The sport of basketball is generally considered one of the top 5 sports in the world, by participation numbers. Breaking down the numbers, the FIBA organization (the governing body of worldwide basketball), estimates that approximately 450 million people worldwide play the sport.
Currently, NBA teams are allowed 15 players on a team roster, which means that there are a total of 450 NBA players.
Globally, there are estimated to be approximately 75,000 professional basketball players.
Obviously, this is a miniscule percentage which speaks to how competitive and difficult it is to play at the elite professional level.
Harbouring dreams of playing basketball at a level that is as competitive as the NBA and other professional leagues requires a clear understanding of the skills needed to get recognised as an elite player in the world.
In part one of this series, I will cover the most important intangible skills a young player needs to possess to make it to a competitive level of basketball.
1. Mental Focus – Growth Mindset
The ability to learn from failure and adversity is what separates many of the elite basketball players from those who do not make it to an elite level. A “growth mindset,” as defined by Carol Dweck, thrives on challenges and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as an exciting springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. This mindset allows players to see and maximise every opportunity they get as a chance to improve their basketball skills, no matter the competition .
2. Practice Habits – Deliberate Practice
The phenomenon of “deliberate practice” is defined as “practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort”. Most basketball players will remain engaged when practicing skills that they are good at or comfortable with. The most elite players, such as Stephen Curry, consistently practice skills they need to improve at.
An example would be a player continuously shooting free throws in an empty gym, without running or any activity between. The player may score 90% or more of their free throws in this scenario, which means they are staying within their comfort zone of practice in order to have a consistently successful outcome. At this point, the player has to ask if practicing in this manner is deliberate practice or not, since converting 90% of free throws in this scenario would appear to be well within their current level of competence and comfort. Deliberate practice may involve shooting two free throws at a time, while running in between attempts, similar to what would happen in an actual game. In this way, the addition of other variables creates a task that is beyond the player’s current level of comfort.
3. Character Trait – Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is a crucial intangible for players to master, since this will usually lead a player to close examination of their strengths and weaknesses. In looking throughout basketball history, the best players, who are consistently great, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses honestly because of their self-awareness. Once they have done this, they are able to understand their weaknesses and work on them to improve them, thus making them better players.
4. Character Trait – Coachability
After recognising strengths and weaknesses, the next step is for a player to surround themselves with coaches or people who can help them to work on their weaknesses. While criticism from a coach can be difficult to accept, it is one of the key ingredients that leads to improvement of basketball skill. The most elite NBA players continuously accept coaching observations which greatly assists their improved performances in games throughout a season.
Focusing on these intangible skills will help any player in the sport of basketball understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to maximise their potential in the sport.
Next week, I will focus on the most essential tangible basketball sport skills necessary for success in the sport.
Adi Vase is the first Indian to work in the physical coaching and sport science departments of NBA teams. Born in Pune, Vase charts the course and the basketball realities that took him from Pul gate, Pune to the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and now, the Golden State Warriors. Email: [email protected]
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