The Best Advice from NBA Stars on Improving Your Mental Game

Four years ago, NerdCoreMovement published ‘The Best Most Comprehensive List of Tips About Basketball You’ll Find’ for our basketball-loving readers. It outlined pointers on dribbling, playing defense, passing, etc. Basketball, however, is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. So, to improve your mental game, this time we’d like to give you some valuable advice from NBA stars on how to improve your mental game.

Have a desire to improve


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Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis is still young, yet, he is willing to be a sponge, and learn as much as he can. That means harnessing the mental side of things, too. This desire to improve every aspect, in turn, is pushing Porzingis to do everything for the sake of holistic improvement. He even admitted watching UFC superstar Conor McGregor intently, taking notes on the Irishman’s brash, trash-talking ways and his seemingly unflappable mental toughness. The takeaway here is that the mental aspect is just as important, and anyone who wants to improve must be willing put in the work required to change.

Get healthy


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All-world point guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors recently attended a Q&A about his mental approach to the game. Curiously, one of the tips he shared was to get healthy by eating and sleeping well, and getting enough exercise. To give context to Curry’s advice, remember the mind-body connection: when the body is nourished properly, it feeds the brain nutrients necessary for it to function optimally. Neuroscientist Jeff Iliff also believes that sleep is vital for brain health. He explains that while sleeping, the brain goes through “a beneficial process that makes you smarter, perkier, and healthier during your waking hours.” Meanwhile, exercise has been shown to release endorphins, hormones that make you feel good and are important for brain health. When he gets enough of both, Curry feels that it helps him improve his mental clarity.

Think about preparing the correct way


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Superstar playmaker Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics is a stickler for preparation. For him, thinking about it helps him mentally. Uncle Drew’s alter-ego admits that when the pressure starts creeping in, he thinks about the preparation he has put in — the strength and conditioning sessions, all those drills, the after-practice jumpers — so he can tough things out and deliver as he so often does. He says that knowing he’s put in the necessary work helps him be mentally prepared for everything he faces on the basketball court. Then again, that also means putting in the actual physical work.

Bounce back again and again


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James Harden has no doubt heard it all: high-usage one-man act, can’t get it done in the playoffs, flopper, nothing but a scorer. But Harden told Time Magazine that he’ll bounce back again and again regardless of the adversity he faces. This relentlessness to keep coming back is critical to Harden’s mental game. True to form, he flipped the script last year, nearly toppling the mighty Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. This year, Harden’s Rockets remain a force to be reckoned with. Currently, bwin has the Rockets as one of the odds-on favorites to win the NBA championships this year. Despite a poor start, Harden has bounced back time and again this season, and is now playing arguably his best basketball. You see, it’s all in the head.

Get help


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Orlando Magic high-flyer Aaron Gordon admits to being open-minded and inquisitive. Naturally, he was all for the idea of getting mental coaching. That task, fell on Graham Betchart, who first began helping Gordon after the hyper-athletic forward’s embarrassing 2017 Dunk Contest performance. Betchart, whose clientele includes several other NBA players, helped Gordon navigate those tough times, and has instilled in him a next-play mentality, which the young man greatly values. The lesson here is simple: Don’t be afraid to get help, as it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

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