Basketball Psychology

Sports Psychology for Basketball Players & Coaches

The Mental Game Secrets of LeBron James

“I like criticism. It makes you mentally strong”— LeBron James

lebron-james-mental-performIt is a widely understood fact that the difference between world class athletes like LeBron James and other great athletes is their ability to control their emotions and get “in the zone.” However, we rarely understand or discuss the importance of basketball mental game.

LeBron James is undeniably the best basketball player in the world, arguably the best basketball player ever. However, his career has been filled with scrutiny and extreme criticism. Ever since he left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat, in his pursuit of championships, to the tune of not one, not two, not three…. people all over the world hate him and everything he stands for. While many of those “haters” have now embraced him, ever since he made his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, some can’t get over it and will continue to hate LeBron forever.

Putting all that aside, if you look at what LeBron has accomplished, it is absolutely mesmerizing. Winning two NBA titles with the Miami Heat and becoming the NBA MVP an amazing four times. LeBron then returns to Cleveland and helps develop an outstanding team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Cavs go on to sweep the Hawks, which brings them to NBA finals. The Cavs went from worst to first, in just one year!

Elite athletes like LeBron James have an exceptional ability to rise to the occasion when called upon to perform. Whether it is making that big shot to win the game or making a dazzling pass that scores the winning goal, most coaches want their best player to have the ball when the game is on the line. But how do they build the basketball mental toughness and confidence to pull off such feats time after time?

To be able to rise to the occasion and perform in clutch moments, they first understand the importance of having a strong basketball mental game. After losing a crucial match LeBron once said “When you see the way we lost, mental mistake after mental mistake, those hurt more than anything when you can’t play better mentally”. “People get so caught up on the physical side of the game. We lack mental right now, and we’ve got to continue to get better with it.”

Champion athletes become the best at what they do because they work hard physically and mentally. They enjoy challenges and are driven to improve not just by winning, but also by thriving under pressure. They have a mindset where nothing is impossible. They have also built basketball mental game strategies that over the years have helped them to be able to pull off spectacular feats.

When LeBron James gets the ball to make the winning basket, he has no doubt that the ball is going in. Being positive eliminates doubt and gives you confidence you can accomplish your goals. Having a positive outlook also enables you to better cope with stress and anxiety associated with big competitions. As an athlete you want to put everything in your favor and it starts with thinking positively.

Performing at a world class level requires near perfect focus. Distractions can be internal or external, and can relate to issues before, during or after the present moment. LeBron James is able to keep his mind still and be entirely present, focusing only on the next shot or defensive sequence.

LeBron James embodied these main pillars of success. And whether by accident or design, he showed that success takes time, effort, experience, and humility. The convergence of internal and external variables such as basketball mental toughness, confidence and focus formulate what we accomplish and how we accomplish it.

*Download the free mental game assessment and get started on Improving your Mental Game in Basketball

Updated: January 26, 2017 — 11:45 am

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