martial arts can improve your basketball skills

How Martial Arts Can Improve Your Basketball Skills

To stay in shape post-retirement, Tim Duncan does kickboxing. Awesome. But, I wonder, how can martial arts improve your basketball skills?

The other day, I was scrolling through YouTube, looking for Tim Duncan highlights.

The reason? I have no clue. I actually do not remember why I was doing that. Maybe it was because Duncan had recently been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

But I’m getting off track.

Anyway, as I was looking for a mixtape to watch, I came across a video of Duncan kickboxing. I immediately watched it.

I’m no kickboxer, but I have watched a bunch of MMA, and I will say that he was pretty good. He had good balance and form.

So what does the Big Fundamental taking kickboxing lessons have anything to do with basketball other than him being a huge NBA star kickboxing?

Well, I brought it up because it shows the benefits of what non-basketball activities can do for your basketball development. It also shows how versatile and mobile Duncan is (but I’m only going to focus on the prior for this post).

How Martial Arts can improve your Basketball Skills

There have been many NBA players who used martial arts to improve their game.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did Aikido and practised Jeet Kune Do with Bruce Lee. He also did a bunch of yoga, too.

Like the legendary big man, Jamal Murray is also a practitioner of Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.

The late Kobe Bryant also studied Lee’s system.

Kendall Gill practises Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.

And a bunch of other NBA stars train boxing.

Abdul-Jabbar, in his book Becoming Kareem, says that martial arts helped him become a more intense player while teaching him to move more efficiently.

On a side note, this really sounds like Jeet Kune Do helped develop his old man game. Just sayin’.


“I dedicated myself to preparation by maintaining complete focus during basketball practice and my training with Bruce. As a result, I became stronger, faster and a much more intense player.

“Bruce was an innovator and caused martial arts to move forward. … The skyhook is the embodiment of an efficient shot that requires minimal movement but sudden speed.”

Along with the physical benefits, martial arts is also great for improving your mind.

In the same ESPN article, Murray says that Lee’s philosophies on always being prepared helped him elevate his game.

“[Lee’s] attitude and his mental preparation and his mental toughness are what I took from him into basketball,” Murray said.

“You can’t go into a game lax and acting like somebody isn’t trying to beat you. If you go into a fight [like that], you’re going to get knocked out. That’s the mentality I have when I’m going into competition.”

Try To Be Open-Minded

I’m by no means trying to persuade you into signing up for that free karate class at your local community college. I am, however, trying to get you to be more open-minded.

Practising basketball and everything that is related to the game is great. You will get better by doing this.

But if you were to add an activity that’s not related to basketball, there’s a chance you might increase your potential, even if it is just one percent.

Activities like martial arts, soccer, gymnastics, yoga, or swimming -anything that isn’t standard basketball training- will teach your body to move and function in different ways.

This will allow you to maybe reach a little higher for a rebound or twist your body a tiny bit more for an open layup. Or it can allow you to play 3 minutes more because your stamina has increased.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of martial arts may not seem like a lot.

But it is benefitting you in a way that wouldn’t be if you hadn’t opened your mind up to new activities.

So, give something new and different a try and see how it improves your basketball skills.

P.S. If you want to try an MMA workout that will translate to basketball, read this blog post.