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3 Money Lessons From Basketball

I’m not the biggest basketball fan (more football!) but over the years I have heard some really interesting basketball-related stories which I believe can help teach kids about money.

In this blog, I share 3 of these stories and the money lessons we can learn from them.

Story 1: The Underarm Throw

In basketball, when a player is fouled near the basket, they are awarded a ‘free throw’. When taking these throws, no players, whether they are professional or amateur, throw the ball underarm, I.e. hold the ball between their legs and swing it up towards the basket. The interesting thing is that the statistics show that the underarm throw to be the superior method. Wilt Chamberlain (one of the most successful basketball players ever) scored 28 out of 30 free throws in one game using the underarm approach. A game in which he scored over a 100 points in total.

Wilt Chamberlain using the underarm throw
Wilt Chamberlain using the underarm throw

Despite the evidence to show it is the superior way of scoring from free throws, no one uses this method. Even Wilt Chamberlain stopped using it. Why? It is because everyone cares what other people think! The underarm throw is considered the ‘granny throw’ or ‘sissy throw’ (not my words!). They’d rather miss more shots than be seen throwing underarm. Crazy but true.

Why is this story important when it comes to kids and money?

It shows how hard it is to do something different to the norm. The norm is to spend on fashion and the best phones. There is a lot of pressure to spend. Saving might be better but that’s not what everyone else is doing. I try to encourage my kids to grow up doing the right thing, even if it’s different from others.

Story 2: Untalented Team Wins

In the early 2000s, Vivek Ranadive took on the role of teaching his daughter’s junior basketball team. He had no coaching experience and his team was relatively talentless. However, they went on to win many games at a national level. Vivek knew there was no way his team could use the same tactics as everyone else and expect to win. Their lack of talent would show through. Instead, they tried a new approach. When a team has the ball in their own end of the court, the other team drops off and waits for the attack and then defends their own basket. Vivek trained his girls to defend in the other team's half of the court, I.e. don’t drop off. This was known as ‘the press’. As the press stopped the other team from making an easy pass, they usually made a mistake or ran out of time (as there is a time limit to get the ball in the other half of the court). As a result, Vivek’s team would get the ball close to the opponent's basket (so no tough long shots required). They would then win many games against stronger, more talented, teams as they reached the 'national championships'.

Girls playing basketball

What money lesson can we get from this story?

Most people believe being successful means you have to either get a great job, come from a rich family or be great with numbers. If you saw someone with these traits then you’d probably think that they were part of an all-star team. However, if you teach your kids the 3 rules of wealth:

  • Save 1 out of every 10 you receive

  • Invest what you save

  • Be patient

Then you are much more likely to be more financially healthy and wealthy than those with the best jobs, rich families and who are a whizz with numbers. This is because most people are playing the money game based on:

  • Show off what you have by spending,

  • Keeping up with the Jones

  • Not thinking about the future.

If you enjoyed this story, then I think you'll enjoy my blog, The Battle of the Riches: David and Goliath

Story 3: Don’t chase fame

One of the best Netflix documentaries is ‘The Last Dance’ which is all about when Michael Jordan was playing for the Chicago Bulls in the 1980’s. It is super interesting. However, there was one thing that really stood out to me. Whilst Michael Jordan was the most famous player, he didn’t appear overly happy. There was one scene in the documentary where he was essentially a prisoner in a hotel. He couldn’t leave as there were too many fans surrounding the hotel.

Michael Jordan not happy despite all his fame

Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to aspire to be great at whatever they choose to do but I don’t want them to chase fame. There are many people who want to be famous but, as the Michael Jordan story highlights, I’m pretty sure being famous isn’t what it is cracked up to be. This is an important story to share as a survey of kids showed that the top answer when asked ‘What do you want to be when you are old?’ was … an influencer on social media, I.e. They want to be famous and have a large following! There is an expectation that famous people have lots of money and are therefore very happy. Sadly that’s not always the case. Just look at what happened to MC Hammer - you can learn about his story here

I feel kids should focus on being great at something and then dealing with whatever fame comes as a by-product which they’ll have to manage.

Summary - Money and Basketball

I hope you share these basketball stories and lessons with your kids to help them think about how they will manage their money as they grow up. To recap the stories and lessons:

  1. Throwing underarm - Do what is right even if it isn’t the norm

  2. Untalented team wins - You don’t have to have special talents, you just need to know the rules

  3. Don’t chase fame - Fame doesn’t mean financial health and happiness.

shaquille o'neal blog title cover

Thanks for reading! Will P.s. My book, Grandpa’s Fortune Fables, can help your kids follow the rules of money. Get them a copy here

the best money book for kids cover


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