs to build stamina and 5 A.M. workouts to build strength.

It sounds like a lot, and it truly is. But remember, when you’re not willing to put in the work, someone else is, and they’re going to end up the better player.

2. It’s Hard to Play Well But It’s Easy to Work Hard – Kevin Durant

The reason for practice is to improve. But, sometimes players get caught up in perfection and put more pressure on themselves than they should. For a player to do his or her best on the court, though, they should focus on working hard.

This takes a significant amount of pressure off their shoulders and allows them to get in the zone. They won’t be worried about mistakes, they’ll be too busy thinking about ways to put in their best effort.

Just look at any handful of famous basketball quotes – the running theme is effort, not talent.

3. I Can Accept Failure… But I Can’t Accept Not Trying – Michael Jordan

Effort always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. This is why no matter how much you improve in practice and during games, you still have to show up and keep trying. Otherwise, you’re going to get comfortable and cocky, which will end up in failure.

Even if you’re already faced up against a more talented team, effort will help you get the points you need to win. It’s not always about the best skills or most elaborate plays. Sometimes, basketball comes down to who can outsmart the other and put in more work.

4. You Can’t Win Unless You Know How to Lose – Kareem Abul-Jabbar

Whether you rely on effort or talent, at some point, you’re still going to lose. That’s the way the game goes. Not to mention, it’s good to get knocked down every once in a while.

Losing makes winning more desirable. It reminds you that every point is something to work hard for, to push yourself and your teammates for.

Having a fair share of losses makes you a better winner, too. No one likes a cocky player, and an arrogant winner is just as bad as a sore loser. That’s not a famous basketball quote, that’s just the hard truth.

5. Good, Better, Best. Never Let It Rest…

…until your good is better and your better is best. This quote from Tim Duncan truly hits home. It sums up the balance of talent and effort mentioned in the quotes about basketball above.

Just when you think you’ve reached the peak of your talent, you have to put in even more effort to get better. Then, your better becomes your best, and your good, average skills improve as well.

There is always room to improve. The question is, will you put in the time it takes?

6. Talent Wins Games, But Teamwork Wins Championships – Michael Jordan

Another way to think of talent and effort coming together is in the eyes of the whole team, not one player alone. Not even the best players in the game – like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Magic Johnson – got to where they are alone. They climbed the ladder to the top with the help of teammates who made game-changing plays and career moments possible.

Sometimes, you’re going to be the rising star and other times, you’re going to be the player making the assists and offering support to help someone else shine. That’s what teamwork is. A good player doesn’t ball hog or try to make all the plays, they play for the good of the team.

More so, it never hurts to offer encouragement on and off the court. Stay engaged with the game if you ever get benched and keep your mind focused on what makes the most sense when you’re on the court, not what makes you look the best.

7. Coaching Is Easy. Winning Is the Hard Part. – Elgin Baylor

There’s one crucial position on every sports team – the coach.

Elgin Baylor’s quote might make the importance of coaching sound deceiving by calling it easy, but don’t be fooled, it’s hard work. It’s the relationship between a coach and all of their players that create championship titles.

A great coach knows how to keep a team running like a well-oiled machine. He or she finds the opportunities to play on the opposing team’s weaknesses and knows how to pick a team back up when they hit a bump in the road on the way to the title they want.

Coaches are motivators, disciplinarians, support systems, and a source of inspiration. They can’t make the necessary game-winning plays happen themselves, but they guide players to do so. That’s why “winning is the hard part” – it takes the right relationship between a coach and their players to create a unified, successful team.

Putting Basketball Quotes to the Test

Maybe some of the quotes above are concepts you already understand. Maybe one of them on this list transformed how you think about practicing, game time, and/or your teammates.

No matter how many basketball quotes you read, though, the best way to learn a lesson about the game is through experience. Get out there, put in the work, and see what happens. Remember, you’re going to fail along the way and face challenges you won’t understand at the time how to bounce back from.

But, the point is to always get back on the court.

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