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The 200 Most Inspirational Basketball Quotes

Basketball is one of the most popular sports played all around the world. The game was invented in 1891 by a Canadian American physical educator named James Naismith. Even though you can quickly acquire the basic skills to play basketball, becoming a truly skilled player takes a lot of exercise and dedication. Basketball players never cease to show their skills and commitment to their game. They’re a constant proof of what the human body is capable of, and they often motivate their fans to strive harder and do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

And since the sport is such a terrific source of motivation, We have compiled 200 basketball quotes that we feel are some of the best we’ve heard. Let these basketball quotes encourage and inspire you always to give your best. Words said by players, coaches and others to motivate you. You will find the sections apply to life situations as well as to sports.

200 Basketball Quotes

Top 10 Basketball Quotes

“Your best player has to set a tone of intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.” – Jeff Van Gundy

“Young men need more models, not critics.” – John Wooden

“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” – Lou Holtz

“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” – Michael Jordan

“You don’t play against opponents, you play against the game of basketball.” – Bobby Knight

“You don’t need great skill to be a tough rebounder; being a rebounder is all about effort, determination, and physicality.” – Mike Malone

“You cant win unless you learn how to lose.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

“You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” – Jerry West

“In developing teams, I don’t believe in rules. I believe in standards. Rules don’t promote teamwork, standards do.” – Mike Krzyzewski

Love And Basketball Quotes

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“What is love? Love is playing every game as if it’s your last!” – Michael Jordan

“When I walked into the gym, I fell in love with the game. I didn’t fall in love with it just because it was me playing. I fell in love with it because I’ve got guys like this – like these guys every single day that push me to be the best that I can be.” – Kevin Durant

“There’s a great quote by Julius Irving that went, ‘Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’” – David Halberstam

“I knew I was dog meat. Luckily, I’m the high-priced dog meat that everybody wants. I’m the good-quality dog meat. I’m the Alpo of the NBA.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“I haven’t been able to slam-dunk the basketball for the past five years. Or, for the thirty-eight years before that, either.” – Dave Barry

“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.” – Kobe Bryant

“I have a plan of action, but the game is a game of adjustments.” – Mike Krzyzewski

“I gave everything I had to basketball. The passion is still there, but the desire to play is not. It was a great ride.” – Allen Iverson

“I know that I’m never as good or bad as any single performance. I’ve never believed my critics or my worshippers, and I’ve always been able to leave the game at the arena.” – Charles Barkley

“I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me. Failure always made me try harder next time.” – Michael Jordan

Inspirational Basketball Quotes

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“When you think you have done enough, do a little more, because someone out there is working harder than you.” – Larry Bird

“When I lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time for me to move away from the game.” – Michael Jordan

“When I dunk, I put something on it. I want the ball to hit the floor before I do.” – Darryl Dawkins

“We believe in people executing their role and caring about the team more than anything individually.” – Gregg Popovich

“To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.” – Michael Jordan

“To inspire the players, I adapted a quote from Walt Whitman and taped it on their lockers before the first game of the playoffs, against the Miami Heat. ‘Henceforth we seek not good fortune, we are ourselves good fortune’.” – Phil Jackson

“To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t isolate.” – Michael Jordan

“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort–it is ready to clim.” – Pat Riley

“There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself.” – Lebron James

“There is a lot of basketball beyond our control, but a player should never let anyone try harder than he does.” – Dean Smith

“There is a direct correlation between the number of ball reversals and defensive breakdowns.” – Kevin Eastman

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good..” – Ann Landers

“The trouble with officials is they just don’t care who wins.” – Tommy Canterbury

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen R. Covey

“The key to success is failure.” – Michael Jordan

“The key is not the ‘will to win’… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bob Knight

“The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play ‘Drop the Handkerchief.’” – James Naismith

“The important thing is that your teammates have to know you’re pulling for them and you really want them to be successful.” – Kobe Bryant

“The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.” – Bill Russell

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” – Vince Lombardi

“The greatness of Michael Jordan is his competitive drive. The weakness of Michael Jordan is his competitive drive.” – Phil Jackson

“The goal is to make practice more difficult, physically/mentally, than anything your players will face during a game.” – Bob Knight

“The game is too long, the season is too long and the players are too long.” – Jack Dolph

“There is no such thing as a perfect basketball player, and I don’t believe there is only one greatest player either.” – Michael Jordan

“The day I stopped worrying about stats is the day I started winning.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“The basketball court for me, during a game, is the most peaceful place I can imagine. On the basketball court, I worry about nothing. When I’m out there, no one can bother me…” – Michael Jordan

“That’s why at the start of every season I always encouraged players to focus on the journey rather than the goal. What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself.” – Phil Jackson

“It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.” – John Wooden

“In order to achieve positive results, one must work for them, not hope for them.” – Bob Knight

“Coaches shouldn’t have to push you to work hard, you should push yourself to work hard because you want to be a great player.” – Bob Knight

“But that’s the thing about basketball: you don’t play games on paper.” – Bill Simmons

“Bottom line, you’re either a risk taker, or your not, and if you don’t take risks, you’ll never win big.” – Geno Auriemma

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” – Wilt Chamberlain

Best Basketball Quotes

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“You can’t always be the most talented or gifted person in the room, but you can be the most competitive.” – Pat Summit

“You can say something to popes, kings and presidents, but you can’t talk to officials. In the next war they ought to give everyone a whistle.” – Abe Lemmons

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” – Michael Jordan

“What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.” – John Wooden

“What do you do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” – Dean Smith

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“We old athletes carry the disfigurements and markings of contests remembered only by us and no one else. Nothing is more lost than a forgotten game.” – Pat Conroy

“No matter how hard you work at your craft and no matter how successful you become, people just have to find something negative to hang on you. […] The bar is always being raised as you go. The rules are always being rewritten. There’s aggravation that comes with that, but that’s part of what makes triumph so sweet.” – Charles Barkley

“I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still Slide6wonder if somebody – somewhere – was practicing more than me.” – Larry Bird

“I can’t stand a ballplayer who plays in fear. Any fellow who has a good shot has got to take it and keep taking it. So he misses – so what?” – Red Auerbach

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand Slide5you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kobe Bryant

“I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

“I always wanted to be a basketball player. Nothing more, nothing less.” – Dirk Nowitzki

“How good can we expect to be if our best player is not our best teammate.” – Brad Stevens

“Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.” – Magic Johnson

“As a leader, your job is to do everything in your power to create the perfect conditions for success by benching your ego and inspiring your team to play the game the right way. But at some point, you need to let go and turn yourself over to the basketball gods. The soul of success is surrendering to what is.” – Phil Jackson

Short Basketball Quotes

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“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” – John Wooden

“Winners are not people who do not fail, but people who never quit.”

“When you’re not practicing, someone else is getting better.” – Allen Iverson

“Those to whom defense is not important will have the best seat in the game.” – RickSlide9 Majerus

“These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.” – Kobe Bryant

“There’s only one thing we can control, and that is how hard we play.” – Don Meyer

“Team work is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one.” – Mike Krzyzewski

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the Slide1team.” – Scottie Pippen

“Something just doesn’t pop under your nose; you have to work for it.” – LeBron James

“Some times your best effort just isn’t good enough.” – LeBron James

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

“Shooting percentage is just as much about decision making as it is about technique.” – Jeff Van Gundy

“People just don’t understand how obsessed I am with winning.” – Kobe Bryant

“People ask me if I could fly, I said, ‘yeah… for a little while.’” – Michael Jordan

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” – LeBron James

“Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” – Michael Jordan

“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.” – John Wooden

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

“Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” – Michael Jordan

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” – Michael Jordan

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden

“It’s OK to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. When we compete, we make mistakes.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“It takes three things to be a ‘special’ player: talent, character, and competitive fire.” – Kevin Eastman

“If you’re not talking, you’re not playing defense.” – Doc Rivers

“If you’re going to have to beg them to play, it’s not going to work.” – Chuck Daly

“If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail.” – Kobe Bryant

“If you quit ONCE it becomes a habit. Never quit!” – Michael Jordan

“If you do the work you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.” – Michael Jordan

“If you are afraid of failure you don’t deserve to be successful.” – Charles Barkley

“If nobody will help you, do it alone.” – Michael Jordan

“If every basketball player worked as hard as I did, I’d be out of a job.” – Steve Nash

“It doesn’t matter if you fall down, it’s whether you get back up.” – Michael Jordan

“I’ve never lost a game I just ran out of time.” – Michael Jordan

“I’ve never been afraid to fail.” – Michael Jordan

“I’m chasing perfection.” – Kobe Bryant”

“Goals determine what you’re going to be.” – Julius Erving

“Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise” – Michael Jordan

“Failure is acceptable. but not trying is a whole different ball park.” – Michael Jordan

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” – John Wooden

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” – Jim Valvano

“Discover your gift, develop your gift, and then give it away every day.” – Don Meyer

“Create unselfishness as the most important team attribute.” – Bill Russell

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” – Bill Russell

“Bad shooters are always open.” – Pete Carril

Funny Basketball Quotes

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“Scoring 100 points is a lot, but… I maybe could have scored 140 if they had played straight-up basketball.” – Wilt Chamberlain

“Remember that basketball is a game of habits. If you make the other guy deviate from his habits, you’ve got him.” – Bill Russell

“Recognize and reward players who put the team first, not just the gifted ones.” – Don Meyer

“Put great thought to what and how you practice. Once practice is done you can never get that time back. Did you simulate the game?” – Kevin Eastman

“Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.” – Larry Bird

“Practice habits were crucial to my development in basketball. I didn’t play against the toughest competition in high school, but one reason I was able to do well in college was that I mastered the fundamentals. You’ve got to have them down before you can even think about playing.” – Larry Bird

“Once you are labeled the best you want to stay up there, and you can’t do it by loafing around. If I don’t keep changing, I’m history.” – Larry Bird

“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” – Michael Jordan

“On how to make the game more exciting – Eliminate the referees, raise the basket four feet, double the size of the basketball, limit the height of the players to 5 feet 9 inches, bring back the center jump, allow taxi drivers in for free and allow the players to carry guns.” – Al McGuire

“Leadership is diving for a loose ball. It’s about being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way your going to get respect from other players” – Larry Bird

“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“Everything negative — pressure, challenges — are all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant

“Everything is habit forming, so make sure what you do is what you want to be doing.” – Wilt Chamberlain

“Everything happens for a reason. I’m used to it, I prepare for it. Like I say, at the end of the day, those in charge of their own destiny are going to do what’s right for them and their family.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“Everyone is born with a certain potential. You may never achieve your full potential, but how close you come depends on how much you want to pay the price.” – Red Auerbach

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

“Be led by your dreams not by your problems.” – Roy Williams

“Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it always takes a while for the defense to catch up.” – Red Auerbach

“Basketball is like photography, if you don’t focus, all you have is the negative.” – Dan Frisby

“Basketball is a lifelong game. You continue to learn from the game day in and day out, and all along the way, you get better.” – Scottie Pippen

“Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.” – Dean Smith

Motivational Basketball Quotes

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“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” – Michael Jordan

“Most of us spend the bulk of our time caught up in thoughts of the past or the future — which can be dangerous if your job is winning basketball games. Basketball takes place at such a lightning pace that it’s easy to make mistakes and get obsessed with what just happened or what might happen next, which distracts you from the only thing that really matters — this very moment.” – Phil Jackson

“Me shooting 40% at the foul line is just God’s way of saying nobody’s perfect.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“Many athletes have tremendous God-given gifts, but they don’t focus on the development of those gifts. Who are these individuals? You’ve never heard of them– and you never will. It’s true in sports and it’s true everywhere in life. Hard work is the difference. Very hard work.” – John Wooden

“I would tell players to relax and never think about what’s at stake. Just think about the basketball game. If you start to think about who is going to win the championship, you’ve lost your focus.” – Michael Jordan

“I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” – Michael Jordan

“I want to do for rebounds what Michael Jordan did for dunks.” – Dennis Rodman

“I think, team first. It allows me to succeed, it allows my team to succeed.” – Lebron James

“I think the reason why I’m the person who I am today is because I went through those tough times when I was younger.” – LeBron James

“I really get motivated when I have doubters.” – Shaquille O’Neal

“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” – Michael Jordan

“I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot. When you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.” – Michael Jordan

“I love seeing my teammates succeed. That’s what I get more excited about than anything.” – LeBron James

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” – Kevin Durant

“Great players are willing to give up their own personal achievement for the achievement of the group. It enhances everybody.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” – Tim Duncan

“Good thing in this business is that you just have to make one big shot and that’s enough to make you forget 9 other shots that you missed.” – Guy Zucker

“Good players want to be coached… Great players want to be told the truth.” – Doc Rivers

“Approach the game with no preset agendas and you’ll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts.” – Phil Jackson

“Any American boy can be a basketball star if he grows up, up, up.” – Bill Vaughn

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” – Michael Jordan

“All the successful teams I’ve ever seen have three characteristics: They play unselfish, they play together, and they play hard.” – Larry Brown

“Admit to and make yourself accountable for mistakes. How can you improve if you’re never wrong?” – Pat Summitt

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” – John Wooden

Basketball Quotes For Players

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“There is no “I” in team but there is in win.” – Michael Jordan

“The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy.” – Jerry Tarkanian

“The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.” – William Arthur Ward

“The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not” – Charles Barkley

“The one thing I learned about myself going back and watching tapes of all the losses that we’ve had is that I’m physically capable of doing this and dominating the game, but the mental part was not there. I don’t know if it comes with age, but I had to learn to be mentally tough.” – Lisa Leslie

“The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.” – Phil Jackson

“The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.” – Bill Russell

“On his Washington State college team – Fans never fall asleep at our games because they’re afraid they might get hit with a pass.” – Gaorge Raveling

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

“Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.” – Phil Jackson

“If it turns out that my best wasn’t good enough, at least I wont look back and say that I was afraid to try.” – Michael Jordan

“My goal is to win the next game one possession at a time. That’s it. I don’t have any other goals.” – Brad Stevens

“If all I’m remembered for is being a good basketball player, then I’ve done a bad job with the rest of my life.” – Isiah Thomas

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.” – Larry Bird

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

“I’ve always been impressed by Kobe’s resilience and ironclad self-confidence. Unlike Shaq, who was often plagued by self-doubt, Kobe never let such thoughts cross his mind. If someone set the bar at ten feet, he’d jump eleven, even if no one had ever done it before. That’s the attitude he brought with him when he arrived at training camp that fall, and it had a powerful impact on his teammates.” – Phil Jackson

“I’m still waiting for perfection. In the meantime, I’ll settle for persistence.” – Bo Ryan

“I’m playing; I’m here. I’m going to fight until they tell me they don’t want me anymore.” – Steve Nash

“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. No matter what the injury – unless it’s completely debilitating – I’m going to be the same player I’ve always been. I’ll figure it out. I’ll make some tweaks, some changes, but I’m still coming.” – Kobe Bryant

“Everybody has talent, but ability takes hard work.” – Michael Jordan

“Even when I’m old and grey, I won’t be able to play it, but I’ll still love the game.” – Michael Jordan

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

“Discipline is doing what has to be done, when it has to be done, as well as it can be done, and doing it that way all the time.” – Bob Knight

“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” – Larry Bird

“A lot of late nights in the gym, a lot of early mornings, especially when your friends are going out, you’re going to the gym, those are the sacrifices that you have to make if you want to be an NBA basketball player.” – Jason Kidd

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

“A key basketball skill is imagery. The best players “see” situations before they happen so they can be prepared.” – Dr. Jack Ramsay

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” – John Wooden

“Some say you have to use your five best players, but I found out you win with the five that fit together best as a team.” – Red Auerbach

Originally published October 27, 2021, updated November 1, 2021

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