Looking to get your head in the game? Try hyping yourself up with these 85 basketball quotes, taken from the biggest names to ever make it rain.
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There is no shortage of sports quotes out there. By their very nature, sports speeches are designed to motivate and rouse spirits. The following quotes are all taken from the mouths of some of the greatest people to play basketball. They are designed to motivate and inspire.
Looking for gab from the gridiron? Check out our Top Football Quotes
Why Do We Find Quotes So Motivating?
When the chips are down, many people turn to the inspirational words of others in order to find the drive they need to keep fighting. It could be that you’re stuck in a job or a career you hate, or maybe financial troubles are weighing you down.
Whatever the reason, reading or listening to motivational words is a great way to find your feet and strengthen your resolve. That is why we set about collecting the 85 most inspirational quotes from some of the greatest names in basketball.
It doesn’t matter if you are a die-hard basketball fan to read and take some benefit from these quotes. While many of them talk about the sport, it is easy to treat such references as an allegory for life.
When you read some of the quotes talking about the good of the team, you can substitute any number of instances; friends, family, colleagues, romantic relationships, etc.
So, brace yourself for the biggest dose of inspiration around with these motivational basketball quotes.
Motivational Basketball Quotes from Michael Jordan
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A basketball player who needs no introduction. You would be hard pushed to find anybody on the planet unfamiliar with the name Michael Jordan, including those who know only him from Space Jam.
If intelligence wins championships, then Michael Jordan must be a sporting genius. With 6 NBA championships to his name as well as 14 All-star appearances, MVP awards, and scoring records to his name, if there is anybody who can come up with a motivational basketball quote or two, it would be Michael Jordan.
Throughout his career, Michael Jordan was known for his hard work and dedication. You don’t get a statue outside a stadium if you simply turn up and go through the motions every day. He is number five on the all-time points leaderboard. You get there through hard work.
Yet, amazingly, many of Michal Jordan’s quotes are not about triumph or accolades. Instead, he focuses on the power of trying and pushing yourself. He embraces failure as part of success. It’s a motivational mindset.
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1. “Winning isn’t always championships.”
The following motivational basketball quotes are designed to help you focus on the power of effort and accept the fact that failure is inevitable when chasing a dream.
2. “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.”
3. “I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
4. “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.
5. “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.”
6. “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.”
7. “The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether it’s proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”
8. “Some people want it to happen; some wish it would happen; others make it happen.”
9. “Every time I feel tired while I am exercising and training, I close my eyes to see that picture, to see that list with my name. This usually motivates me to work again.”
10. “You can practice shooting 8 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.”
Basketball Quotes from Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant cemented his legacy on the basketball court well before his career came to an end. Kobe’s untimely death, aged just 41 in 2020, shook the world.
He was a man who had so much to offer and was estimated to do many more great things. Behind him, he leaves a tale of sporting legend with five NBA championships and eighteen all-star appearances providing the base upon which he wrote his part of basketball history.
Standing fourth on the all-time points leaderboard, his decorated career speaks volumes about his character and dedication to being the best.
He also stands second on the list for most points scored in a single NBA game. The 81 points he scored against the Toronto Raptors back in 2006 broke what had been a forty-plus year spell of dominance for Wilt Chamberlain (another name on this list).
So if you are looking for someone whose quotes come with a resume that reinforces their credibility, Kobe Bryant is your man.
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11. We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.
The following motivational basketball quotes showcase Kobe’s commitment and work ethic. Reading them teaches us that setbacks happen, that hard work pays off, and that being true to yourself and not giving up is the biggest victory of them all.
12. “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.”
13. “A lot of leaders fail because they don’t have the bravery to touch that nerve or strike that chord.”
14. “Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue, you will change.”
15. “If you want to be great at something, there’s a choice you have to make. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, hanging out with friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be.”
16. “It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you—or don’t. So don’t take it lightly.”
17. “Use your success, wealth, and influence to put them in the best position to realize their own dreams and find their true purpose.”
18. “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
19. “I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose.”
20. “My brain . . . it cannot process failure. It will not process failure. Because if I sit there and have to face myself and tell myself, ‘You’re a failure’. . . I think that’s almost worse than death.”
Inspirational Basketball Quotes from John Wooden
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Let’s make the jump from players to coaches. If anybody on a team needs to have a motivational quote repository, then it is the coach. While it’s true that talent wins games, it is often the words from the coach that drives people to succeed.
They are the people standing courtside, leading the team; they are in the trenches and the ones whose tactics and words of wisdom can make or break a game, a season, a carer, and even a legacy.
John Wooden earned his nickname the Wizard of Westwood not because of his fondness for magic but because he was a coach who knew how to get his team focused and get results.
John Wooden might never have coached in the NBA, but his college record speaks for itself. Ten NCAA National Championships, including seven straight and two consecutive undefeated seasons, attest to his compelling way with words.
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21. “Remember this, the choices you make in life, make you”
Become your own champion with these motivational John Wooden basketball quotes.
22. “The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.”
23. “When the legs go, the heart soon follows.”
24. “I do not judge success based on championships; rather, I judge it on how close we came to realizing our potential.
25. “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”
26. “It’s important to keep trying to do what you think is right no matter how hard it is or how often you fail. Never stop trying.”
27. “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
28. “Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
29. “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
30. “Let me give so much time to the improvement of myself that I shall have no time to criticize others.
Classic Basketball Quotes from Mike Krzyzewski
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When looking at any sports team, the sign of a good coach is in his longevity. As many of these quotes will attest, it is not about winning but having a winner’s mindset. It is about giving your best every single time. Ultimately hard work beats talent, You need to fight for every point, block every shot and play hard to win games.
It is precisely that mentality that has kept Mike Krzyzewski in the role of basketball coach for Duke University basketball program for over thirty years.
As he enters his final season, all the successful teams he has guided through the University will surely attest to his way with words. There are many who have sat through his talks and speeches, silently absorbing the rousing words he uttered in practice, on game day, at halftime, and even after the final whistle had sounded.
Mike Krzyzewski talks a lot about team successes, as you would expect any good coach to do. His quotes are a reminder of life and all the different people we encounter on the way. He talks of perseverance and doggedness—all qualities we need to take with us into the world if we want to succeed.
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31. “Effort is fully replenishable. There is no need to save any of it. Leave every bit you have on the playing field”
Check out these basketball quotes from the Mike Krzyzewski playbook.
32. “Everyone wants to be on a team. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good.”
33. “A common mistake among those who work in sport is spending a disproportional amount of time on “x’s and o’s” as compared to time spent learning about people.””
34. “Everybody wants to take responsibility when you win, but when you fail, all these fingers are pointing.”
35. “If what you have did yesterday still looks big to you… You haven’t done much today.”
36. “Don’t confuse your path with your destination. Just because it’s stormy now doesn’t mean you aren’t headed for sunshine.”
37. “Goals should be realistic, attainable, and shared among all members of the team.”
38. “There are 5 fundamental qualities that make every team great: communication, trust, collective responsibility, caring, and pride.”
39. “Believe that the loose ball that you are chasing has your name written on it.”
40. “I have a rule on my team: when we talk to one another, we look each other right in the eye because I think it’s tough to lie to somebody. You give respect to somebody.”
Incredible Basketball Quotes From Phil Jackson
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Not only did Phil Jackson win two NBA titles as a player, but he was also the man at the helm of two of the most successful teams in NBA history. Firstly the Micheal Jordan led Chicago Bulls and then the Kobe Bryant-inspired LA Lakers.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that Phil Jackson is a basketball coach with more empowering quotes than any other. It’s also not a shock to have already seen two of his star players be equally well armed with inspiring words.
Phil Jackson claimed eleven NBA championships and retired with a 70% winning record, earning himself a spot as one of the top ten coaches in the history of the NBA. For someone to have achieved so much over such a long period of time, you know they are going to be good with words.
It’s one thing to borrow a quote for a quick boost, but to be as successful as Phil Jackson, you need to be able to stand on and by words of your own creation.
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41. “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We”
Enjoy the following powerful basketball sayings, all coming directly from the deep-welled repertoire of Phil Jackson.
42. “You can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves”
43. “Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point where you have to throw yourself into the action and put your heart on the line.”
44. “In basketball – as in life – true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way. Of course, it’s no accident that things are more likely to go your way when you stop worrying about whether you’re going to win or lose and focus your full attention on what’s happening right this moment.”
45. “Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.”
46. “Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I’m doing.”
47. “You go in the weight room, and you lift weights, and you do all these things to strengthen your body. This is strengthening your mind. When you can stay focused, and you can use that focus to always come back with your breath to center yourself, so that you’re kind of floating in the moment, in the spirit.”
48. “Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game – and life – will take care of itself.”
49. “Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day.”
50. “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
Famous Basketball Lines from Bill Russell
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Leaving the coaching box for a few minutes, we have some pearly words of wisdom from one of the true greats of the game.
Bill Russell spent his entire playing career with the Boston Celtics, picking up eleven NBA championships along the way.
Predominantly a defensive player, Bill Russell never hit high numbers when averaged across the season and yet is regarded by many as one of the best players to grace the course. Playing a defensive position with such conviction takes a solid mindset and a robust constitution.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that Bill Russell makes the list with his own inspiring basketball quotes. Regarded as something of a pioneer, he was the first person of color to achieve true superstardom in the NBA.
The NBA doesn’t name their playoff finals MVP trophy after just anybody.
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51. “You can do anything you want to do if you want it bad enough”
These incredible basketball quotes from one of the world’s best defensive players will undoubtedly have you enthused and ready to take on the world.
52. “Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions. There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved.”
53. “I don’t have very many regrets, not because I lived a perfect life but because life is a bunch of rolling hills, not mountains, or speed bumps instead of stop signs, and so you come to a situation, and it’s neither good or bad, it just is, and what it means to you is what’s your take on it. But the second part of the equation is what are you going to do about it. A lot of times, I’m completely wrong, but all you do is back up and start over.”
54. “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.”
55. “I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of really smart people. The thing that strikes me most about them is how they continue to explore and learn every day. I have tried to apply that approach in my modest career as well.”
56. “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, to love someone who loves you is everything.”
57. “We learn to make a shell for ourselves when we are young and then spend the rest of our lives hoping for someone to reach inside and touch us. Just touch us anything more than that would be too much for us to bear.”
58. “What distinguishes a great player is his presence. When he goes on to the court, his presence dominates the atmosphere.”
59. “Create unselfishness as the most important team attribute.”
60. “You got to have the killer instinct. If you do not have it, forget about basketball and go into social psychology or something. If you sometimes wonder if you’ve got it, you ain’t got it. No pussycats, please.”
Memorable Basketball Quotes from Wilt Chamberlain
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As a basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain’s accolades need no explanation – and we are not talking about his bedroom conquests.
Arguably the greatest athlete to ever play basketball, he remains the only person to hit triple figures in a single game, scoring 100 points against the Philadelphia Warriors.
Chamberlain was so prolific that he appears six times in the top ten of the most points in a single game. His legacy reads for itself. He is one of only eight players to have their shirts retired by the Harlem Globetrotters.
Once his career as a basketball player was over, Chamberlain became a successful businessman, another world where a positive mindset is required if you want to succeed. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many of Wilt’s memorable basketball quotes can easily be transposed from the court to the real world.
Related Reading: Best Motivational Baseball Quotes
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61. “Everything is habit-forming, so make sure what you do is what you want to be doing.”
Enjoy these rousing basketball quotes from one of the very best men to ever take to the court.
62. “It is said that good things come to those who wait. I believe that good things come to those who work.”
63. “We make too much of winning. The mere fact of winning doesn’t make you great.”
64. “When you go out there and do the things you’re supposed to do, people view you as selfish.”
65. “This is a team game, and one man doesn’t win, and one man doesn’t lose. In the end, the best team usually wins.”
66. “If you have ability in a certain area, why not capitalize on it and improve it and use it?”
67. “I couldn’t have come close without my teammates’ help because the Knicks didn’t want me to make 100.”
68. “With all of you men out there who think that having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool, I have learned in my life I’ve found out that having one woman a thousand different times is much more satisfying.”
69. “Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.”
70. “Bill Russell helped make my dream a better dream because when you play with the best, you know you have to play your best.”
Motivational Musing from Larry Bird
Larry Bird is perhaps one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the court. Both as a player, a coach, and an executive he has risen to the occasion.
He understands that sometimes you need to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. This is not only reflected in our chosen Larry Bird quotes, but also proven by the fact he is the only person to ever win awards for MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
A vocal supporter of the notion to play team basketball rather than individual, Larry Bird was a consummate professional. He would play hard and play unselfish basketball in order to win games.
During his career, Larry Bird won three NBA titles and three consecutive MVP awards between 1984 and 1986.
71. “Don’t let winning make you soft, don’t let losing make you quit, don’t let your teammates down in any situation.”
All the successful teams understand the importance of working together, and this sentiment is echoed in the following words of wisdom from Larry Bird.
72. “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.”
73. “I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody – somewhere – was practicing more than me.”
74. “Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you’re ready to play as tough as you’re able to, you’d better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you’re not giving it all you’ve got.”
75. “When I was a player, I didn’t expect my teammates to play the way I did. I did expect them to work hard every day and get better. And I never learned anything by losing.”
76. “Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It’s about being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get respect from other players.”
77. “I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”
78. “I’m a firm believer in that you play the way you practice.”
79. “Once you are labeled ‘the best’ you want to stay up there, and you can’t do it by loafing around.”
80. “I don’t think that once you get to one level, you can relax. You’ve got to keep pushing.”
Miscellaneous Basketball Sayings for Rainy Days
There are innumerable people who have been involved in the wonderful world of basketball over the years. Many of them have given inspiring speeches when the moment called for it.
Teams hire good coaches to lead by example, but they also hire the best basketball players who are expected to stand tall when the time comes. If we were to make a list of all the basketball quotes out there, we would never get it written nor read.
However, the following quotes are attributed to various folks who have paid their dues, earning their spot on the list of most memorable and inspirational basketball quotes.
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81. “If you don’t feel you have something to prove every day, you’ll never improve.”
– Billy Donovan
There are many inspiring basketball quotes out there, and these are some that deserve a little bit of recognition.
82. “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.
83. “Hard work is not punishment. Hard work is the price of admission for the opportunity to reach sustained excellence.” – Jay Bilas.
84. “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.
85. “If you are honest with yourself and can look into a mirror and believe that you have given 100 percent, you should feel proud. If you cannot, then there is more work to be done.” – John Havlicek.
Conquering Self-Doubt Can be a Player’s Greatest Challenge
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That was it. Quite the list of inspirational basketball quotes. Each one is unique, yet at the same time conveys a near singular ideal. It is not the achievement of greatness that makes one great, rather the attitude and fortitude displayed while getting there.
It doesn’t matter if you are standing on the free throw line with one shot to win the championship or simply playing for fun and pride. Any player’s greatest challenge is to find and keep their focus.
Quotes have the uncanny ability to help us find our center and play better basketball. Successful teams have the ability to go that extra mile when it counts.
But, of course, you don’t need to be a basketball player to reap the benefits of motivational quotes.
Looking for something different? Check out our Top Inspirational Soccer Quotes
Final thoughts on Quotes and Basketball Motivation
Different quotes and sayings resonate with us in different ways. They represent the fuel for our own personal achievement. We use them to drive us forward, and as a reminder that the game isn’t over until the final buzzer sounds.
Do you have a favorite basketball quotes that we missed off the list? Let us know in the comments below. Perhaps you have given a speech courtside that has motivated others. We’d love to hear that too.