Want to Become a Pro Basketball Player? Live Like One.

pro basketball player

Millions of hopeful athletes fantasize about the prospect of becoming a professional basketball player. However, NBA recruiters aren’t known for seeking out the best dreamers; they look for the most athletically prepared players.

If you want to maximize your chances of becoming a basketball pro, start living like one. This means having a relentless dedication to changing your diet, improving your body, and tracking your athletic progress. Let’s dive into the best practices for those looking to go pro:

Eat a Diet Fit for Michael Jordan

If one person is qualified to speak about the best diet for peak performance on the court, it’s Tim Grover — the personal trainer of NBA legends like Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, and His Airness himself, Michael Jordan. Over the course of his career, Grover has learned what the ideal diet choices for his clients are. He offers some helpful advice for those who want to get into the game:

First, cut extra sugar out of your diet — especially if you need to trim some weight before getting serious about your future in the sport. While foods like yogurt, fruit juice, sports drinks, granola, and protein bars may seem healthy, they can be surprisingly high in sugar. When a player consumes too much sugar in his daily routine, it can become nearly impossible to achieve weight-loss goals. “What’s he burning for energy all day? The sugar,” Grover states. “What stays on his body, safe and secure? The fat.”

As noted in our nutrition guidelines for basketball players, you’ll want to carefully manage your balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. So what should you eat? In the words of the personal trainer, “No sugar, no dairy, no fruit, no breads, no alcohol. No junk.” While this may seem restrictive, making an effort to limit these items in your diet is a step in the right direction.

Instead, opt for low-glycemic foods — those that will increase your blood sugar gradually, rather than make your energy levels spike and then wane. For breakfast, try plain oatmeal (Jordan’s regular breakfast) or low-sugar bran cereal. Lunch and dinner should consist of dishes with lean beef, chicken or fish. Nuts, hard-boiled eggs, or low-sugar fruit/veggies make for excellent low-glycemic snacks throughout the day. Lean, protein-packed items should be your go-to ingredients for meals. These foods will keep your energy levels up throughout the day, leaving you ready to exercise and practice on a moment’s notice.

As a final consideration, don’t forget, as with any athletic endeavor, you need to track your caloric intake if you want to lose weight to reach peak performance. Each individual will have different caloric needs in order to maintain weight — don’t forget to include your base metabolic rate in your calculations. Look to reduce your daily intake by 20 percent of that number in order to lose weight.

Getting Your Body Ready for Top Basketball Performance

Finding time in your schedule to regularly get to the gym is essential, and doing so demonstrates your commitment to your athletic pursuits. However, you’ll need some direction and structure if you want to make the most of your gym time. Getting your body in shape for basketball involves both holistic improvements and working on key muscles. Here are a couple tips:

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio

A court may only just be over 90 feet long and 50 feet wide, but players travel miles in each and every game. In order to be ready for game night, you need to improve your cardiovascular conditioning. Three or four times a week, you should do some type of cardio workout for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the particular activity. The treadmill is an obvious choice, but consider mixing it up with an exercise bike, stair climber, rigorous swimming, and jogging outdoors.

Do Exercises to Work on Key Muscle Groups

If you aren’t sure what to do specifically during training, take a look at this Men’s Journal article on ideal exercises for basketball players. In it, certified personal trainer Pete Williams suggests key exercises to maximize performance on the court. If you need to work on your defensive game, for example, you’ll want to work on your lower body through exercises like lateral lunges and goblet squats. Medicine ball squats and Romanian deadlifts can improve your jump shot.

Monitor Your Progress

If you are serious about getting on the track to becoming a professional athlete, you need to begin monitoring your progress. Not only will doing so incentivize you by helping you see the results of your hard work, but it will also help you toe the line when it comes to sticking to your diet and exercise regime.

First, however, it’s important to establish SMART goals. These are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-related (able to be met by a set deadline)

If your goals aren’t SMART, you won’t be able to track your progress effectively. With that in mind, let’s dive into measuring progress.

Don’t simply get on the scale; your fitness goals may include losing weight and putting on muscle, and those three digits aren’t very descriptive of your actual progress. Instead, each week, take regular front and side body photos. Take girth measurements of your body using a tape measure — your quadriceps, glutes, thighs, and calves for footwork, and your shoulders, triceps, and biceps for shooting. Measure your body fat. Getting a holistic idea of where you’re at in meeting your athletic goals will give you a real idea of how far you have left to go until you’re ready to start impressing NBA recruiters.

Recommended Fitness Tech

Furthermore, there are some high-tech ways you can actively measure your physical performance and well-being. Wearable technology and health apps, often used for preventative health, can be used for fitness tracking. As noted by Bradley University:

The most popular fitness apps are usually those that integrate a smartphone and an additional wearable device, like an Apple Watch or FitBit. The apps include features like distance and pace tracking (especially useful for runners), calorie counters, time-on exercise, step counters, and weight tracking. Most apps also monitor sleep patterns and heart rate, give users daily or weekly progress reports and let individuals compete with other users.

Clearly, such apps and devices can motivate you and help you track your physical improvement. However, they can also help you determine when you are experiencing a drastic change in performance — a sign that something may be going wrong — in order to avoid injuring yourself.

If you aspire to become a professional basketball player, following the advice above will help you become one. Follow a diet fit for a champion. Get your body into peak shape by trimming weight and toning key muscles. Track your journey by carefully monitoring your body and making changes when necessary. After all, if you play your cards right and make it onto the professional court, a lot of people will be interested in your story.

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