Basketball has become increasingly reliant on science over the last few years, but how can you use this research to improve your game?
Lebron, Jordan, me in the first five minutes of teaching my nieces to shoot before my knee starts to hurt — there’s a lot of debate around who the best basketball player the world has ever seen is.
They all have a couple of things in common. Yes, they’re all freak athletes, but so is anyone who ends up playing basketball professionally. When everybody is a physical outlier, there has to be something else that differentiates the good from the great.
And Michael Rogers, a University of South Australia PhD student, may have found the answer.
What Did The Research Examine in Basketball?
The study design involved interviewing 90 basketball coaches and strength and conditioning coaches across 23 different countries and six continents. The goal was to identify indicators outside of actual performance in game that coaches deem valuable to recruitment or selection of players.
The first round of the survey got these coaches to identify the traits they typically look for that aren’t related to in-game statistics, the second round asked them to rate the importance of each trait on a scale from zero to ten, and the third round got the coaches to name the best way to test every trait that achieved a ranking score of six or above.
In total, 35 performance indicators were discovered as a result of the study.
So What Results Were Found?
Now for the really interesting part. According to Rogers, of these 35 traits, psychological attributes tended to top the list.
“Coaches look for players who are competitive, have a strong work ethic, are excellent communicators, good teammates and can ‘read’ the game. Being super fit is a given. It is the other traits that make a difference to the scoreboard.”
Four traits in particular were ranked extremely highly by coaches:
Attitude, coachability, competitiveness, and work ethic.
In a world where everyone is athletic, these intangible traits become so much more important. Let’s be clear, you still need the physical attributes. Lebron James is often touted as one of the smartest players to ever dribble a ball, but would he have been as successful if he wasn’t also 6’9”, 240 lbs, with a vertical leap of over 40 inches? We doubt it.
But with strength and conditioning having advanced massively over the past few decades, it’s now easier than ever to develop peak fitness and performance. That’s not to say it’s inherently easy, but it is undoubtedly a lot harder to train an athlete to be coachable than to increase their VO2 max score.
To any of you that came here looking to transform yourself into the next Micheal Jordan, we do apologise. Unfortunately there’s no science that can take you from a couch potato to an NBA superstar (doesn’t mean we’re not still looking though, we’ll never let our dream die). But for those who are looking to separate themselves from other athletes with similar physical attributes and game stats, maybe this research could change your life.
Just remember us in your first post-game interview, we’d appreciate the shout-out!
You can read the full research paper here.
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