What are some good motivational basketball quotes

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Best Basketball Quotes and Sayings

These quotes can serve as great motivation to athletes and coaches of all ages. These inspiring sayings are sorted alphabetically by the author’s last name. You’ll find motivational quotes, funny, famous, and inspirational quotes. If you have an addition you’d like to share, please submit them through our “Contact Us” page.

Funny Basketball Quotations

Winning is like deodorant – it comes up and a lot of things don’t stink.
Doc Rivers

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

There are really only two plays: Romeo and Juliet, and put the darn ball in the basket.
Abe Lemmons

Winning is overrated. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war.
Al McGuire

Check out: 737+ Team Names page.

  • I hate it. It looks like a stickup at 7-Eleven. Five guys standing there with their hands in the air.
    Norm Sloan, commenting on zone defense
  • We’re shooting 100 percent – 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free-throw line.
    Norm Stewart

Also, check out our basketball slogans and sayings.


  • When I dunk, I put something on it. I want the ball to hit the floor before I do.
    Darryl Dawkins
  • The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy.
    Jerry Tarkanian
  • When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team.
    George Raveling
  • Fans never fall asleep at our games, because they’re afraid they might get hit by a pass.
    George Raveling
  • I know the Virginia players are smart because you need a 1500 SAT to get in. I have to drop bread crumbs to get our players to and from class.
    George Raveling
  • Any American boy can be a basketball star if he grows up, up, up.
    Bill Vaughn
  • This year we plan to run and shoot. Next season we hope to run and score.
    Billy Tubbs
  • I liked the choreography, but I didn’t care for the costumes.
    Tommy Tune, on why he doesn’t play basketball

Basketball Quotes on the Game – Author Unknown

  • It is not how big you are, it’s how big you play.
  • Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.
  • When you’re through improving, you’re through.
  • Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
  • The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.
  • Pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit.
  • The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.
  • Losers quit when they’re tired. Winners quit when they’ve won.
  • My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.
  • If you think small things don’t matter, think of the last game you lost by one point.
  • Basketball doesn’t build character it reveals it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions.  They’re easier to take than dumb mistakes.

On the Court Basketball Quotes

  • I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • You have to be able to center yourself, to let all of your emotions go. Don’t ever forget that you play with your soul as well as your body.
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • We try to stress the little things because little things lead to big things.
    Steve Alford
  • 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
  • The best way to forget ones self is to look at the world with attention and love.
    Red Auerbach
  • Just do what you do best.
    Red Auerbach
  • The reason we win games is not typical of a top 5 team. We’re winning on execution and heart and guts and playing smart.
    Mark Few
  • You know how I learned to shoot? I watched white people. Just regular white people. They really put their elbow in and finish up top. You can find videos of them online.
    Joel Embiid

Famous Basketball Quotes

  • Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.
    Red Auerbach
  • 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
  • I don’t hire good coaches, I hire good people. If they turn out to be good coaches, too, that’s a plus.
    Geno Auriemma
  • 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
  • The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not.
    Charles Barkley
  • If you are afraid of failure you don’t deserve to be successful!
    Charles Barkley

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Inspirational Quotations on Hoops

  • Coaching is easy. Winning is the hard part.
    Elgin Baylor
  • What you specifically teach is what your players will do best.
    Dick Bennett
  • Practice to beat the best.
    Dick Bennett
  • When I was young, I never wanted to leave the court until I got things exactly correct. My dream was to become a pro.
    Larry Bird
  • You never make any of the shots you never take. 87% of the ones you do take, you’ll miss too. I make 110% of my shots.
    Larry Bird
  • Push yourself again and again. Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.
    Larry Bird
  • 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
  • Criticize on defense and encourage on offense.
    John Brady
  • If you want team play, you must stress defense. Defense makes players unselfish.
    John Brady
  • All the successful teams I’ve ever seen have three characteristics: They play unselfish, they play together, and they play hard.
    Larry Brown

It’s a Mental Game

  1. The trouble with officials is they just don’t care who wins.
    Tommy Canterbury
  2. A guy who gives you less than what he has to give is, one, telling you what he thinks of you, and two, telling you what he thinks of himself.
    Pete Carill
  3. The two ingredients in success in basketball are playing hard and playing intelligently.
    Pete Carill
  4. Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.
    Wilt Chamberlain
  5. Do your best when no one is looking. If you do that, then you can be successful in anything that you put your mind to.
    Bob Cousy
  6. I don’t try to get players emotionally up for a game; it creates too many peaks and valleys… I strive for even keel; they will get up for the big games.
    Denny Crum
  7. Success doesn’t stop when you get there.
    Michael Jordan
  8. The difference in winning and losing is most often… not quitting.
    Walt Disney


  • Systems win! Believe in your system, and then sell it to your players.
    Billy Donovan
  • We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors.
    Weldon Drew
  • Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.
    Tim Duncan
  • To be a great teacher of the game you must study the game; know your craft & be proud of your knowledge; but never satisfied with your knowledge.
    Kevin Eastman
  • To be great we need to win games we aren’t supposed to win.
    Julius Erving
  • I keep both eyes on my man. The basket hasn’t moved on me yet.
    Julius Erving
  • If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end.
    Julius Erving
  • Sometimes this thing becomes bigger than life itself. It isn’t.
    Mark Few
  • If you are going to take it to the bank, then you better cash it in.
    Shannon Fish
  • Basketball is like photography, if you don’t focus, all you have is the negative.
    Dan Frisby
  • We win because we play together as a team.
    John Havlicek
  • I keep both eyes on my man. The basket hasn’t moved on me yet.
    Julius Erving
  • Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.
    Phil Jackson

Hoops Sayings

  1. Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.
    Phil Jackson
  2. You can’t be afraid to fail.  It’s the only way you succeed…you’re not gonna succeed all the time, and I know that.
    LeBron James
  3. I like criticism. It makes you strong.
    LeBron James
  4. Sometimes, adrenaline flows into momentum.
    Dennis Johnson
  5. Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.
    Magic Johnson

Bobby Knight Basketball Quotes

  • The key is not the “will to win” – everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.
  • My practices were not set up to be easy or enjoyed.
  • The goal is to make practice more difficult, physically/mentally, than anything your players will face during a game.
  • Basketball is a full court game, so every drill must be done full court.
  • Passing is your best weapon against man to man. Dribble penetration is your best weapon against zone.
  • You don’t play against opponents. You play against the game of basketball.

Famous Basketball Sayings

  • Prepare for every game like you just lost your last game.
    Lon Kruger
  • Believe that the loose ball that you are chasing has your name wirtten on it.
    Mike Krzyzewski
  • One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It doesn’t do you any good.
    Abe Lemmons (one of the funniest sources)
  • You always have to give 100%,because if you don’t someone, somewhere will give 100% and they will beat you when you meet.
    Ed Macauley
  • I never thought I’d lead the NBA in rebounding, but I got a lot of help from my team-mates – they did a lot of missing.
    Moses Malone

Coaching Special

Player Quotes

  • Basketball is the MTV of sports.
    Sara Levinson
  • They don’t pay you a million dollars for two-hand chest passes.
    Pete Maravich
  • There is nothing wrong with dedication and goals, but if you focus on yourself, all the lights fade away and you become a fleeting moment in life.
    Pete Maravich
  • There is nothing wrong with dedication and goals, but if you focus on yourself, all the lights fade away and you become a fleeting moment in life.
    Pete Maravich
  • When I was losing, they called me nuts. When I was winning they called me eccentric.
    Al McGuire
  • Help one kid at a time. He’ll maybe go back and help a few more.
    Al McGuire
  • I don’t discuss basketball. I dictate basketball. I’m not interested in philosophy classes.
    Al McGuire
  • To win, you’ve got to put the ball in the macramé.
    Terry McGuire

Tip: Use these basketball quotes for team communications, photo captions on Instagram, in season ending programs, and more.

Don Meyer Insights into the Game

  • Shout praise and whisper criticism.
  • In practice, don’t just run basketball drills, teach the players how to play basketball.
  • Successful programs consist of people working hard, working together, while never worrying about who gets the credit.
  • There is nothing more important than rebounding…don’t just give it lip service.
  • It is not what you teach, but what you emphasize.
  • Good shooters take the shots; best shooters take most of the shots.
  • You build your program from the ideas of great coaches.
  • Play off your great player… great teams have a go-to player and they play off of him.
  • Prepare for every practice like you just loss your last game.
  • Your program must have an overriding purpose which is clearly visible and which teaches lessons beyond winning.
  • When you watch the game, be a student of the game.

Short Basketball Quotes – Don Meyer

  • The team is an extension of the coach.
  • When the legs go, the heart and the head follow quickly behind.
  • Every day you teach attitude.
  • It is foolish to expect a young man to follow your advice and to ignore your example.
  • To be a team, you must be a family.
  • Discipline and demand without being demeaning.
  • Recognize and reward players who put the team first, not just the gifted ones.
  • Simplify the game as much as possible. When you add, you must subtract.

For Girls

  • Be strong in body, clean in mind, lofty in ideals.
    James Naismith
  • I learned at a young age to dribble with both hands, and that allows me to be more creative when I go against bigger and stronger opponents.
    Steve Nash
  • Play the game with a smile.
    Earl “The Pearl” Monroe
  • I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok.
    Shaquille O’Neal
  • Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.
    Scottie Pippen
  • Teams that play together beat those with superior players who play more as individuals.
    Jack Ramsay

Life of Riley – Pat Riley on Basketball

  • There are only two options regarding commitment; you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.
  • It’s what you get from games you lose that is extremely important.
  • Being a part of success is more important than being personally indispensable.
  • In all the research you do as a coach, studying other coaches and championship-type situations, you find that all those teams combined talent with great defense. You’ve got to stop other teams to win.

Good Ones

  • You’ve got to learn the footwork, the positioning, how to box out, how to pass, how to shoot your free throws. All these things are necessary, not to be the No. 1 player in the world, but maybe you can play against him.
    Oscar Robertson
  • Basketball is basketball.
    Oscar Robertson
  • The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.
    Bill Russell
  • If you make every game a life and death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.
    Dean Smith
  • What to do with a mistake – recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.
    Dean Smith
  • Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.
    Dean Smith

Good Basketball Quotes

  • My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.
    Jim Valvano
  • Other people go to an office. I get to coach. I know I’ve been blessed.
    Jim Valvano

These inspirational quotes can be used for girls or boys teams, on posters and banners and in locker rooms.

  • You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.
    Jerry West
  • Confidence is a lot of this game or any game. If you don’t think you can, you won’t.
    Jerry West (Jerry West’s image was used for the NBA logo.)
  • When it’s played the way is supposed to be played, basketball happens in the air; flying, floating, elevated above the floor, levitating the way oppressed peoples of this earth imagine themselves in their dreams.
    John Edgar Wideman
  • You can run a lot of plays when your X is twice as big as the other guys’ O. It makes your X’s and O’s pretty good.
    Paul Westphal

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