23 Characteristics of Great Basketball Players

This article is a part of Alan Stein’s Coaching Nuggets Collection that he offers as downloads on his Stronger Team Blog. The author is Coach Lyndsey Fennelly of lyndseyfennelly.com

23 Characteristics of Great Players

1: Getting Better – the #1 emphasis and purpose behind training. Each athlete’s goal every time you walk into a gym should be to pick up 1-2 new golden nuggets of improvement. Commit to this improvement by starting a basketball journal and writing the concepts you learn each day down on paper for maximum information retention. The way to create big separation in your game is by picking up as many ‘little things’ as you can.

2: Energy – there are 2 things people do when they walk into any room: they either take away energy with frowns, negative body language, and constant complaints or they give energy with genuine smiles, positive body language, and encouraging comments. An energetic gym is more fun to be so, as is living an energetic life. Create the energy in your own gyms, classrooms, and other environments.

3: Focus – most people attribute the success of athletes to the physical game. This is key and important, but you cannot under-estimate the power of a strong and focused mind. Great players focus on what is taking place in every drill, every practice, every game, and every day. The mind is constantly asking oneself : What can I do in this moment to get better?

4: Hustle – great players have an uncommon hustle. You should know that your career window is limited, so make it a habit to maximize every second every time you are in the gym. Set the standard of hustle in your practices, not in games. Great players don’t have an ‘on-off switch’; they simply have it always turned ‘on’!

5: Attitude – one of the few things in life we can control. You have only one September 19, 2010 your entire life. Why not have a great attitude every single day? What’s special is having a terrific attitude every day under every circumstance. Show off your great attitude during the toughest of times – that’s impressive.

6: Commitment – the act of being pledged, loyal, and true to your dreams and visions. Create a goal for this season. Write it down somewhere that you can look at it daily. Remind yourself of the commitment you’ll need to make both on and off the court this year to have a successful season.

7: Passion – do what you love and love what you do. You cannot fake passion. If you truly love the game of basketball, you should have a passion for your improvement and development. You should have passion every time you step into the gym with a willingness to learn and mentality of, ‘what can I do to get better?’

8: Teamwork – in a team sport like basketball, the we is always more important than the me. The better the team, the more noticed the player. Do all you can to foster great teamwork, knowing that will get you the attention most players desire? A program with great teamwork, constantly putting others before themselves, is easily envied by the weak.

9: Body Language – 93% of what we say is non-verbal. You are constantly communicating even if your mouth isn’t moving. Communicate all the time that you’re paying attention, you’re engaged, you’re tough, and you’re eager to learn more. Great body language will make your coaches coach you more, will make your teachers teach you more, and will make an employer want to hire you one day.

10: Hard Work – “If everyone worked as hard as I did, I would be out of a job” is a quote by Steve Nash that is
a great reminder that there is truly no substitute for hard work. Hard work is unquestionably one of the best
skills you can master to master a successful life both on and off the court. Allow no one to out work you.

11: Control – control of body, control of eyes, control of thoughts, control of emotions, control of the game,
control of the tempo, and most importantly, control the controllable. Rather than blame, make excuses, or point
fingers, focus on the things you can control : your effort, your attitude, your mind.

12: Practice Makes Pe…Permanent – practice does not make perfect, it instead makes permanent. Great players don’t go half speed at any time, knowing that the opportunity to become permanently great was just missed. Practice habits that will make your game permanently improve and allow you to compete at the highest level.

13: Sportsmanship – the best players have a respect for the game, its rules, officials, and participants, including coaches, players, and fans. Be gracious in defeat and humble in wins without compromising the unrelenting desire to succeed, improve, and most importantly win.

14: Character – you speak louder in action than you do with words with the decisions you make. Live this simple rule : “do the right thing”. If you don’t whether you know it’s right or wrong, it’s most likely the wrong
decision. Treat others as you want to be treated, including your teammates. Be ‘bigger’ than negative people
and show off your true self all the time, not just when things are going well.

15: Pride – a true champion has the pride of a lion: self-respect and personal worth. You have satisfaction with
your achievements, and you allow your pride to fuel your burning passion to always improve. Those with pride
have a feeling of ‘dislike’ when they know they’ve fallen below their own standards.

16: Loyalty – you are honest with your family, your coaches, your teammates, your friends, your teachers, but
most importantly, yourself. You are loyal in words and actions with those you surround yourself with. Be loyal
to these people in life by never violating their trust, turning your back on them, or speaking about them instead
of to them.

17: Appreciation – life is TOO short to not appreciate each and every day you are given on this Earth. Two
powerful words that we don’t use enough : “thank you” can be said more often than most do. Be verbally appreciative with sincere words and physically appreciative by never wasting an opportunity on court to improve.

18: Respect – most importantly, respect yourself because it’s impossible to respect others if you can’t respect
the most important person in your life, you. Treat others as you want to be treated : coaches, parents, teachers, friends, family, teammates, officials, and opponents. Respect the facilities you play in and the environments you are surrounded by.

19: Accountability – you are the driver of your own life and of your own career. Do not fall prey to allow others
to dictate your future. Take accountability and responsibility for your actions, your dedication, your work ethic,
and ultimately, your decisions. Hold yourself to a higher standard of excellence than anyone else.

20: Finish – the great Michael Jordan once said, “It’s not how hard you push along the way, it’s having something in you to finish”. The great players and people in life finish what they have started. Make it a habit to complete everything you do with the same energy and effort you start with.

21: Intensity – an effort defined by expression of great zeal, energy, determination, and concentration. You
‘attack’ drills with speed, power, and a rage for improvement. Your end of game intensity is paralled by your in
practice intensity. You show off your intensity not only in effort, but in your consistent body language.

22: Poise – having a calmness under every situation and always being yourself. Pressure situations don’t faze
you, but instead bring out your greatness. You are always communicating an “I got this” with your teammates
and coaches. People turn to you knowing you have an un-faze-ability.

23: Excellence – “the habit of excellence can become enjoyable addictive” (Dick DeVenzio, author of Stuff
Good Players Should Know). We have trained all Fall Skills in creating habits of excellence on the court. Make
excellence your habit in everything you do. Be an excellent student. Be an excellent friend. Be an excellent
daughter, son, sister, brother. Be an excellent athlete. Be an excellent human being.

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