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6 basketball terms for life

Throughout the time I enjoyed playing basketball, I picked up many terms that at a young age meant very basic ideas. Now, some of these terms and phrases have transcended their simple meanings.

Below are a few I’d like to share:


In basketball vocabulary, to pivot is to reposition the player with the ball to pass or shoot.

During practice and games, I would stop in positions that I wasn’t aware I could get out of. It wasn’t until I learned to slow down and pivot, that I could maneuver my position optimally.

Why don’t I do this in life?

In Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferris’ asked famed American educator, freelance author, and chess master, Adam Robinson to provide his great insights to questions Tim had. One of his impressionable quotes was, “if you’re not getting the results you want, change what you’re doing.” In other words, pivot. He later comments that you would think people would, but we do more of the same, we double-down on what we have done.

That’s what I used to do in basketball… Time to look at the position I am in.

I had been putting myself in positions where there was nowhere for me to go… I continuously did the same things in Dallas for the past 3 years… Only now I became aware of this pattern. So I took position and found a way to pivot.

This is what pivot means to me in life: When caught in a trap, jump-stop, jab at the defender, and pivot out of it. Or, pass the ball because it will find you again. Keep pivoting until something works and then do more of that.


A trap is when two defenders double-team the ball-handler, trying to force a turn-over. What usually forces the turnover? The panic.

Similar to the experience with pivoting, I discovered that once defenders noticed I would stop in a poor position, they would come trap. These situations are also meant to be maneuvered out of. Life sends us traps that are meant to be navigated out of rather than panic and turn the ball over. The key is being aware of the trap that is coming and then to see that there is an opportunity.

Once I notice a trap coming, what should I do?

I falsely imagined a trap was occurring being in Dallas again, but the thought of being in that trap was the real trap. Instead of the impulse to panic, I continuously accept where I am and then do what is the necessary course of action. While in basketball a couple options could be to pass, dribble out of it, or step through, in life it means building personal strengths to navigate out of a trap.

Be the calm within the trap. Soon enough it will transform into a bucket.

The Paint

The paint is the area on the basketball court inside the lane lines from the baseline to the free throw line. It is known as the paint because it is usually painted a different color than the rest of the court. Or, in my experience, an area where I either take a charge or get dunked on (lol).

In this way, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Seneca:

A good person dyes events with his own color and turns whatever happens to his benefit.

In a basketball game, the paint is where most of the action occurs. In life, the paint represents an awareness of where I am at all times and always finding the opportunity in any situation, or spot on the court.

Leave your ego at the door

At the beginning of seasons when the team would gather center court, coaches would always say, “leave your ego at the door” when you step on the court. As far as I was concerned as a young player, it went in one ear and out the other because of the previous definition of ego I had.

As I continuously learn about ego and what it is, along with continuously being aware of the ego in me, this phrase continuously changes. Leaving the ego at the door demands an awareness of ego that should be constantly and consciously worked on.

I began to understand what the ego they told to leave at the door really is. A common concept of ego is of that one hot-tempered, arrogant person. However, ego is much more complex.

Once I learned that the player sitting on the bench could have a bigger ego than the star player of the team - so long as the one on the bench is thinking to himself that he should be playing on the court – I had a big Aha!

This was crazy to me because occasionally I was that guy.

Never Satisfied

I have seen the phrase all over shirts and media. I understand what it means and that it motivates one to push themselves and constantly improve. However, subconsciously if one is never satisfied they will never be satisfied, which is not a good thing.

I think continuously being satisfied will lead to better work and improvement. If we are doing what we love and are always satisfied, then won’t that encourage us to continue doing that and getting better?

Working hard for something we’re never satisfied about sounds like it may not be our real passion, which could lead to burn out.

Triple Threat

At Clear Creek’s basketball camp, the staff would play a game with the kids that I would lead. It was a fun way to show the campers the power there is in holding a strong position. A triple threat position is when a player he has the option to shoot, dribble, or pass. It is perhaps the strongest position to hold in the game because of the power the player has to choose what to do.

If held properly, a triple threat can lead to many opportunities… Without even leaving position.

It also invites creativity because you can create your own combination to throw off your defender. Whether it’s a jab step, shot fake, pass fake, or rocker step, the holder gets to choose a combination and switch it up (pivot) when needed.

Analogous to life, holding a strong position and mastering a few things may allow an original thing for one holding the position.

Thank you for reading. I hope this inspires you to continuously explore how different terms relate to your life just like these basketball terms have for me.

Have a peaceful, abundant weekend!

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