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Top 10 Famous Basketball Quotes

Posted December 06, 2012 by Jonathan Baron

Basketball is a fairly recent American tradition, and it has had a rapid rise; from its humble beginnings with peach baskets to its current status as one of the most popular sports in the United States.  Because the game is centered on conflict, competition, and sportsmanship, many players and coaches have said memorable lines.  Below you'll find some of the best basketball quotes ever.

"The game of basketball has been everything to me. My place of refuge, place I've always gone where I needed comfort and peace. It's been the site of intense pain and the most intense feelings of joy and satisfaction. It's a relationship that has evolved over time, given me the greatest respect and love for the game." - Michael Jordan

Widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan here speaks of his deep commitment to the game of basketball and his intense relationship with it.  With this attitude, Jordan won six NBA championships and two Olympic Gold medals.

"One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team." - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr, Abdul-Jabaar changed his name after converting to Islam.  He was a powerful player in the NBA and like Michael Jordan, won six NBA championships.  He participated in what many called the "Game of the Century," a college basketball game while he was at UCLA. Many credit his team's play with starting a national excitement for college basketball in the form of March Madness.

He spoke often about the importance of team play, as many came to look at him as the sole reason his team won.

"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals." - Larry Bird

Bird played his entire NBA career at the Celtics and was known for his trash-talking abilities.  Despite his confidence that bordered on arrogance to some players, most remember him as ultimately a good sport.  The above quote was a common theme in the things Bird is known for: hard work and confidence in ability.

"Sometimes a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team." - Scottie Pippen

Pippen was a teammate of Michael Jordan's on the Chicago Bulls.  With Jordan, he helped popularize basketball on an international level.  He won six NBA championships with the Bulls but was frequently overshadowed by Jordan, despite his high level of skill and clear import in their championship wins. 

"Nobody roots for Goliath." - Wilt Chamberlain

As the only player to score 100 points in a single game, Chamberlain will forever be remembered as one of the most dominant players in history.  He stood 7 feet 1 inch on the basketball court and people expected him to win.  Frank Deford of ESPN said of him, ""If you win, everybody says, 'Well, look at him, he's that big.' If you lose, everybody says, 'How could he lose, a guy that size?'"
With his talent and size, Chamberlain won two NBA championships.

"Everybody on a championship team doesn't get publicity, but everyone can say he's a champion." - Magic Johnson

Johnson was a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers during his time in the NBA.  He won five NBA championships which were often attributed almost entirely to his skill.  He felt this attribution was unfounded, and maintained that it takes a team to win despite his public image as "the only man on the team."

"Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We." - Phil Jackson

As a player, Jackson won two NBA championships, and as a coach he won an astounding eleven championships.  His coaching was influenced by Eastern philosophies, as is fairly evident in the above quote.  He was often called "Zen Master" by some players.

"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - are all an opportunity for me to rise." - Kobe Bryant

Bryant has five NBA championship rings and is frequently cited by basketball aficionados as one of the most "complete" NBA players. However, he is known for his arrogance and showmanship, which clashed with Phil Jackson's coaching style while he was the coach of the Lakers.

"There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don't put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself."LeBron James

James currently has one NBA championship with the Heat.  He left the Cavaliers in a dramatic, public fashion after becoming a free agent.  When he won the championship, his leadership role and dynamic playstyle have led basketball experts to consider him one of the best, if not the best, player in the NBA as of December, 2012.

He speaks here about the pressure others put on him, but as evidenced by his showstopping plays on both offense and defense, he does not let it affect him. 

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." - John Wooden

Wooden was a coach at UCLA and believed in success in life as well as basketball.  He won ten NCAA national championships, seven of which were in a row.  He was fondly remembered by his former players, many of which went on to play in the NBA. Wooden spoke often in short, punchy inspirational lines like the one above.

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