How to Make It to the NBA (Do You Have What It Takes?)

Every amateur basketball player dreams of playing for an NBA team someday. If you believe you are good enough to play in the NBA, we have outlined steps to improve your chances.

Before we proceed, you should understand that the steps outlined here will not guarantee success. Getting into the NBA is an uphill battle, and in a pool of 10,000 amateur basketball players, less than three make it to the NBA.

So, here is our reality check – to make it to the NBA, you need to be incredibly gifted (both in skills and genetics) and exceptionally lucky. However, it is worth a try. Now, here are the steps you should take to boost your chances.

Make it to NBA: Improve Your Game

If you are good enough to think you have a chance to play for an NBA team, it might be easy to overrate yourself.

No matter how good you are, you probably still need some improvement to reach NBA standards. Here are some things you need to do to improve your game.

Work On Your Skills

As the saying goes – practice makes perfect. The best way to perfect your skills is repeating your practice sessions. There are many dribbling, passing, and shooting drills you can do.

It is easy to get discouraged when there isn’t any apparent improvement in your skills. However, you should always bear this in mind – as long as you are practicing, you are improving. The improvements may not be happening as quickly as you expect, but it is happening. You just need to be persistent.


You can also keep a record of your performance. This applies especially to shooting — practice shooting 3-pointers, 2-pointers, and from the free-throw line. When you review your shooting accuracy over time, you will notice improvements if you train consistently. Hopefully, these improvements will help motivate you to train even more.

You can also try filming yourself as you do these drills. When you watch the footage, you will notice any errors more easily. Then, you can work to correct them. You can also send the footage to a basketball coach. The coach will study the footage and advise you on how to improve your technique.

You can also study videos of professionals on the court. Learning their moves will give you plenty of clues on what you need to do.

Related: Best Video Cameras for Recording Basketball Footages

Find and Perfect Your Selling Point

Every professional basketball player has a selling point. This is a unique ability that stands them out of the crowd. This selling point could be your 3-pointer shot accuracy, free-throw accuracy, intelligent passing, incredible speed, dribbling skills, or anything at all. You just have to be exceptional at something.

So, you need to discover one thing you are already exceptional at. When you do, put in extra effort to perfect that ability. Keep doing this until anyone who watches you play will immediately recognize that one thing you are really good at. Just keep doing it until you gain a reputation for that specific ability.

Join an Amateur Basketball Team

As you already know, basketball is a team sport. No matter how good your individual skills are, you still need to learn to play as part of a team. If you fail in this area, you might have to say goodbye to your NBA dreams.

This is because no basketball scout or agent will take you seriously based on your skills alone. They will need to see how well you blend with your teammates in a competitive match.

duke-nba-players-make it to nba

So, you need to be part of an AAU, high school, or college basketball team. Training with your team and playing competitive matches will improve your team skills.

Engage in Strength Training

You need to be physically strong to excel in basketball. Many aspects of the game require physical strength. No matter how skillful you are, a lack of muscular strength will make you slow and prone to injury. Other players will also find it easy to shove you aside when jostling for a good position.

While you do not need to build as much muscle as a powerlifter, you may need to lift plenty of weights. Other exercises that can develop your strength include training with resistance bands and kettlebells.

To target the specific muscle groups that will help improve your game, you may need a fitness coach. This will also help reduce the likelihood of getting injured during strength training.

Related: How to Strengthen Your Knees to Prevent Injury

Making it to the NBA: Market Yourself

Social media websites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have made personal promotion easier than ever. To take advantage of this to promote your basketball career, here are a few easy steps you need to take.

Create a Basketball Social Media Profile

First, you need to create a basketball-specific social media profile or account, and it should be only for basketball-related content.

Post Regular Content

Then, you need to regularly record and post videos of yourself on the court. These could be videos of you training, playing in a competitive match, or a highlight reel. The highlight reels should be professionally edited compilations of your best moves.

Add Some Non-Promotional Content Too

Some of your posts should be non-promotional basketball-related content that your audience would love. You should avoid building a social media profile where every post has you promoting yourself. It would be difficult to attract an audience (or followers) with a profile like that.

Instead, your profile should be a healthy mix of promotional and non-promotional content.

You can post tips for improving one’s basketball skills. You can also add the latest news, gossip, and even jokes. However, make sure everything is related to basketball.

Attract the Right Audience

Having a popular social media profile would be useless if the right people never see your content. Remember, the aim is to get the attention of influential people in the world of basketball (scouts, agents, coaches).

So, you need to promote your content on relevant groups and pages. You can also add up or directly contact any influential scouts you know and send them links to your social media profiles. You can even consider paid online advertising that targets specific basketball audiences.

Participate In Amateur Basketball Tournaments

Influential basketball scouts and agents regularly attend popular amateur competitions like college and AAU tournaments. Do whatever you can to play in as many of these competitions as possible.

If you put up an outstanding performance in a popular amateur tournament, that would be the best promotion you will ever get. No amount of social media promotion can beat that!

Avoid Scandals

You need to promote yourself as an exceptional basketball player and a good person off the court to attract the right attention. Sometimes, what happens outside the basketball court can ruin a player’s chances of advancing their career.

A scandal such as a criminal conviction can scare off interested parties. This could give recruiters the impression that you are a problematic character. You do not need anything that could make interested scouts hesitant.

Choose the Best Route to an NBA Draft

Many routes can lead a player to get drafted into the NBA. The rules governing NBA draft eligibility are very complicated.

To further complicate things, these rules are changed almost every year. So, we are not going to go into details about these eligibility rules. Instead, we will show you the different ways you could make yourself eligible for the NBA draft.

Here are some of the routes you can take to get to the NBA.

College Basketball

Most basketball players in the NBA were drafted from college teams. If you are 19 years or older and perform well in college basketball tournaments, you have a far better chance of being drafted into the NBA.


Compared to a player of equal skills and ability elsewhere, a college basketball player is better positioned for a potential call to the NBA.

So, aim to impress your high school basketball coach to secure regular playing time. Also, make sure you maintain good grades. This will give you a platform for a potential college scholarship. Hopefully, you could make the jump from that to the NBA.

Related: NBA Players Who Did Not Go to College

Join an International Team

An alternative but the less-traveled route is to join a professional basketball league outside the United States. This option is gradually becoming more popular.

With the help of an agent, you can join a club in a basketball league with easier eligibility requirements. If you excel while playing for your international basketball club, you will get all the visibility you need. And that will automatically qualify you to join the NBA.

Here's our step-by-step guide on how to play basketball overseas.

Conclusion: Making it to the NBA

Whichever route you choose, what matters most is how well you can play the game. If your skills are not up to NBA standard, even if you somehow make your way into the league, your stay at the top will be short-lived.

We are not diminishing the importance of self-promotion. You should market yourself as much as possible. But improving your game should be your top priority. With excellent skills, effective self-promotion, and a bit of luck, you can beat the odds.

You might also like: Why is The Professor NOT in the NBA?

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast