How to Start Playing Basketball as an Adult

If you’re a big fan of the NBA and want to play basketball professionally one day (or if you just enjoy watching it), then learning how to dribble is essential for any kind of success.

But what about all those other skills that go into being a great player?

You need to know how to pass, shoot, handle defense, and more before you can even think about going pro.

It can be quite overwhelming for a first-time player to know what to do, because of not being experienced and familiar with all the different concepts that the sport contains.

But that’s where this blog comes in, as this article will offer a comprehensive starting point for adult players to pick up the game and get the ball rolling.

How an adult beginner starts playing basketball

Here’s our guide to teaching your adult self, everything there is to know about basketball.

1. Practice basketball fundamentals on your own or with friends

how to start playing basketball as an adult - practice fundamentals on your own or with friends

There’s no substitute for actually doing things in real life.

If you want to get better at anything – including basketball – then practice makes perfect.

Now, there are two good ways to do this.

Either by:

  • Practicing alone; or
  • Training with others.

Both methods work well, but you’ll probably have more fun when you practice together with other people.

To maximize both experience and results, find players who aren’t very skilled yet and work out drills with them.

It might take a while to find such players, so don’t be discouraged if they seem too hard right off the bat.

The most important thing here is to keep working at it until you improve enough to join up with someone else who’s much more experienced and capable as a player.

So, try running pick-and-roll plays, shooting free throws, passing under pressure, etc., with another person.

This will force you to focus and develop new skills without worrying about making mistakes.

Once you’ve done this enough, try to form teams with three to four buddies who also want to become better basketball players.

Then set specific goals like “I’m going to run 50 pick-and-rolls today,” or “We’re only allowed five turnovers per match.”

Also, make sure everyone knows the basic rules of the game beforehand.

Without these guidelines, matches could easily devolve into chaos.

2. Use YouTube tutorials to learn the rules of the game

how to start playing basketball as an adult - watch YouTube tutorials on basketball gameplay

You should absolutely check out YouTube videos first!

As long as you use common sense (like, don’t attempt tasks beyond your skill level) and stay safe, you shouldn’t encounter much trouble.

Don’t worry about missing some of the nuances and subtleties of the sport.

Just watch a video that demonstrates something simple, like a layup shot or a dunk, and try to replicate it later.

Once you master the basics, move onto harder stuff.

 For example, you can learn how to drive between defenders using YouTube footage and instructions.

Or you can watch a tutorial showing how to perform a crossover step back and see how far you got after trying to copy it.

In general, stick to instructional channels produced by reputable organizations like USA Basketball or Nike.

Most of the time, these channels include quality content worth viewing.

However, sometimes you’ll come across videos that contain errors or misinformation. In particular, you should steer clear of videos created by amateurs.

Amateur videos tend to be inaccurate, inconsistent, blurry, low resolution, or otherwise subpar compared to official ones.

Furthermore, they often lack proper captions and descriptions.

One exception to this rule is NBA League Pass, an app available exclusively for Verizon customers.

Though it mainly focuses on delivering live sports events, the app includes tons of educational material related to basketball.

For example, you can view multiple clips demonstrating different types of shots, along with explanations of how each technique functions.

While these clips are still unofficial and unverified, they’re definitely helpful for people who want to advance past the beginner stage.

To help improve your overall knowledge, consider subscribing to several authoritative YouTube channels.

Some recommendations would be:

All of these channels post video content regularly and cover relevant topics relating to basketball.

3. Join an amateur basketball team

how to start playing basketball as an adult - join an amateur basketball team

Even though you might feel tempted to skip this section since you learned everything you needed to know online, joining a coed league is a critical part of becoming a better basketball player.

When choosing a team, choose wisely based on location, size, budget, schedule, and culture.

Ideally, you want a group that has similar interests and values to yours.

Make sure you fit in, whether you’re a serious athlete or not.

Your teammates will affect your attitude and performance, so you want people whose personalities mesh nicely with yours.

Finally, consider factors like travel distance, cost of participation, and availability of facilities.

If you plan to attend tournaments frequently, for instance, you’ll likely benefit more from a traveling team than a less-traveled squad.

Whether you decide to participate in organized competition or simply play casually with friends, remember that teamwork takes time.

Even though some aspects of basketball can be taught effectively via written instruction manuals, few concepts translate perfectly from theory to reality.

That’s why you’ll always need somebody to talk strategy with during games and scrimmages.

Teammates can help you overcome obstacles, share ideas, motivate you, celebrate victories, commiserate over losses, and generally support you throughout your journey.

When you’re starting out, you might not realize how valuable having a supportive teammate can be.

One last tip I’d give anyone starting out is to avoid joining professional leagues.

They may offer coaching or training from experienced professionals, but their main purpose is selling advertising space on jerseys and t-shirts, not helping you progress toward your goal.

Professional leagues often require participants to pay high entry fees, which means they already have plenty of money to spend on coaches and trainers.

Instead, look for local pickup groups where everyone practices alongside each other and pays cheap monthly dues instead of large sums.

These kinds of groups usually attract beginners because they provide guidance from peers who understand exactly what you’re struggling through.

4. Play lots of casual pickup games

how to start playing basketball as an adult - play casual pickup games

Pickup games are social experiences centered around friendly competition.

Unlike organized competitions, they typically consist of fewer athletes and rely heavily upon improvisation rather than scripted tactics.

Because of this, you can expect lower standards, slower pace, and lesser structure.

Pickup games can be played by small groups or larger crowds.

No matter how many people show up, however, it’s best to agree ahead of time on certain ground rules to ensure safety and fairness.

Depending on the number of attendees, these rules can range anywhere from setting regular turn times to agreeing to call fouls automatically.

Regardless of setup, the fundamental principle is to create a positive environment where nobody feels left behind or intimidated.

A word of warning: Not everybody enjoys competitive activities, especially when playing against strangers.

Before attending any event, ask yourself if you really want to compete, or if you’d prefer to remain anonymous and simply observe.

If you answered yes to the second question, then you’re probably fine skipping organized competitions altogether.

On the contrary, if you’re interested in winning, then you should seek out opportunities to face better opponents.

For beginners, the easiest way to find pickup games is to search Reddit for subreddits relevant to basketball subreddits like /r/basketball.

Players who regularly meet up at places like parks, gyms, playgrounds, beaches, bars, and stadiums are more likely to welcome newcomers.

Ultimately, a subreddit that serves as a community hub where members discuss upcoming public events, organize pickup sessions, and arrange private matchups whenever possible is a good place to get started.

Equipment needed to start playing basketball

The good thing about basketball is that it doesn’t require a lot of fancy gear to play.

With a pumped-up basketball and a solid pair of sports shoes, you can begin playing even if you don’t have a hoop to shoot into!

In fact, one of the greatest ways to practice when you don’t have a hoop is to use a wall as a rebounder.

Bouncing the ball against such a surface can help you get to grips with your catching technique as well as how accurately you shoot, as you can pinpoint certain areas of the wall to use as a target.

What age is too late to start playing basketball?

Arguably, it’s never too late to start playing any basketball, or any other sport for that matter.

As long as you have the energy in your body to move and the enthusiasm to take to the court, then you can begin playing even if you are as old as 42 or 55.

But you should keep in mind that picking up a new hobby like basketball isn’t easy, regardless of age.

Being a beginner comes naturally to some people, whereas others struggle to figure out what goes where and how to hold the ball properly.

Be patient and don’t allow frustration to cloud your judgment. Remember, you can never stop improving unless you quit completely.

So, keep practicing and enjoying yourself, and rest assured that you’ll eventually reach heights you never thought were achievable.

Closing thoughts

This article has comprehensively covered how an adult can begin playing basketball.

Of course, basketball is not easy.

But with the right amount of practice and commitment to improving, anyone can get started and play the game to a decent level.

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.