Getting Better At Basketball Doesn’t Require A Lot Of Thinking, But It Does Require Hard Work
I remember when I was in middle school, and after basketball season all of us basketball players (who really needed to be thinking of how to improve your basketball game at all times) had to participate in track practice, even if we were not actually competing in any events. And all of us really hated it.
That’s when one of the coaches said something that stuck with me to this day. Basketball is just track with a ball. He was absolutely right. While we were all complaining about running around the track, what we were really doing was saying that we didn’t want to get better at basketball.
Has that ever happened to you? Your mind says you want to be better, but your heart just isn’t into it? Or maybe you just don’t know where to start.
Many players find themselves stuck on the bench not because they don’t have the talent in them to be better basketball players, but because they don’t have the drive in them to be better basketball players.
But if you have the motivation, and if you want to know how to improve your basketball game, there are 8 areas where you need to focus. Very rarely is someone elite at every area, but you need to do your best to be as good as possible in every one.
Lets take a look at the top 8 ways how to improve your basketball game.
All the details are below, but to summarize how to improve your basketball game, we’ll go over the following:
- Speed and Agility
- Learn to Jump as High as You Can
- Get Stronger Physically
- Increase Your Stamina
- Improve Your Dribbling Skills
- Improve Your Shooting
- Play Good Defense
- Dominate the Boards With Great Rebounding
1. Speed and Agility
If you want to play any sport, it helps to be fast and agile. Without those two things, it will be hard to defend (we’ll get to that later).
Now, you can overcome being slower than some with good technique, but there are some simple ways to make yourself quicker on the court.
Keep Your Body Healthy
The easiest way to get sidelined in a sport is to get hurt. If you play basketball, it is very common to twist ankles and knees. Make sure your have a good set of ankle braces or tapes to keep those ankles in place.
You can check out our list of top ankle braces here.
Besides, the ankles, listen to your body. You will need to push yourself to get in game shape, but don’t overdo it to the point that you hurt yourself.
Having said all that, what are some good exercises to do to get in good shape for basketball? Here are a few, but basically, any running exercise that utilizes short bursts of speed with quick cuts will do. You can do these in a gym, your backyard, and a parking lot.
Anyone that has ever played basketball knows what a suicide is. It goes like this:
- Start at the baseline
- Sprint to the free throw line closest to you
- Sprint back to the baseline
- Sprint to the mid-court line
- Sprint back to the baseline
- Sprint to the other free throw line
- Sprint back to the baseline
- Sprint all the way to the other baseline
- Sprint back to your original baseline
If you do these correctly, and if you do enough of them, then you’ll be more tired than I was just writing all that out! I need a nap!
You can use suicides to work on your ball-handling as well. Just do the routine as you dribble a basketball, and try to get quicker each time.
It will require tremendous focus as you get more tired.
5 in 30s
Another favorite of coaches everywhere, all you need for 5 in 30s is a clock and legs.
It’s very simple. You start on the baseline and run back and forth between baselines 5 times, and try to do it in 30 seconds. Each time down the court counts as 1.
Coaches that really have it out for a team’s endurance will keep this drill up until everyone can do it. But guess what. As everyone gets tired it’s harder to keep up, so it can seem like a never ending drill.
But as you learn how to improve your basketball game, you will figure out that you need to get in shape and give it your all when you work on your speed and agility.
2. Learn To Jump As High As You Can
Going along with the speed and agility theme, the next thing to focus on to become a better basketball player is your vertical jump.
The reason we started this website to begin with was to help athletes jump higher. It is vitally important that you jump high and know HOW to jump high in the game of basketball.
Work Out Your Legs
As you would expect, if you want to be able to be able to jump high, you have to work out your legs. One of the main ways of working on your jumps is through plyometrics.
Plyometrics are exercises in which leg muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. You are training your muscles to go from extension to contraction in a short amount of time. This in turn will make you more explosive.
When it comes to jumping, plyometrics will help you jump much higher than you ever thought you could.
Plyometric Exercise Examples
The good news about plyometrics is that a lot of the work can be done at home. Some of the exercises include:
- Box Jumps – these are some of the most popular types of jumping exercises. You jump up and down off of a box. Seems simple enough, but it will burn your legs and build up strength. There are plenty of good boxes available, such as this one, but you can surely find something around the house to do the trick.
- Squat Jumps – Squat down, and explosively jump as high as you can with your legs extended.
- Leg Bounding – Run with long strides with an emphasis on how long you hand in the air.
These are just a few examples, but plyometrics is the best way to train your body to jump higher.
Knowing how to improve your basketball game is more than learning how to shoot. You have to be able to make yourself physically fit. But how to do that?
What Is The Best Jump Training Program?
There are a lot of coaches and personal trainers that can teach you to jump higher. Good basketball coaches can also train you to jump.
A key to a good program is one that will give you a good focus on the off-season. The off-season is when you will really see results that will pay off once games start.
The best jump program I have experienced is The Jump Manual. The Jump Manual gives you everything you need for one low price including a free 1-on-1 personal coaching trial. I have witnessed amazing vertical jump increases through the Jump Manual.
Definitely give it a try.
3. Get Stronger Physically
One of the ways to lose respect on the basketball court is to get pushed around constantly. Getting physically stronger is definitely needed for forwards and centers, but guards need to be stronger too.
Without a strong stature, it will be easy to get pushed out of the way for rebounds. Being weaker than your opponents makes it easier for them to get lose balls.
And whether it seems so or not, if there is a close call, the bigger guys will almost always get the call from the referee.
There are certain exceptions. Kevin Durant comes to mind. Not because he’s weak, but because he’s tall and thin. But still, most people don’t have the talent of Durant, so he’s a bad example to use.
Take a look at the players in the NBA. Look at the muscle mass they have from their shoulders on down. They make it very hard for someone to bully them around.
Now, not everyone can be an NBA player, but we all can put for the effort to add some muscle mass. Spend some time in the weight room getting bigger. It’s not easy to get motivated to lift weights, especially when it comes at the expense of working out on the court, but after time you will be glad you did.
4. Increase Your Stamina
Stamina goes hand-in-hand with speed and agility. When you work on your speed and agility, you are also working on your stamina.
But stamina cannot be ignored, and it must be given its due when it comes to how to improve your basketball game. If you cannot run up and down the floor, then you won’t be on the floor for long.
Teams that have success are teams that don’t fold down the stretch. The easiest way to fold down the stretch is to run out of gas because your stamina is out of shape.
What Are The Best Ways To Get In Basketball Shape?
When it comes to the best ways to get in basketball shape, it’s very simple. Run. And run a lot. Not long distance running, although that doesn’t hurt.
The running that you need to do to get in basketball shape needs to be sprints, and lots of them.
The Suicide and 5-in-30 drills from above are great ways to get in basketball shape and stay there. But any sort of short sprint will get the job done.
You just have to make sure you stay on top of it and actually do it. Every day. Maybe a day off now and then for rest, but basketball is a game of constant running, and if you have not built up your stamina you simply can’t keep up.
And if you can’t keep up, you will find yourself on the bench very quickly.
5. Improve Your Dribbling Skills
The first thing you’re taught as a little kid when you are learning how to play basketball is how to dribble. It’s something we work on from the moment we first step onto a court.
And the learning should never stop. you should ALWAYS be working on your ball handling skills. It’s not just for the guards, but for everyone. The ball should become an extension of your body.
The ball controls who wins the game, so you need to learn to do everything you can to control the ball.
If you can make yourself a great dribbler, then you can make yourself a great passer and scorer, because holding the ball will be so natural to you.
How To Practice Your Dribbling Skills
The very best way to practice your dribbling skills is very simple: always have a ball in your hand. Wherever you go, try to have a basketball with you and practice dribbling every way you can imagine.
There are a million different actual drills to practice dribbling, but here are a few that come to mind.
Dribble Through Cones
If you have some space, maybe in a gym, your driveway, or a parking lot, set up cones, or something else that will mark a spot to dribble around.
Practice dribbling to and around these cones in as many different ways as you can. Fast and slow. Work on a spin move as you go from one cone to another. Then work on a crossover and a dribble between your legs.
Practice sprinting as your dribble up to each cone, coming to an abrupt halt, and then dribbling again to the next cone.
Practice Dribbling With Each Hand
If you aren’t comfortable dribbling with each hand, it’s hard to stay on the court, especially if you are a guard.
Remember as you do any drill that you practice with both hands. If you are going left, you need to use your left hand. If you are going right, you need to practice dribbling with your right hand.
This can be an advanced dribbling technique, but if you can manage it, it will be a big help in your dribbling advancement.
Start out by holding a ball with your legs slightly bent and a little more than shoulder width apart. Then, keeping the ball between your legs, you go through this procession:
- Dribble with your right hand in front of you
- Dribble with your left hand in front of you
- Dribble with your right hand behind you
- Dribble with your left hand behind you
- Start the order all over again
It takes practice, and you have to be quick, but it looks impressive once you can do it.
Two Ball Dribbling
This one is self-explanatory, but will really help your focus and dribbling ability.
You simply take two balls and dribble them at the same time. Maybe you alternate the dribble, or you dribble both at the same time.
Maybe you run or jog while dribbling, or you stand in place.
Whatever you choose, dribbling two balls at once will help you become a better basketball player.
6. Improve Your Shooting
The goal of basketball is to score more points than the other team. If you can do that, you’ll get to play more.
Now, when you set about learning how to improve your basketball game, if you take the advice on this page and are great at some other areas, you can get by without being the best shooter. After all, there are guys in the NBA that have made a career out of being a great rebounder or defender, but aren’t scorers.
But those types are few and far between. You need to learn how to score, especially how to shoot.
Learn To Shoot From Everywhere On The Floor
If you have watched a group of youth basketball players, what is the first thing they do while working on their shots? They go right to the three-point line and start jacking shots up.
There’s nothing wrong with working on your three-point shot, but there is a lot more to basketball than that. You need to work on everything from layups (or dunks if you can do that) back to the three point line.
Use Proper Form When Shooting
It doesn’t matter if you are shooting a basketball, swinging a baseball bat, throwing a football, or hitting a golf ball, all of us pretty much taught ourselves how to do all of those things.
And many of us became successful at a young age. But eventually you reach a point where you won’t get any better just doing it your way. You need to learn to shoot a basketball the proper way.
How To Shoot A Basketball The Right Way
Every coach has variations of how to shoot a basketball correctly, but they all have some things in common, such as:
- Hold the ball in your shooting hand in front of your shooting shoulder
- Place your other hand on the side of the ball
- Bend your knees slightly in order to get a good jump
- As you jump, release the ball at your highest point
- Flick your wrist forward, and leave it there, focusing on your follow through
Those are some basics, but use various shooting drills to work on your shot from everywhere on the court.
And don’t forget about the free throws!
7. Play Good Defense
If you haven’t read our definitive guide to playing basketball defense, you definitely need to give it a read.
We spent over 2,000 words going over everything you need to know about playing good defense,
Other places will give you a giant list of something like 47 different things to focus on in playing good defense, but it really comes down to these things:
- Play with a purpose – don’t just go through the motions
- Always be in a ready position – anticipate what the offense will do
- Work hard to jump higher – jumping higher will make you better at stealing passes and blocking shots
- Be in a position to rebound – rebounding is a part of defense
- Be a good transition defender
- Be active with your hands. But don’t reach!
- Slide your feet
- Keep good communication with your teammates
- Know the difference between the various types of defense (zone, man, box-and-one, etc.)
- Study your opponent
If you can become great at those things, then you will make yourself a great defender, and in turn, you’ll turn yourself into someone that is hard to take off the floor.
Playing good, tough defense is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work, staying in shape, and moving your feet instead of using your hands.
Good defenders use their feet to stay in front of their opponent, and they use their hands to make it tough to shoot and pass.
Too many players use their hands to stop the opponent, when it’s the body that needs to do that work.
If you take our advice on staying in great shape and being agile, you’ll be well on your way to being a great defender.
8. Dominate The Boards With Great Rebounding
We covered the 6 basics of rebounding in our rebounding guide. A great way to show effort and help your team in a way that affects both offense and defense is to become an amazing rebounder.
And it’s not as hard as you might think. Like everything else in this list, you need to put in the work, but rebounding is something that not everyone wants to become good at, so if you can master it, you will definitely stand out on the court.
Rebounding consists of 6 basics:
- Box out and be in good rebounding position – don’t let the man behind you get to the ball without fouling you
- Anticipate the bounce of the ball – learn angles and where the ball is going after the miss
- Be active and always be moving – don’t stand still; others will run right by you if you do
- Jump high – this seems to be a theme. Another reason to consider The Jump Manual.
- Hold tight to the ball – it doesn’t do you any good to grab a hold of the ball, just to give it right back
- Be tough! Rebounding is hard work, and the strongest will survive
Your team can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball. The only four ways to get the ball are to get a steal, force a turnover, give up a basket, or get a rebound.
If you want to know how to improve your basketball game in a way that has a direct impact on whether your team wins or loses, the become a great rebounder.
How To Improve Your Basketball Game Isn’t As Difficult As You Think
You just gotta put in the work
I hope you got a lot of of this article so that you know how to improve your basketball game in ways that are tangible and will get you on the court, and stay there longer.
Put in the work, even when no one is looking so that when they actually are watching, you will stand out.