Basketball Player  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotDo you have the skills, talent and attitude to be a basketball player? In North America, both men and women have leagues that offer them a shot at the big time.

dotThe major men's basketball league is the National Basketball Association (NBA), which has two conferences. The Eastern Conference has the Atlantic, Southeast and Central Divisions, and the Western Conference has the Pacific, Northwest and Southwest Divisions. There are currently 30 teams in the NBA.

dotThe NBA Development League (NBA D-League) and the Continental Basketball Association are both minor leagues. Another minor league is the United States Basketball League (USBL), which is a summer league.

dotWomen's basketball is also popular. The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is a women's professional league. There are 12 teams in the league.

dotHow are new players drafted in professional basketball? Let's look at the NBA. "Play-off teams get draft choices based on their record -- best team last. There's a weighted lottery for all teams not going to the play-offs," explains talent scout Dean Oliver.

"The worst team has the best chances for the top pick.... They only draw three teams, which get the top three picks in the order drawn. The remainder of all teams are ordered in inverse order of their record."

dotBasketball players require ability, experience and technical knowledge of the sport. Players practice every day, lift weights, participate in exhibition games and play regular season games.

In women's basketball, it helps to be tall, but height alone won't keep you in the game. More specifically, you need good coordination, speed (both vertical and lateral), balance, aggressiveness, reflexes and good hands.

"Physically, you have to take care of yourself," says basketball player Carol Ann Shudlick. "You have to eat the right foods and get plenty of rest."

dotAlli Bills is a third assistant coach. "For women, the opportunities have grown because they now have professional basketball in America," she says.

However, opportunities are more plentiful overseas, for both men and women. "The opportunity to play over there is actually pretty good," says Bills.

Basketball players find overseas work through an agent with international contacts. "Once they've played over there, other teams might recruit them directly without going through the agent," explains Bills. She adds that overseas work doesn't pay well, but it's a great experience.

At a Glance

Get paid to play

  • There are about 400 players in the NBA
  • With TV dollars backing the NBA, players' salaries will continue to climb
  • It helps to be tall, but you also need good coordination and speed