Two hours before a game, I sat at the press table, filling out my scorebook. NBA legend, Larry Bird, walked onto the parquet floor. I watched him hit a couple of shots and then returned to my work. I kept hearing "swish, swish," so I laid my pencil down and watched. Bird started off on the right side of the floor, 18 feet away, hitting every shot as he rotated through eight spots he'd designated. Then, retracing his route, he did the same thing again. Then, he stepped behind the three-point line, went around the world again, hitting every shot. I looked around to see if anyone else was watching. I was the only one. When Bird finished, he turned and winked at me.
Larry Bird is one of the most confident athletes I've ever seen. With a game on the line and Bird expected to take the last shot, he'd walk up to the opponents huddle and say, "Forget all that strategy. I'm the one that's going to take the game winning shot and I'm going to beat you." His brash confidence totally psyched out the other team and more often than not, the Boston Celtics won on a shot by Bird.
In basketball, confidence is built first by learning the fundamentals of a good shot, and then by practicing it over and over and over. Repetition builds muscle memory and confidence.
Great shooters take 500 to 1000 shots a day during the offseason. They practice from every spot on the floor and they imagine game-winning scenarios. Their stroke becomes so automatic that in a game situation, they don't have to think about it. They just shoot, knowing that their shot will go in. Most of the time it does but everyone misses sometimes. They just shrug off the misses, with the mentality that their next shot will go in.
If a player goes into a shooting slump, it's back to the basics. He'll watch game film, analyze his shot, and look for faults. With this knowledge, he'll retool the mechanics of his shot—putting it back together brick by brick. Then, it's back to the gym for more shooting. That's how confident shooters are made.
Confidence doesn't end with shooting, however, it affects every aspect of the game. A tenacious defender has the mentality that no one is going to get past him. A confident leader wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Dominant players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Chris Paul know they have the ability to take over a game.
While some athletes naturally possess confidence, this mentality is the result of practice, a desire to improve and an understanding of a player's skills and talent. Confidence can transform a good player into a great one.
Do you want to be more confident on the court? Hit the gym, put in the time, and do the work.