Basketball Quotes by Players and Coaches

On this page, you’ll find a large, comprehensive list of the most inspiring quotes by famous basketball players and coaches.

I have listed them in alphabetical order to make it easier to navigate.



Abe Lemmons

  • “One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It doesn’t do you any good.”
  • “There are really only two plays: Romeo and Juliet, and put the darn ball in the basket.”

Adolph Rupp

  • “If a coach is determined to stay in the coaching profession, he will develop from year to year. This much is true, no coach has a monopoly on the knowledge of basketball. There are no secrets in the game. The only secrets, if there are any, are good teaching of sound fundamentals, intelligent handling of men, a sound system of play, and the ability to instill in the boys a desire to win.”
  • “He who controlleth the backboard, controlleth the game.”
  • “Your defense will save you on the nights that your offense isn’t working.”
  • “I believe that good defense embodies seven cardinal principle: reduce the number of your opponent’s shots; force your opponent into low percentage shots; control everything within 18 feet; eliminate second shots; no easy baskets; point the ball on all long shots; and prevent the ball from going into the pivot man.”

Al McGuire

  • “Keep it simple, when you get too complex you forget the obvious.”
  • “Winning is overrated. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war.”
  • “When I was losing, they called me nuts. When I was winning they called me eccentric.”
  • “Help one kid at a time. He’ll maybe go back and help a few more.”
  • “I don’t discuss basketball. I dictate basketball. I’m not interested in philosophy classes.”


Bill Russell

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

Billy Donovan

  • “Systems win! Believe in your system, and then sell it to your players.”

Billy Tubbs

  • “This year we plan to run and shoot. Next season we hope to run and score.”

Bob Cousy

  • 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 Sundvold

  • “Basketball is a game that gives you every chance to be great, and puts every pressure on you to prove that you haven’t got what it takes. It never takes away the chance, and it never eases up on the pressure.”

Bobby Knight Quotes

Bud Wilkinson

  • “Morale and attitude are the fundamentals to success.”


Charles Barkley

  • “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe parents should be role models…”
  • “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.”
  • “If you are afraid of failure you don’t deserve to be successful!”
  • “These are my new shoes.  They’re good shoes.  They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me.  They’ll only make you have shoes like me.  That’s it.”
  • “The only difference between a good shot and a bad shot is if it goes in or not.”

Charles Shackleford

  • “Left hand, right hand, it doesn’t matter. I’m amphibious.”

Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) Quotes


Dan Frisby

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

Darryl Dawkins

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

Dave Barry

  • “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 DeBusschere

  • “The best teams have chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice personal glory for the common goal.”

Dean Smith

  • “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.”
  • “Basketball is a team game. But that doesn’t mean all five players should have the same amount of shots.”

Dennis Rodman

  • “Don’t let what other people think decide who you are.”

Denny Crum

  • “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.”

Dick Bennett

  • “Most of my learning and philosophy regarding coaching basketball was developed after great frustration.”
  • “What you specifically teach is what your players will do best.”
  • “Practice to beat the best.”

Doc Rivers

  • “Winning is like deodorant – it comes up and a lot of things don’t stink.”

Don Meyer Quotes


Ed Macauley

  • “You always have to give 100%,because if you don’t someone, somewhere will give 100% and they will beat you when you meet.”

Elgin Baylor

  • “Coaching is easy. Winning is the hard part.”


Frosty Westering

  • “The big time is not a place; it’s the state of your heart. It’s not something you get; it’s something you become.”
  • “Players don’t care how much I know until they know how much I care.”
  • “The more honor and self-respect among players, the greater the team.”


George Raveling

  • “Fans never fall asleep at our games, because they’re afraid they might get hit by a pass.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”



Isiah Thomas

  • “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.”
  • “I used a lot of visualization in terms of who I would be guarding and who would be guarding me. When I was walking down the street for, say, lunch, I’d imagine those individuals in front of me. I’d imagine going around them.”


James Naismith

  • “The invention of basketball was not an accident.  It was developed to meet a need.  Those boys simply would not play “Drop the Handkerchief.”
  • “Be strong in body, clean in mind, lofty in ideals.”

Jason Kidd

  • “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.”

Jeff Tufford

  • “I can teach you how to dribble, pass and shoot the right way, but I cannot make you do it the right way.”

Jerry Tarkanian

  • “The more your players have to think on the basketball court, the slower their feet get.”
  • “The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy.”

Jerry West

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

Jim Harrick

  • “Your ability to communicate to your young people will determine your success.”

Jim Murray

  • “Giving “Magic” the basketball is like giving Hitler an army, Jesse James a gang, or Genghis Khan a horse.”

Jim Valvano Quotes (Jimmy V)

John Brady

  • “If you want team play, you must stress defense. Defense makes players unselfish.”
  • “Criticize on defense and encourage on offense.”

John Edgar Wideman

  • “When it’s played the way is spozed 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 Havlicek

  • “We win because we play together as a team.”

John McKay

  • “You don’t beat people with surprise, you beat them with execution.”

John Wooden Quotes

Julius Erving

  • “I keep both eyes on my man. The basket hasn’t moved on me yet.”


Kareem Adbul-Jabbar

  • “Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.”
  • “The first time I shot the hook, I was in fourth grade, and I was about five feet eight inches tall. I put the ball up and felt totally at ease with the shot. I was completely confident it would go in. I’ve been shooting it ever since.”
  • “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.”
  • “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”
  • “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.”

Kevin Garnett

  • “I’m like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If I’m not ready, the sled isn’t going to go.”

Kobe Bryant

  • “As far as carrying the torch for the years to come, I don’t know. I just want to be the best basketball player I can be.”
  • “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – are all an opportunity for me to rise.”
  • “I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.”


Larry Bird Quotes

Lon Kruger

  • “Prepare for every game like you just lost your last game.”


Magic Johnson Quotes

Mark Gottfried

  • “Have a vision. Sell your program. Your team is going to reflect you.”

Michael Burks

  • “The difference between an extraordinary player and an ordinary player is that little extra

Michael Jordan Quotes

Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) Quotes

Mike McConathy

  • “Building relationships is the key for being happy as a coach. Players must want to play for you. If they are comfortable with you, they will work hard for you.”

Morgan Wooten

  • “Leadership starts at the top.”

Moses Malone

  • “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.”


Norm Sloan

  • “To be successful you need to have good, happy players.”

Norm Stewart

  • “We’re shooting 100 percent – 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free-throw line.”


Oscar Robertson

  • “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.”
  • “Basketball is basketball.


P. Carr

  • “Great defense consists of 3 R’s: read, react, and rotate.”

Pat Riley Quotes

Paul Westphal

  • “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.”

Pete Carrill

  • “Coaching is preparation.”
  • “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.”
  • The two ingredients in success in basketball are playing hard and playing intelligently.

Phil Jackson Quotes

‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich

  • “Love never fails; Character never quits; and with patience and persistence; Dreams do come true.”
  • “They don’t pay you a million dollars for two-hand chest passes.”
  • “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.”



Red Auerbach

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

Rick Majerus

  • “You must have a passion to coach.”

Rick Pitino Quotes


Scottie Pippen

  • “Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”

Shaquille O’Neal

  • “Me shooting 40% at the foul line is just God’s way to say nobody’s perfect.”
  • “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.”

Steve Alford

  • “We try to stress the little things because little things lead to big things.”


Terry McGuire

  • “To win, you’ve got to put the ball in the macramé.”

Tex Winter

  • “Good defensive play is as much a matter of hustle, desire and pride as it is anything else.”

Tim Duncan

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

Tommy Canterbury

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



Vince Lombardi

  • “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”


Weldon Drew

  • “We have a great bunch of outside shooters. Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors.”

Wilt Chamberlain

  • “They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
  • “Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.”




*Here is the main basketball quotes page.

Do You Know Any Other Inspirational Basketball Quotes?

If you know any other motivational basketball quotes by famous players or coaches, please post them in the comments section below, and I’ll add them to the list.

Also, post your favorite basketball quote below so we can see which is the most popular/inspiring one!

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22 Responses to “Basketball Quotes by Players and Coaches”

  1. Will Rogers Says:

    Its not the hours you put in, its what you put in the hours


  2. Anthony Altovar Says:

    If You Stay True, You Can’t Fail.


  3. Bizzy Says:



  4. bloop Says:

    Dont let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.


  5. Dont Worry About it Says:

    Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard- Kevin Durant


  6. Ebony Says:

    you miss 100% of the shots you dont take


  7. santiago Says:

    to learn to run you need to learn to walk


  8. Luka Catić Says:

    It’s not practise that makes perfect but perfect practise that makes perfect.


  9. Marilyn Says:

    Yeah im a girl.

    If you think you can you can, if you think you can’t your right.


  10. McCloud#30 Says:

    Basketball is about 20% pysical, and 80% mental. You could be the stongest pysical person on the court but if you have no mental strenghth or preperation you are the weakest.


  11. thats what she said Says:

    “A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That’s how I want you to play. ”

    “Baseball happens to be a game of cumulative tension but football, basketball and hockey are played with hand grenades and machine guns. “


  12. Annemie Friis Says:

    “Offense wins games, but defence wins championships.”


  13. Hooopsman09 Says:

    Leadership isnt earned, its given.

    A grat attitude isnt the result of success, success is the result of a great of a great attitude.


  14. Hooopsman09 Says:

    “Pretend every loose ball you chase, has your name on it.”


  15. Hooopsman09 Says:

    All quotes are my from my great coach, Coach Julio


  16. jameezz Says:

    you can be the most talented player on the earth but you wont get anywhere if you dont put in the hard work and trust and respect your self and the people without you, it takes one man to win games but a team wins championships


  17. jameezz Says:

    offense wins games but defence wins championships


  18. jameezz Says:

    hard work will always beat talent, you can be the quietest person in the world but if you put in the hard work like the early mornings and the late nights when your on the court training,then you will be successful and you will go from that kid that always has a basketball in their hand and is always training to that person that made it to the NBL all beacuse you put in the work and did it because you love the game rather then playing because you think you are the only person in a team that can play.


  19. dAmZyLlE13 Says:

    If can’t accept lossing, you can’t win


  20. jameezz Says:

    hard work beats talent when talent doesnt work hard


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