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Making it to the NBA – A Beginner’s Guide

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If you love basketball and dream of playing the game professionally, then there’s no stage bigger than the NBA. Have you ever dreamt of making it to the NBA? If you have, then do you know what it takes? Read on to find out how you can get signed up by one of the teams that comprise the National Basketball Association league in the U.S.A. 

How to Get Better at Basketball and Progress Systematically?

As 11-times NBA champion and former Boston Celtics legend, Bill Russell said, “Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory”. These are exactly the attributes that you need to practice and polish your skills, regardless of the level you’re playing at. Here’s a great guide on how to improve your basketball game, from absolute beginner to a total NBA pro!


There’s no circumventing hard work

Each and every player in the NBA has spent hours getting better at his skills, offensive or defensive. You must practice daily. Sink baskets at the court or in your backyard, play alone or with friends, but play! And more importantly, enjoy what you’re doing. There’ll be days when you’ll wish that you were someplace else, but if your aim is to appear for the NBA draft, then steer clear of distractions.

Progress through the grades

By the time you’re in high school you must have the game to be selected for the school team. This is the first step to getting selected for the higher levels. But remember, the foundation to this first step is the effort you put in when no-one’s watching. The time you spend doing the drills – dribbling, dunking, blocking, etc. – will bear fruit when you get selected for the high school team. Do not neglect your physique. Basketball is a very physical game and you need the strength and agility to keep control of the ball, and when required, wrest it from the opponent. Playing at the high school level, under a coach, will improve your game because it will be subject to professional scrutiny and you will have the chance to work on the feedback that you receive. You can plug the holes in your game and get better or get benched.

Marry discipline with talent

What does this mean? This means, learn the ropes of the game and the system as you progress. It’s one thing playing for points among friends and quite another to know what the coach expects of you when you’re representing your high school team. Adapt to what the team demands of you, and improve your skills accordingly. This could well be the role you’ll play for the rest of your career.

Make it to college basketball

The plan’s simple, but executing it is a tad difficult. There are more than half a million male high school basketball players in the U.S.A. Of these, a little more than 18,000 will be selected for college basketball. That’s less than 3.5%. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers scholarships to deserving athletes, and your best chance of playing NCAA Division 1 basketball is by securing a scholarship. Without a scholarship, you have to try your luck with “walk-in” trials. But the chances of getting selected through these are remote, because the competition is tough. You’ve a better chance of being selected for Division II and Division III through “walk-in” trials. There are approximately 1850 college basketball teams and around 4,500 full scholarships on offer for men in NCAA Division I basketball.

Do your best to get a scholarship

This means getting noticed by the college basketball recruiters. Collect recommendations from your high school coaches. Attend coaching camps organized by universities. Upload your profile on websites run by recruiting agencies. There are some things that are beyond your control. Recruiters consider these too; for example, your height, weight and bulk. And more importantly, whether you’ve finished growing or you can still add inches to your height. Recruiters assess potential scholarship holders on skills such as free shooting, passing, defense on the ball and away from the ball, speed, aggression, as well as teamplay and leadership abilities. You have to maintain good grades. Academic scholarships are a big plus.

Train more intensely

Once you’re a college-level basketball player, you will have to up your skills so that when it’s time to impress the NBA scouts, you’re ready. College basketball is a source of impressive revenue for schools and they expect performance from their players. Not only will you have to perform on the court, you will also have to maintain a decent academic record. You will have to put in more hard work at this stage than you’ve ever before. College basketball also brings a fair bit of popularity. You’ll make friends, which can help you grow your network. Also, how you conduct yourself during this phase of new-found fame will not go unnoticed by coaches, peers, and even NBA scouts.

Get drafted

A little more than 1% of NCAA basketball players get drafted by the NBA. You know the odds that you’re going to face. But if you’ve been blessed with the genes and have worked on your skills, then you could get in with some luck. If you’ve made it to college basketball, then keep up the effort and give NBA your best shot. You don’t have to do anything out of the way to get noticed by NBA draft agents. Just play, win, improve. Play against better teams, attend camps, listen to your coaches, and work on your weaknesses. And very importantly, try to stay injury free at all costs. Many a promising career has been delayed or derailed because of injuries or health issues that can be traced to poor lifestyle management. As a drafted player, there’s no guarantee that you’ll play on a team. You need to improve yourself, perform consistently or risk being sent to the Development League.

Now that you know what it takes to crack the top league, do you think you have it in you?

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