How to Become a Better Basketball Player, According to NBA Legends


You play pickup ball with your friends each week, but you can’t seem to keep up.

You’ve been working hard in the gym, hitting the weights to boost your fitness, but nothing seems to be working. The best way to sharpen your skills on the court? By picking up tips, tricks, and training suggestions from some of the best professionals in the sport.

Whether it’s boosting your speed, stamina, shooting, or mental toughness, we have some options for you to help your pickup skills.

Here’s your basketball training guide:


Jason Kidd – former NBA point guard, Milwaukee Bucks head coach

Back when he was age 34, Jason Kidd had one of his best seasons, joining greats Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only players to average at least 13 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds per game. Kidd shares some tips on how to deliver pinpoint passes and achieve your personal triple-double: strength, speed, and endurance.

Passing Skills

“I always felt passing isn’t so much working on passing as it is anticipation: What does the eye see, and can the mind relay that to my body? What does this guy like to do? Does he like to go right or left? If I see somebody is going backdoor, can I get it to him in stride so that he can catch and finish?”

Hand-Eye Coordination

“How do you work on sight and passing? Try to throw a strikeout in the [batter’s] box. If you are playing strikeout with a buddy, if you see he doesn’t like the ball inside, can you throw on the inside corner on the plate consistently? I think this is good for anybody with a son or daughter—can you throw pitches to an 8-year-old consistently where you know he or she can hit it? Can you throw the ball so it is in their sweet spot? That isn’t a very easy thing to do.”

In the Gym

“I do a lot of leg work—stepups with 30-pound dumbbells, leg press, calves and calfraises—and I do situps in between each set. I’m a big fan of Pilates for maintaining your strength. I can go an hour or 30 minutes to stretch and work on my flexibility and my abs. I don’t run a lot, but I do try to swim five times a week. I also play one-on-one with a good friend not so much to beatng him but more to chase him, stay in front of him, andmove my feet.”

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Kobe Bryant – Retired NBA legend, Los Angeles Lakers

When he was at his peak, Bryant was the NBA’s best overall scorer. Over the years Bryant bulked up with a regimen that combined Olympic lifts with track work. He shared his secrets for playing with the same intensity each time you hit the court.


“You want to make sure you go into the upcoming season in tip-top shape. My conditioning comes from running, whether it’s on a track, on a field, or on the court itself just doing suicides or sprints. Whatever your program is, the key is to push yourself to a level where you’re hurting. You can’t gain conditioning without going through it. You’re going to have to feel some pain, you’re going to have to feel like your lungs are burning, that sort of thing.”


“If you watch me train, it doesn’t look like I’m overexerting myself. It’s an everyday thing. You have to abide by your program religiously.”

In the Gym

“During the season, I focus a lot on weight training, building up my strength level as the season progresses. Clean pulls, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, back squats, things of that nature. In the off-season, it’s about getting stronger as well as more agile. Then, obviously, you want to get on the court and work on your skills. I shoot between 750 and 1,000 makes a day.”

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Cuttino Mobley – Former Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers guard

The former Clippers and Rockets guard was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league during his playing days. Here’s how to shore up your own longdistance stroke.


“Start in at the rim, almost like a layup with jump-shot form, and shoot about 100 shots inside, then start moving farther out. It’ll just become muscle memory from repetition.”

Proper Form

“Tuck your elbow and line it up with your knee, and don’t shoot at the rim, shoot up over it. Put some air under the ball so you give it a chance to go in. Pretend you’re picking an apple out of the basket. Reach up, go inside the basket with your release, andfollow through with your index and middle fingers. That’s what your form should be: up, pick the apple out of the basket, then back down. You don’t want to be leaning back when you shoot, either; you just want to go straight up and come down on the same spot.”

In the Gym

“Do as many pushups pullups, and dips as you can. Your jump shot comes from your triceps and your wrist strength. You don’t have to be lifting all those weights to shoot.”

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Leandro Barbosa – Phoenix Suns guard

Leandro Barbosa, “the Brazilian Blur,” previously won the Sixth Man Award earlier in his career, partly because he’s proven himself to be faster than just about anybody in the NBA. His experience will help improve your speed.

Take Up Soccer

“When I was a kid, I used to play soccer without shoes on the street. I don’t have a lot of ball-handling skills like Steve Nash, but my thing is just to get the ball down the court and score. Soccer really helped me develop my quick feet.”

In the Gym

“I don’t do a lot of upper-body stuff, but I do leg presses, Romanian deadlifts, and some other lower-body work every day. I also try to do exercises while I’m wearing a weighted shirt. People say it can be bad for your knees, but I do a lot of exercises with it on to keep my legs strong. Sometimes, I’ll just walk around the locker room with it on. Then, when I take it off, I can really feel the difference.”

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Mental Toughness

Gilbert Arenas – Former Washington Wizards guard

“Basketball is all mental,” says eccentric guard Gilbert Arenas. “Everyone’s talent is the same, but the mental aspect separates stars from superstars.” Heed his advice and be as tough upstairs as this former clutch shooter.

Redirect Your Energy

“My confidence got hurt coming into the league [Arenas was drafted 31st overall in the second round; he expected to go higher], but after seeing an old highlight tape, I realized that it’s just basketball. I put all my frustration and energy into basketball for two weeks. I did it, and I got to play, and I just decided that [my intensity] is what got me on [the team], and this is what’s going to keep me on it.”

Find a Training Partner

“You need someone to challenge you, because it keeps you motivated. He’s going to make you work hard for what you do. You need somebody like that.”

The Psychology of Game Winners

“When we play pickup games, I won’t shoot the ball until it’s the last shot,” says Arenas. “I’m the only one who’s going to take it all the way until we lose or we win. I’ve been doing that for the last three years. You have to have that mind-set: If you don’t make it, you have to live with it. As many shots as Michael Jordan’s made, he’s missed three times as many.”

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