Follow your Dreams to the NBA
If you are into basketball, then you have dreamt of going to the NBA. You’ve stood on a court alone, counting down the seconds, and took that final shot. The crowd goes wild!
No matter how your dream takes shape, making it to the NBA is a special journey that takes hard work, dedication, and maybe even a little luck.
Come with us on the journey to make it to the NBA. We’ll break down all of the highlights of this fascinating road to professional basketball.
Well, duh! You may be thinking that it’s obvious that you’ll have to work hard, but do you know how hard? The NBA is the place where the most elite players in the world show off their skills to adoring fans.
Not one player in the league is there by accident. Even the worst player, on the worst NBA team, has put in thousands of hours in the gym. Shooting, passing, dribbling, and lifting are essential to becoming good at basketball.
However, to become great at basketball, you’ll need to work incessantly and make basketball a prime focus of your life.
All NBA players have put in the dedicated hard work necessary to follow through on all of the steps listed below. They have proven themselves time and again on the basketball court.
Even if they don’t have a good NBA career, every player in the league has had a great career on other levels.
High School Basketball
Odds of playing high school basketball: 1 in 36
Most players will start to get recognized for their ability at the High School level. We highly recommend you start training and playing at a younger age, but this is the level where your hard work can start to shine in front of an audience.
High school basketball is the first major step to becoming an NBA player. This may be your first opportunity to play organized basketball. It may also be the first time you have been evaluated for your abilities.
It hurts to be cut from the team, but that is a sign that you must work harder. The next season may be your time to shine.
Once you have made the team, the training intensifies. You’ll need to learn the offense, defense, and inbound plays, all while maintaining and improving your individual skills. Don’t underestimate the power of Sportsmanship either.
In short, this is the beginning of making you an NBA prospect.
Develop All Your Skills
Hopefully, at this High School level, you are starting to play against good competition, whether in practice or during games. This will show you where there may be holes in your game.
If you find that you aren’t a great defender, then add more drills to your schedule and improve your side-to-side quickness.
If you find your shooting percentage is low, then get in the gym and put up shots. Hundreds of shots.
Your game will only improve once you can see what you are doing wrong. If you are riding the bench, talk with the coach to see what you need to do to improve.
If you’re a starter, then you need to analyze game footage or ask the coaches what you can do to become better.
There is no easy way or shortcut to improving. Evaluate where you are as a player and attack your weaknesses with drills, perseverance, and sweat.
If you are not able to improve and become dominant at this level, then you will not be able to get to the next.
Play Within The System
A major reason a lot of great talents have washed out over the years is that they can’t play within their coach’s system. These players may have the most athletic ability or pure skill, but they fail to adapt to organized basketball.
Playground basketball and organized basketball are very different, and you must be able to be coached and fit into a system to survive and thrive at the High School level.
If you want to move beyond the High School level, you must help your team to be better, not just yourself.
You also can not get in trouble or allow your grades to slip. Always remember that your career in basketball is dependent on your actions off the court as well.
Allen Iverson is one of the best players to ever play basketball, but his career almost ended when he was arrested and convicted of being in a large brawl in High School. He was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and eventually, his conviction was overturned.
The negative publicity that this garnered, made him a risky prospect for college coaches. Allen’s unbelievable talent and ability almost went to waste.
Luckily, John Thompson of Georgetown University took a chance on Allen and he was able to show the world his impressive abilities.
It may seem restrictive, but staying on the proper course is necessary to make it to the NBA.
Odds of playing Division I College Basketball: 2 out of 100 High School Players
If your High School career is successful, and you are clearly the best player on your team, you may have a shot at getting a scholarship to play College Basketball.
You don’t have to have a scholarship to play College Basketball, but it’s the road most NBA players have taken.
Usually, a player develops almost all of their skills and physical traits in High School. This allows college scouts to know what kind of player they are getting. If you haven’t developed into an elite player in High School, you’ll be a little behind the curve.
Don’t worry, though. With hard work and more development, you can still get to play College Basketball as a walk-on.
These players don’t have a scholarship to play basketball but have to prove themselves in a practice setting on campus. This will give you the opportunity to prove yourself against the scholarship players already on the team.
Whether a walk-on or on a full-ride scholarship, you’ll need to impress a whole lot more people to make it to the next level.
That means performing better than your peers, avoiding the dangers of fame, and consistently performing in games.
If you can do all these things, you may be ready for the next step.
Train Like Its a Profession
Once you get to the College level, you’ll need to intensify your training even more. You’ll have more coaches to work with and learn from, but most colleges expect their players to work as though it’s their profession.
College Basketball brings in a lot of money for these schools, and they expect more from their players.
Not only will you be attending class, but you’ll also have to work even harder to improve your game to become elite.
This level of work scares most players. It is also where a lot of them falter.
NBA scouts want to see your on-court ability, but they also are looking at how you carry yourself. How you handle yourself and act under the spotlight is important.
So at the college level, you have gained a little fame, and attention is starting to swirl around you. You all of a sudden have more friends than you know what to do with. This is scary and exciting.
This also means that you need to focus even more. The traps that could have gotten you in trouble in High School have now multiplied.
Once you have tasted that fame, you need to treat basketball as a career.
Don’t Lose The Fun
Just because you treat basketball as a career, doesn’t mean that you should stop treating it as a game. If you lose the fun, it can become a grind.
You are working hard every day, shooting 300-500 shots in the morning and practicing every afternoon, but you still find time to play some pickup games. The game is still fun for you.
If you ever lose that joy that the game brings, it’ll be near impossible to get it back. Those new fans will find someone new to watch, and those scouts will find the next prospect if you decide to step away for an extended period.
In this part of your career, you’ll question whether you’ve done all the right things or if you are truly on the right path.
Loving and enjoying the game every day will get you through this period.
The pressure to be amazing can be crushing. If you are at a level where your team depends on you every night to help them win, this pressure can cause players to falter.
By loving what you do, and finding the fun in the game, you will make your journey a lot easier.
Stay Injury Free
The one part of your journey to the NBA that you will have little to no control over is injuries. Injuries are a part of every sport and they can happen to anyone at any time. You train your body to be strong and fit, but this can also lead to repetitive use issues and injuries.
It is very difficult to tell who will sustain repetitive use injuries, but it’s something we can’t avoid.
When you are shooting 300-500 shots a day, you may develop tendonitis in your elbow. Running, jumping, and cutting can all contribute to plantar fasciitis. These are just a couple of examples of repetitive use injuries.
There will always be a danger of injuring a knee or ankle during games or practice. There have been broken legs, noses, and even eye sockets.
Basketball is not a safe sport and if you expect to make it to the NBA, you’ll need to stay relatively injury-free.
It isn’t the most glorious part of the journey, but if you get injured, you’ll need to work that much harder to get back to playing and improving.
We don’t talk about these injuries to scare you. It is just a reality of playing this sport that we love.
Impress NBA Scouts
You’re a college star now, the person your team looks up to and expects to lead them to victory. But you’re also one player of 5,000 in division 1 basketball, on one team out of 351. How do you expect to get noticed by NBA scouts?
That isn’t a question you can answer, nor should you try. Your part in the equation is to get better. You need to be a dominant player at the College level to garner the attention necessary for the next level.
Professional scouts are looking for the cream of the crop and will search the world over to find them. You let them do their job and you do yours.
Go to camps, play with the other elite players in college, win games, these will all get you noticed.
Ultimately, you must craft a resume of performance that an NBA scout would take notice of. Do your part and they will find you.
Get Drafted-Make it to the NBA!
Odds of being Drafted to the NBA: 3 out of 10,000.
Those lucky few, who put in all the work, and made all the sacrifices, are finally rewarded when their name is called on draft night.
Their dreams came true in that instant and they are now an NBA player.
They can relax now, right?
Not even close. This whole new chapter starts another round of playing within the system and trying to get better against your peers. If you want longevity at the NBA level, you’ll need to put in even more work.
Just because you were drafted doesn’t mean you’ve made the team either. If you don’t perform well enough in summer workouts and the summer league, you may get sent to the Development League.
You’ve come so far, there is no way you can give up now!
The reality is, that you now have more scrutiny and pressure than you’ve ever had up to this point. That growing spotlight can cause some players to fail out at this point.
Check out our article on what Life in the NBA is like for an NBA Player.
Now that you have made it to the NBA, what kind of player will you be?
Undrafted Free Agent
Those players that do not get drafted don’t have to despair, there are a lot of ways to continue your journey to the NBA.
It may take more work than you could have imagined, but the road to getting to professional basketball is not closed.
You will have to go to open tryouts, whether at the NBA level or Development League level.
You may be contacted by Overseas teams to come to try out for them.
The options at this point are many, but if your dream is to play in the NBA, you’ll need to grind for it.
Impress everyone you come in contact with during these tryouts and you’ll be well on your way to making it that next step.
You could earn a 10-day contract and have an opportunity to impress the coach in practice or with limited minutes in a game.
It will take sacrifices in your life, and maybe a lot of travel, but your dream could still become a reality.
Don’t ever lose hope, not being drafted doesn’t have to end your career.
After seeing everything it takes to make it to the NBA, you can start the hard work and skill development at a young age. Most likely, readers of this are a little bit older, but they can apply it to their kids or someone they coach.
The younger you start, the more likely you’ll be to develop the skills necessary to make it to the NBA.
Dreams can become reality, but you must find that passion earlier in life.
If you are a bit older, you can still make your dreams come true. Just follow the steps above and don’t ever give up.
We have taken a journey from the beginnings of a basketball career all the way to the NBA. While we can’t give you success in your career, we can give you the knowledge and the motivation to be better.
Success is up to you. You are the only one that can determine your future.
Work hard. Love the game. Become a role model that others can admire.
The success will come.