At one level, the job description of a player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) can use terms and phrases such as “famous athlete” and “well-paid.” The NBA generates for itself and players tremendous media coverage and financial benefit. Fans don the jerseys of their favorite players or teams. Certain jersey numbers are iconic and easily associated with iconic players. On another plane rests the training, work and talent needed to even have a chance to reach this pinnacle of basketball and sports.
What Does an NBA Player Do?
Games and highlights show the finished product of much of an NBA player’s job function. Behind the scenes lies the physical and mental preparation to endure a game and a season. Along the march to a championship, or contention for one, an NBA player also works to preserve and enhance the image of the league and franchise and contribute to the community in which he plays.
NBA Player Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities
- Prepare for season and games through practices, workouts, camps and other activities scheduled by team, subject to NBA rules and collective bargaining agreement
- Review scouting reports and film or video of games, including those involving opponents
- Execute plays and other tasks during game as instructed by coaching staff
- Appear at NBA or team promotional events, including with team season ticket holders
- Wear a microphone during games, practices or other NBA events
- Participate in fan appreciation events, such as signing autographs, greeting sessions and merchandise giveaways
- Follow rules for game conduct and personal behavior
- Attend “Team Awareness Meetings,” which cover topics such as gambling, substance abuse and other educational and life skills, and programs on basketball business and media training
NBA rookies must attend a rookies-only “Rookie Transition Program.”
NBA Player Required/Essential Skills
Communication. Players must exhibit solid public speaking skills as they speak with the media or appear before fans or other gatherings. Clear suggestions and instructions to and listening from teammates and coaches help the team run and defend plays. New players, whether draftees or free agents, may have to learn new terminology.
Decision Making. Quick, often split-second decisions, are part of an NBA contest. With a 24-second shot clock, offensive players must pass or shoot quickly. The ability to take a defense posture against a driving offensive player can yield a charging call. Undisciplined decisions, such as flagrant fouls, retaliation and excessive arguments with referees, yield technical fouls and potential ejections, fines or suspensions. The ability to act wisely also applies away from the court.
Interpersonal. Players must understand their roles on teams and may have to sacrifice their urge to not share the basketball. Conflicts often arise during a season and games. Interpersonal skills also mean suppressing egos, supporting teammates and showing respect for coaches, players, officials and competitors.
Physical. Players must be skilled in dribbling, moving and floor vision, often at the same time and under a fast pace. Ball-movement and shooting require hand-eye coordination and strong vision. Physical abilities also involve leaping, sprinting and back-peddling to be in an effective defensive posture. With the ability and power to leap to the basket, those players so gifted often deliver the thunderous dunks that become highlights.
Becoming an NBA Player
Entry into the NBA comes either through the draft or making a roster as a free agent. To catch the attention and interest of a team requires a prospect to demonstrate talent and success through prior play or through participation in the NBA’s scouting combine.
Education and Training
To become draft-eligible, a prospect from the United States must be at least 19 years old in the year of the draft and have completed at least one-year of college or be at least one year removed from high school graduation. International players must be at least 22 years old in the year they are drafted.
Players generally prepare for an NBA career in high school or college through their play at those levels Coaches in high school and college reinforce fundamental skills such as passing, rebounding and defense.
Draftees start their acclamation to the league through the NBA’s Summer League. Franchises field teams with their draft picks, second-year players and some free agents rather than their regular lineups for group play over consecutive days. The NBA Summer League crowns its champion over a ten-day bracket-style gathering of teams advancing from group play. This “league” affords experience for new players, a new chance for others to showcase talents and an opportunity for teams to see their draftees in professional action.
For other NBA hopefuls, the NBA G League (formerly the NBA Development League) provides a training and exhibition platform. G-League franchises function as minor-league “farm” teams who are connected to NBA franchises. Their players have home and away games and playoffs. According to the NBA G-League, approximately 44 percent of its players have found spots on end-of-season NBA rosters.
The experience a player needs to start games or occupy a place on the depth chart depends will depend often on position, the player’s own talent and others vying for that starting spot. Some high draftees, especially on lower-performing teams, might start as rookies or play significant minutes each game. For teams with more established stars at a position, the younger players likely will play less.
The NBA regular season runs from mid-October into early April. Accounting for three rounds of playoffs at the conference level (Eastern and Western) and the NBA finals, play can easily run into mid-June. On weekdays, games usually start in the evening and run two and a half hours on average – including time-outs, quarter breaks and half-time. Weekend games can take place in the afternoon and evenings. Players often report hours in advance of game-time to dress and warm-up and spend time afterwards in post-game interviews and comments from coaches.
Throughout Christmas Day, the NBA features nationally-televised match-ups, often of the more high-profile teams.
In addition to games, players may spend their daylight hours at public appearances, granting interviews or practicing or training.
Most aspiring NBA players must overcome significant odds to make an NBA roster. Approximately 1.5 percent of draft-eligible players hear their names called on draft night. The NBA draft consists of two rounds, which translates to 60 players making rosters by being drafted.
Openings on teams, especially where stars are well-established and under long-term contracts, arise fairly infrequently. Rosters change mainly from trades, with some players retiring or being cut. Veterans or proven talent often fills these openings.
Those players with talent and can parlay with dependable behavior and performance into longevity and wins for their teams can earn lucrative contracts, continued and multiple endorsements and recognition as among the greats in the game.
NBA players form a fairly small fraternity, compared with other fields of employment. Small rosters and teams’ drive to find the best players make entry very competitive and difficult. Those who aspire to play in the NBA must exhibit their skills and prospects to help a team early on in high school and college. Prospective players must also seek and heed wise counsel in deciding when to enter the draft or profession.