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66 Basketball Quotes – Famous and Inspirational Coaches and Players

On occasion, you’ll find that your team needs a kick in the pants to get a little more motivated.

Heck, you might even be the one who needs more motivation.

Fortunately, stronger minds have come before us and left us with some great quotes that you can use to either help get yourself or your team moving in the right direction.

These athletes and their coaches know the power of inspiration. To keep winning, they feed their minds as much as their bodies. They distill their drive and determination into short basketball phrases that the rest of us can feed off of.

And to keep myself in fighting form, I’ve collected some of my favorite basketball quotes. I hope you enjoy them.

If you have any other basketball team quotes that keep you motivated, I hope you’ll share them with me in the comments below.

36 Inspirational Basketball Quotes from Coaches

Red Auerbach

red auerbach

A pioneer in modern basketball, Red Auerbach is the most successful team official in the history of the National Basketball League. He won nine NBA championships coaching the Boston Celtics. When he became general manager and team president, the Celtics won seven more titles. That’s 16 titles over 29 years! Auerbach also fought race barriers in the NBA. He drafted the first African-American player, and when he retired from coaching, named the first African-American coach as his successor.

  • “The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology.”
  • “The best way to forget oneself is to look at the world with attention and love.”
  • “I can’t stand a ballplayer who plays in fear. Any fellow who has a good shot has got to take it and keep taking it. So he misses—so what?”
  • “It’s not what you tell them, it’s what they hear.”
  • “Any coach needs talent. You start with talent. Without talent, we’re all in the soup.”
  • “All records are made to be broken.”
  • “I have two college degrees, but the only way I could make a living was by showing kids how to put a ball in a hole.”

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson won 11 NBA championships—more than any coach in NBA history. He won six titles coaching the Chicago Bulls and five as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, he’s president of the New York Knicks, the team that originally drafted him in 1967. Jackson is known as the “Zen Master” for his holistic approach to coaching. He often calls the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a guiding influence in his life.

  • “Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.”
  • “You can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves.”
  • “Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day.”
  • “Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.”
  • “Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.”
  • “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
  • “Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I’m doing.”

Gregg Popovich

gregg popovich

Gregg Popovich won five NBA championships as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. With a record 20 consecutive winning seasons and 1,000 won games, “Coach Pop” is easily one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.

  • “The measure of who we are is how we react to something that doesn’t go our way.”
  • “It’s not about any one person. You’ve got to get over yourself and realize that it takes a group to get this thing done.”
  • “I try not to get impressed. I just try to look at what I see.”
  • “We believe in people executing their role and caring about the team more than anything individually.”
  • “The older you get, the more you try to appreciate what you’ve accomplished.”
  • “Basketball’s a game of mistakes.”

Pat Riley

pat riley

Pat Riley has served as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks, and the Miami Heat. He was named NBA Coach of the Year three times, once while coaching each team. Riley won five championships: four with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat. In 1996, he was named one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA history. He now serves as president of the Miami Heat.

  • “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”
  • “Don’t let other people tell you what you want.”
  • “Great players and great teams want to be driven. They want to be pushed to the edge. They don’t want to be cheated. Ordinary players and average teams want it to be easy.”
  • “Great effort springs naturally from a great attitude.”
  • “If you get tough mentally, you can get tough physically and overcome fatigue.”
  • “A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.”
  • “To have long-term success, as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.”

John Wooden

John Wooden

Born in 1910, John Wooden is one of the most revered coaches in the entire history of sports. Known as the “Wizard of Westwood,” Wooden inspired players and fans alike with his “Seven Point Creed” and “Pyramid of Success.” He won 10 NCAA national championships as head coach at UCLA and was named national coach of the year six times.

  • “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
  • “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”
  • “Remember this, the choices you make in life, make you.”
  • “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
  • “Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights.”
  • “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”
  • “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
  • “Leaders are interested in finding the best way rather than having their own way.”

30 Famous Basketball Quotes from Players

Charles Barkley

charles barkley

Power forward and “Dream Team” Olympian Charles Barkley was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984. He later played for both the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets. He was named All-Star MVP in 1991 and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1993. During the 50th anniversary of the league, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

  • “The meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t get the ball from me.”
  • “If ifs were gifts, every day would be Christmas.”
  • “I know that I’m never as good or bad as any single performance. I’ve never believed my critics or my worshippers, and I’ve always been able to leave the game at the arena.”
  • “If you are afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.”
  • “You can talk without saying a thing. I don’t ever want to be that type of person.”

Kobe Bryant

kobe bryant

Shooting guard Kobe Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, starting right after high school and retiring in 2016. He won five championships, led the league in scoring for two seasons, and ranks third in all-time season scoring and all-time postseason scoring. He played in the NBA All-Star Game 18 times and was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2008.

  • “Everything negative—pressure, challenges—is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
  • “It’s not about the number of hours you practice—it’s about the number of hours your mind is present during the practice.”
  • “I’ll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it’s sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot.”
  • “You always have to be on edge. You always have to take every practice, every game, like it is your last.”
  • “I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan, I only want to be Kobe Bryant.”

Tim Duncan

tim duncan

Tim Duncan, one of the greatest power forwards of all time, played 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs. He is the only player who was invited to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams every year for the first 13 seasons of his career. Duncan started playing basketball in the ninth grade after a hurricane destroyed the Olympic-sized pool where he liked to swim. He was named NBA’s Most Valuable Player twice and won five championships with the Spurs.

  • “I enjoy jokes, smiling, and making people smile. I may be a little different, but that’s OK, who wants to be normal anyway?”
  • “We are unselfish and we trust each other.”
  • “You’ve got to stay ready.”
  • “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best”
  • “The time when there is no one there to feel sorry for you or to cheer for you is when a player is made.”

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Point guard Magic Johnson was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979 and played 13 seasons. In 1991, Johnson announced he was HIV-positive and retired for the first time. In 1992, he returned to compete in the Summer Olympics with the United States’ “Dream Team,” using the international platform to advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention. He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player three times and returned to coach the Lakers for one year in 1994. He now serves as president for the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2007, he was rated the greatest NBA point guard of all time by ESPN.

  • “Talent is never enough. With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers.”
  • “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.”
  • “Any guy who can maintain a positive attitude without much playing time earns my respect.”
  • “When I’m under the gun and I’ve got pressure on me, I don’t panic. I look for the right solution, and then I go for it.”
  • “All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them.”
  • “Just celebrate the life you had, not the life you could’ve had.”
  • “You’re the only one who can make the difference. Whatever your dream is, go for it.”

Michael Jordan

michael jordan

Shooting guard Michael “His Airness” Jordan played 15 seasons for the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards. Over an impressive and highly-acclaimed career, Jordan won six NBA championships, was named NBA MVP five times, played with the NBA All-Stars 14 times, and was named NBA scoring champion 10 times. He played on two separate gold-medal winning Olympic teams. He now owns the Charlotte Hornets and is the second-richest African-American in the world.

  • “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
  • “Success doesn’t stop when you get there.”
  • “One day, you might look up and see me playing the game at 50. Don’t laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”
  • “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
  • “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
  • “I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results.”
  • “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
  • “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”


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