Basketball on the Edge – Addicted To Getting Better


“I just got addicted to getting better. From there, I got addicted to that success, that accomplishment.” – Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

“I know you want me to let you in on some big secret to success in the NBA. The secret is there is no secret. It’s just boring old habits. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching.” – Ray Allen, two time NBA Champion.

During some of my reading time this week I came across these two quotes from players at opposite ends of their careers. Ray Allen officially announced his retirement by writing a letter to his younger self that was published in the Player’s Tribune. Steven Adams is a third year player who came into his own last season during the playoffs and has continued to improve from the time first entered the NBA.

This week’s post will focus on how these two quotes apply to the journey that young basketball players take through the game, but I also believe they are applicable to those of us who are parents or coaches as well.
Let’s start with Adams. “I just got addicted to getting better.” I love that quote. Normally we associate addiction with negative behaviors, but not here. I can’t think of a better way to describe how it feels when you are doing something you love to do. If there is something in your life that you are passionate about, you want to learn more about it and become as good at it as you can possibly be. For young basketball players who first experience “getting better” how do they react? Are they happy about getting better, ambivalent about getting better, or are they addicted?

How do we help kids become addicted to getting better? We make the game fun for them at young ages. We provide positive coaching that focuses on the process and not the end results. Remember, not every kid is going to earn a college scholarship or play in the NBA, but they can certainly enjoy the satisfaction of improving as a basketball player during their career. We also have to be very careful not to burn our kids out on one sport. I’ve had conversations recently with three different sets of parents whose daughters played club soccer year round for years and now are giving up the game at ages (12-14) when they should just be coming into their own.

I bet if we could ask people from all walks of life what makes them great in their chosen field many of them would agree with the statement, “I am addicted to getting better.” If we can help kids become “addicted” to getting better using basketball as the vehicle, we would have something they could apply across all parts of their life. For most kids it wouldn’t even be basketball. It might be engineering, or architecture, or medicine, or law, or business. Whatever it ends up being, let’s all commit to creating a youth basketball environment dedicated to helping kids become addicted to getting better!

As for the Allen quote, I wrote a post earlier this year titled “Effortless Success Is A Myth”.   Allen is telling his younger self, build great habits, put in the work, and the results will take care of themselves. The journey is ultimately what has to bring you joy as a basketball player. Parents need to remember that the journey belongs to the player. Don’t get caught up in the result, just enjoy the journey with your child! I never won a state championship in high school, I didn’t win even a conference tournament in college, and I never made it to professional basketball. That didn’t diminish the joy the game gave me day in, day out as a player and what it still gives me today. I loved putting in the work every day when no one was watching. If I didn’t, even the greatest accomplishments of my career wouldn’t have been enough. Those moments are too fleeting. It’s the work, the improvement, the process that brings true joy.

Like Allen says, it’s not about talk. I hear “talk” all the time from players that say they want to improve, but they won’t skip a dance, or get up early, or eat healthy in order to get better. Don’t talk to me about what you want to do, show me.

To summarize:

  • Become addicted to getting better and results will take care of themselves.
  • There is no secret to success. Put in the work.
  • Great habits and enjoying the journey are the ultimate satisfaction.
  • Don’t talk about it, do it.

If you’d like to read the two articles from which these quotes originated they can be found here.

Letter to My Younger Self

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Addicted to Getting Better - On and Off the Court