“A dream without a plan is just a wish.”

setting smart and realistic basketball goalsOften times when I ask young players what their ultimate basketball dream is, most of the time I get a response like “I want to play in the NBA” or “I want to play in college” or “I want to play Division I” or “I want to play professionally one day” etc.

I then proceed to ask them about how exactly they plan to achieve this dream and very often they have little or no idea. And this is exactly why players need to set realistic and smart basketball goals!

I love to hear when a young player has basketball goals or a BIG dream as I’m a huge proponent of shooting for the moon because as they say, “even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I relate to this notion in my own life as I dreamt about making the NBA from the time I can remember first playing basketball. Although I didn’t quite make it to the NBA, I was able to play professionally in Europe for a number of years, which ended up being one of the great blessings of my life.

In order to get there, thoughachieve basketball dreams with basketball goals, I set many basketball goals that acted as a “plan” to achieve my NBA dream.

This is where many young players lack the understanding and vision of what it takes to play professional basketball.

They don’t set basketball goals, and often times if they do, they don’t do it properly.

Goal setting in general is not an easy thing, and it does require time and effort, but hopefully this article can enlighten some players on how exactly to set basketball goals in order to achieve their dreams.

Basketball goals (and any goals in general) need to be S.M.A.R.T. That is, goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

To be clear, a dream is the ultimate, big, huge goal, but in order to achieve that dream, players must set smaller S.M.A.R.T. goals along the way. These goals are essentially the stepping-stones to help a player inch closer to their dream.

Let’s look at S.M.A.R.T. and start with the “S”…

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Basketball Goals

SPECIFICgoal setting for basketball

Your basketball goals need to be specific. For instance, you can’t just say, “I want to become a better player.” That’s not specific enough.

You need to ask how exactly you want to become a better player.

Maybe that means getting stronger, improving your weak hand, becoming a more consistent 3-point shooter, improving your defense, etc.


To break it down even further, it’s not enough just to be specific. Your basketball goals need to be measurable.

For example, if a player decides they want to become a more consistent/better shooter, they should say, “I want to shoot 40% from the 3-point line this season” or “I want to make 300 two-pointers and 200 3-pointers every day this off-season.”

These things can actually be measured and recorded.


As I said before, S.M.A.R.T. goals are not the same as dreams. These goals need to actually be achievable in the short to medium term.

For instance, a high school sophomore should not set a basketball goal to make the NBA the next year. That’s just not achievable.

Instead focus on the next step of the long process, such as making the high school varsity team or whatever the next small step may be.


Is the dream relevant to you?

Do you really want the ultimate goal deep down?

Or is there some other external reason or pressure that you are doing this, such as money, fame, parental or peer pressure, etc?

Basketball players need to be self-motivated and sincerely want the dream in order for these smaller basketball goals to truly work.


With no timetable to accomplish a goal, there’s a good chance it will just fall by the wayside as there’s not pressure to get it done. Set a beginning and ending date for a goal.

For instance, back to our becoming a better shooter example, a player could say, “I’m going to become a better shooter by making 500 shots every day this offseason starting one week after my season up until one week before next season.”


With the New Year approaching, I encourage all players to begin to think about their basketball dream and apply this S.M.A.R.T. goal strategy to their current basketball careers, whether that’s middle school, high school, college, or even the pro ranks.

Remember, “a dream without a plan is just a wish”!

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