What makes a good basketball player? How can you know when you’ve become good?
Good: to be desired or approved of; having the qualities required for a particular role.
I always advise people — athlete or not — to quantify their labels. In other words, I would not accept a basketball player telling me that his/her goal was to become “good” — what does that even mean? How many points? What’s your shooting percentage? How successful is your team? What team are you playing for? What level are you playing at (high school, recreational, college, professional)? All these need to be answered in specific and measurable terms to determine what “good” looks like for you.
This post, however, describes a more figurative version of a good player, one that is not measurable by numbers. Despite that, you will have a very clear understanding of the standards to measure yourself against to know that/if you are indeed a good basketball player.
You Know What Your Game Is
You can’t have the qualities required for a particular role if you don’t know what your actual qualities are.
What is your game? What skills do you bring to the table? In what ways do you help a team? How do you know for sure?
You have to know both what you can do and how you do it to be good.
You Know Your Role And Play It Well
On a team, everyone has a role. There are scorers, passers, defenders, rebounders, screen-setters, shooters, and those who play multiple roles at once.
Being good doesn’t mean you get all the attention or that you score the most points. Being good means your contribution to a team is approved of; i.e., what you offer is what the team needs and it helps the team win. Dennis Rodman was not much of a scorer, but on the championship teams he played on in Detroit and Chicago, Dennis was a damn good player: his role was defense and rebounding and he did it as well as anyone in the game.
You Contribute Positively To Any Team You’re On
When Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2017, the biggest questions were about how CP3 and James Harden could possibly coexist. The great play of the team with both guys on the floor together more than answered that question.
A good player is a good player on any team. But why?
A good player…
Always finds a way to contribute.
Will have an impact as long as he’s on the court, regardless of position.
Understands that winning is the object of the game and does whatever it takes, even curtailing his own game, to pursue this end.
In basketball, the players are not confined by their positions. Anyone on the court can perform any function. So as a good player, you have no excuses for not performing and making a contribution towards winning.
You Have The Five Tools Of The Game (or make up for any your missing by being dynamite in another)
Be proficient in all of the following. If you’re missing any of these, you make up for it by being great in another category to compensate. Some player may not shoot well from the outside, but are dominant near the basket. Or a player can be not so good offensively, but is a beast on defense.
Outside Shooting Making jump shots, helping to spread the floor offensively.
Scoring Near The Basket Driving and finishing, drawing fouls, converting high percentage shots (shots taken close to the rim)
Ball Handling Dribbling from Point A to Point B without turning the ball over and maintaining a live dribble, accurate passing, receiving passes
Defense Individual and team, proper positioning, communicating with teammates
Rebounding Boxing out, getting to loose balls (known as “team rebounds”)
You Can Hold Your Own With/Against Anyone (At Your Level)
The summer after my senior year of high school, I felt like I could play with anyone.
I believed that, should I be dropped onto any court, anywhere, I’d be able to compete with any player there and at the very least hold my own. I might not have always won, but I knew I would show myself respectfully. Best case, I’d win.
If there is anyone you cannot compete against who’s at your same level (HS, college, professional), you’re not good yet. Good players can play against anyone.
Players, Coaches and Teams Seek You Out to Join Them
I knew for sure that I’d finally become a good player when people started recruiting me to play pickup games and on recreational league clubs with them, often after playing with me only once. That later gave way to college and pro teams wanting me.
The bottom line: Good players are wanted by fellow players and by teams who need players (and even teams who don’t necessarily need players). There’s always room for a good player to join in.
So there you have it, the attributes and descriptions of good basketball players. When you’re good, what you read above describes you perfectly — keep working on your game to maintain that status. If none of the above describes you. Keep working on your game to change this situation.