While basketball might not have the quote machines that baseball did in Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra, over the years there have been some pretty inspirational (and funny) men to don an NBA uniform.
While players such as Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan all make the list with their interesting quotations, top talent is not necessarily important in order for a player to be able to make a profound quote. Nobody's like Dave Barry and Charles Shackleford make the list despite doing little to distinguish themselves in the basketball world.
A common theme in these quotations is teamwork and effort. The best of the best say over and over again that the best teams work together like a well-oiled machine and try harder than anyone else. These players echo those exact sentiments over and over, proving the true measure of talent is not in the gym, but on the biggest stage, where extra effort distinguishes those who truly care about winning.
A tremendous player on both ends of the floor, Bill Russell certainly knew how to block a shot. But, according to him, that's apparently not the most important part of defense.
"The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot."
Always the funny man, Dave Barry wrote a syndicated humor column for over twenty years. On basketball, Barry managed some of his best work, such as this gem.
"I haven't been able to slam-dunk the basketball for the past five years. Or, for the thirty-eight years before that, either."
Focus is one of the most important factors in winning basketball games in the NBA where everyone is very talented. Just ask LeBron, who seemed more concerned with his mom's alleged affair with teammate Delonte West than beating the Celtics.
"If you pay attention to the grandstands...it won't be long before you join them."
Charles Shackleford delivered a fairly underwhelming basketball career but he was a magician with the quotes. Especially this one, which may go down as one of the best unintentionally funny quotes in sports history.
"Left hand, right hand, it doesn't matter. I'm amphibious."
One of the best sidekicks of all time, Scottie Pippen knows a thing or two about teamwork. Through his six championships, Pippen learned the importance of working together as a team, and realizing that you are not always the number one player on your team.
"Sometimes a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team."
When all is said and done, Tim Duncan will likely go down as the greatest power forward to ever play in the NBA. This is no accident. His tireless work ethic and incredible fundamentals allowed him to have a career that rivals anyone in NBA history.
"Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best."
In one of the most impressive careers of any point guard in the NBA, Isiah Thomas was recognized as many things—a Top 50 Player of All Time, an All-Star, a Hall-of-Famer, but ironically, he preached that post-playing career work was just as important. I'm sure now he wishes that playing careers are the only things people remember.
"If all I'm remembered for is being a good basketball player, then I've done a bad job with the rest of my life."
One of the better passing forwards in NBA history, Larry Bird knows a thing or two about dishing out assists. His career as an executive might have been a bust, but if that gig falls through, I am sure he could find a job as a commentator pretty easily with quotes like this one.
"It doesn't matter who scores the points, it's who can get the ball to the scorer."
While Jordan had his flaws (gambling etc.), one thing that was never questioned was his drive. He was always working hard, and always wanted to win, whether it meant passing the ball to a shooter or making smart defensive plays. No wonder he had such an impressive career.
"Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships."
While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the top ten greatest players to ever play on the NBA hardwood, even he understood the importance of great teammates. Despite a rookie year in which he averaged 28 points and 14 rebounds, the Bucks were unable to win a championship; however, with the addition of Oscar Robertson, they managed an easy four game sweep of the Bullets for Kareem's first championship of six.
"One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team."