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Factors in Winning Basketball Games

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 May 2023)

Basketball is a head-to-head competition between two teams. The winner of a basketball game is the team that had scored more points than their opponent by the end of the time limit of the game.

There are physical, mental and psychological or emotional factors that determine which team has a completive advantage or better chance of winning.

Optimizing each factor will help you win. Although a taller, more physically skilled team has the initial advantage, good mental tactics during the game and psychological attitudes can be used to defeat the physically superior team.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Physical factors

In any athletic competition, physical factors play a major role in who wins and who loses.


Basketball players are typically very tall, since height is a tremendous advantage in getting rebounds, blocking shots, dunking the ball and shooting the ball. But there are players that are extremely quick and coordinated to make up for the lack of height. For example, "Muggsy" Bogues was only 5' 3" (1.60 meters), but yet he played professional basketball. In his first year in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he was teammate of 7'7" (2.31 m) Manute Bol.


Besides height, a good basketball player must have strength, quickness and stamina. Conditioning is very important in this sport. Tall players especially need coordination and athletic skill.


Good players practice shooting the ball extensively to build their skills. This is somewhat of a character issue. All-time NBA great Larry Bird was said to take 1000 practice shots with the basketball each day.

Mental factors

Although a physical sport, basketball requires good mental skills. Players must have a good knowledge of the game and the rules. Also part of the mental factor is keeping track of the game and what is allowed. For example, numerous games have been lost when a player called a timeout, only to have his team penalized because it had no more timeouts available.


Players need to be trained in sound offensive and defensive tactics that are applied in a game. Offense consists of shooting the ball and making a basket. Offensive tactics include screening out a shot blocker, passing the ball to put a player out of a defensive position, or driving to the basket and overpower defenders. Defensive tactics include blocking a shot, stealing the ball from a dribbler or intercepting a pass by an opponent.


Coaches will also implement strategies to help win a game. Matching their players with those on the opponent's team is done to gain physical and skill advantage. Also, substituting is done to bring in fresh players and allow others to catch their breath.


Some coaches advocate using visualization techniques to mentally imagine scoring points. Apparently, this has improved players' shooting averages.

Psychological or emotional factors

Psychological or emotional factors can affect a team and result in a less talented team beating a superior opponent. For example, the home court advantage of having fans cheering on the team can inspire players to rise to the occasion and play better than if at the opponent's court.

Reputation of opponent

Knowledge of the reputation of the opponent can affect a team. Some may become awed at playing a vastly superior or intimidating team and almost give up in their efforts. But also, a superior team may become overconfident and perform so poorly that they lose to an underdog.


Coaches can give emotional and inspiring talks to their players to get them to play at their best. Sometimes an opposing player may make some disparaging remarks about a team, which are printed in the newspaper. That article can be put on the bulletin board to anger and inspire the players to win the game.


Coaches will use a timeout to try to cool off the momentum of the opposing team, if they seem to be on a roll. Some coaches have purposely been ejected from a game in order to inspire their team to try harder.


The character of the players can determine how well a team does. Some are determined and reliable. Others may have the talent but don't have the character needed to be a true winner. This is something the coach needs to deal with in selecting who plays when. You want your clutch players in when the game is on the line.


The way to score more points than your opponent in a basketball game are to optimize your team's physical, mental and psychological or emotional factors. Good mental tactics during the game and psychological attitudes can be used to defeat the physically superior team.

Optimize aspects of your game

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


How to Get Better at Basketball - From

The Coach's Clipboard - Coaching basketball

Basketball Strategies for Young People

Inspirational Basketball - Youth basketball methods for $9.99

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