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4 Lessons Basketball Players Can Teach About Presentations

August 5, 2015 / Blog

Many aspiring basketball players aim to become the next Michael Jordan, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Besides their well-thought offensive and defensive techniques on the court, they also possess valuable characteristics essential to life’s success.

As Phil Jackson once said, “Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.” This game doesn’t only teach players the usual hoop tactics, but also the importance of teamwork, training, and perseverance.

If you think these lessons are only confined in the basketball court, think again. These can also be applied even to other settings like the presentation floor.

To start, let’s tweak these lessons and start applying them in different public speaking stints. Here are three fundamentals we can borrow from basketball players for a deliberate and effective business pitch:

Embrace the Basics of the Game

Playing basketball requires a thorough understanding of the game’s basics.

A superstar player isn’t celebrated if he lacks knowledge about the sports’ rules and regulations. Who’d want to shoot the ball on the opponent’s court?

“You have to get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise,” said Michael Jordan.

It all starts by learning the rules and drills such as ball passing, dribbling, shooting, defense, and rebounding. But it doesn’t there, you also need to take note of fouls and violations, as well as player positions to keep the game going.

Like basketball athletes, you also need to embrace the basics of a presentation. Consider the main pillars in delivering your keynote and business speech successfully: the audience, your topic and purpose.

Following this leads to other elements like appealing to positive emotions in our presentation, and capturing attention with impressive graphics and speech delivery.

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Show Respect and Humility

Respect is among the many attitudes that can be learned from this game.

Players are taught to respect their coaches, referees, and teammates, as well as their opponents. At the end of the match, we often see the two teams doing handshakes as a sign of respect and sense of fellowship with one’s competitors.

This characteristic trait of basketball players can also be applied to presentations. Demonstrate respect to your audience by hearing out their concerns, and showing appropriate facial expressions, like smiling and looking concerned, or interested.

Make your speech accessible and relatable to establish genuine connection with others. Speak in terms they understand, such as financial investment terms, programming functions, etc. to avoid distracting or confusing.

If you want to create a laid back speech setting, make sure to throw in witty humor that’s appealing to the audience and not insulting at anyone’s expense. One example was Steve Job’s introductory line in his 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University. “I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation,” he shared.

This type of initial remark sets the mood, creating an effective gateway into the rest of his speech.

Be a Team Player

Being a team player means not being selfish.

This attitude is evident in professional basketball players. All players contribute to the team and bring their strengths into play to score more points and win game.

For example, Stephen Curry may not have won several championships alone, but with the help of Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and the rest of his teammates in Golden State Warriors. It only proves that comradery is crucial to get where you want to be.

In presentations, you’re expected to involve your listeners in your discussion. You can’t do this if you focus on talking about yourself and on what you can offer. Initiate a dialogue that lets them speak up on their ideas about the subject matter. Share a story that everyone can relate with. It can be the new episode of Walking Dead, movie scene from a Marvel movie, then connect its relevance to your topic.

You also need to remain comfortable and positive like a player who’s facing a tough and close game. If you show people that you have the ability to lead and work well with others, it can add power to your spoken words and hype up your professional career.

Focus on What You Can Control ­

A basketball game is incomplete without a series of steals, free throws, and fouls. That’s why players exhibit total attentiveness to observe the opponent’s styles and tactics. They anticipate the game by controlling two things: their effort and attitude.

As the opposing team scores a rebound and shoots the ball to their court, the other team responds with a game face, wanting to score back.

This goes the same way with your presentation. Adapting their fighting spirit and clever response to possible events gives you a big chance to win your audience’s heart.

If there’s a need to re-align the discussion, think of other approach to fully engage your listeners. If something bad happened in the middle of your speech, don’t fret. Instead, exude confidence and face presentation errors with grace to make a good impression.

This also works when countering the offer of the competition. Do your research on the competing presenters and execute strategic moves like handing out freebies, offering discounts, rewards, and deals.


Basketball players don’t only teach us life lessons, but they also help us become better presenters.

Start with learning the basics. Know your audience and what they expect, be it financial data to back up your claims, or your past credentials. Identify your purpose, whether to sell, report your latest findings, or to motivate people. Then research on your topic.

Demonstrate respect to everyone. Speak in a language that’s accessible and relatable to everyone to avoid distracting them.

Be unselfish and be a team player. Avoid focusing too much about you, and pass the ball to your audience.

Anticipate and put things under your control. Display a proactive and positive attitude to capture people’s interest throughout your speech.

Make a difference and succeed in all your business pitches by adapting these important life lessons learned in the basketball court.

If you want to be on top of the presentation game, unleash these requisite skills within you.

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Hereford, Zorka. “7 Life Lessons Learned from Basketball.” Essential Life Skills. n.d. Accessed June 3, 2015.

“Basketball Quotes.” Sports Feel Good Stories. Accessed March 07, 2016.

“‘You’ve Got to Find What You Love,’ Jobs Says.” Stanford University. June 14, 2005. Accessed March 07, 2016.



Featured Image: “Basketball Hoop” by Håkan Dahlström on