Is it Too Late to Start Playing Basketball? Never!



This question always comes up with young basketball players thinking about picking up basketball at 12, 15, or even 21 years old for the first time. Older players are also interested in playing the game of basketball who are in their early twenties, too late twenties but question if they can compete or not.

Is it too late to start playing basketball? If you are trying to make your high school basketball team, play in a Men’s league, or just trying to get into shape while having fun, It is really never too late to start playing basketball. But If you’re looking to dominate a basketball game but you never played before, your expectations are too high and you will more than likely be disappointed. The game of basketball is a very difficult skilled game to excel at without proper fundamentals. To play the game you’re going to find it hard to be effective on the court against players who have much more experience than you. They also practice the fundamentals often…

This question always comes up no matter what age, it’s never too late to start playing basketball. But the question needs to be further evaluated by the player and their goals and what they want to accomplish. Setting too high of goals or expectations can lead to failure quickly. We will take a look at the different age categories and what we can expect when starting out.

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Is it too late to start playing basketball? 

What age is too late to start playing basketball?

It is never too late to start playing basketball, right now you are probably trapped in the house due to COVID. You have put on a little extra weight, I know I have. You had always thought about playing, now is the perfect time to hit the court and do so. You won’t be the only new player, as many new players are flocking to the courts looking to get in the game also. Just a side of caution use your discretion while playing, wear a mask if you need to, if you don’t feel comfortable don’t play in this time of uncertainty.

I am 16, is it too late to start playing basketball?

Can I start playing basketball at 16? Of course, you can, you’re 16 years old in high school and you missed the opportunity to play basketball in the early years of your life, no sweat. Hopefully, you have some athletic ability because that will go a long way to helping you speed up the process of being able to play well. If your not that athletic, no problem, you will have to be patient. Either way, it may be a slow process and progress may take a while as there is a learning curve.

If your goal is to play for your high school basketball and you feel with a little hard work you can make the team, something you should consider is talking to the coach that you’re trying out for and ask for some direction. You may be surprised as he/she may be eager to help you with your game, that what coaches do help basketball players get better. Coaches secretly love projects. What’s a project? A player they know that will take some time to develop, but when they do they will be something special. Are you that project?

Regardless of your skill level, this will show the coach you want to improve and get better. The coach may point you in the right direction and give you further suggestions on what to work on before tryouts.

Just understand your competition has been playing basketball for a couple of years now and some even since they were young enough to pick a ball. You need to push yourself but have reasonable expectations. If your expectations are too high, this can be a struggle for you, basketball is no easy game, you may quit before you even get started. Be patient with your progress. For more on why basketball is so hard Click Here!

If you think you are going to score a lot of points, and your going to be the man on the team, I hate to burst your bubble and give you the bad news, unless your playing players that also never played it’s not just going to happen that easily. When starting out you are going to make a lot of mistakes and that’s ok but learn from them. The more you are able to have fun and enjoy the game the easier it will be for you to get better.

 I’m 21 years old, is it too late to start playing basketball?

 Can I start playing basketball at 21 years old? Yup! I’ve seen countless new players pick up the game in their early to late twenties and be successful at it. When I say successful I don’t mean playing professional, but being able to keep up with the competition and be a threat on the court. Let’s face it you are probably not going to sign any professional contracts anytime soon unless your over 7 feet tall and even that is extremely rare nowadays. Those who do start at this age with no real basketball experience tend to be a lot rawer in their fundamentals.

The best way for someone in their 20’s to immediately be effective on the court is to quickly find what they are good at. This could be passing, rebounding, even defense. Notice I didn’t say scoring. We all want to score especially as a new player to the game.  Scoring will not be easy when first starting out, especially when you’re trying to shoot the ball into the hoop, and your learning proper form. I have played basketball for many years and I’m willing to bet I put up a million shots in my lifetime or close to it and I’m still finding it difficult the score all the time. I am not going to sit here and say I have played basketball consistently all though years but you get my drift. Just know, if you play long enough and enjoy it, then it won’t be long that you’ll find ways to score baskets and be able to keep up with the competition.

Maybe I should have saved this for the very end, but… be yourself. Don’t try to be like any other player on the court or in the NBA, this isn’t realistic. But do pay attention to the little details that other basketball players do make, like how they set screens or cut off the ball handler.

 I’m 40 years old, is it too late to start playing basketball?

Can I start playing basketball at 40 years old or even older? Yes! So you’ve been thinking about joining a senior men’s team or just want to try basketball out. You just want to play for fun, because you have been watching basketball for many years and always thought about it. This is an excellent way to getting some exercise, and also studies show when your active playing sports you live longer, case, and point. There may be a huge learning curve for you in this age category, but don’t be discouraged. Plenty of players in their 30s, 40s, and 50s pick up basketball late, or continue after a long layoff.

It would be a good idea to play against competition or players that are average in skill at best. If the competition is too stiff, it can be very difficult to keep up leaving you to be discouraged. The idea is to have fun playing and at least be somewhat effective. Nobody likes to do things their not very good at even in their 40’s. Make sure you are taking care of your body and if it hurts immediately stop. Here is a guide on how to get started playing basketball as an adult, Click Here!

What age did most NBA players start playing basketball?

Most NBA players start playing basketball at a very young age, some as soon as they were able to pick up a basketball. There are a few exceptions where players were late bloomers but still manage to make it into the league. The earlier you start the better? This is not always the case, some players start early hate it and return to the game later in life. This could be because of a growth spurt, or they are just far more athletic then they were previously.

Like competitive mixed martial arts, the earlier you start the better the advantage you have against the competition. More experience coupled with height and athletic body you have a huge one up on your competitors.

Some players are lucky to have a family that supports their every move with basketball, they are able to train with a trainer at a very young age, join the most prestigious basketball camps, play AAU basketball while playing in the best tournaments where scouts can take a look at them. This all costs money, not every player can afford this but if your an excellent basketball player your game will speak for itself. Watch the coaches come calling.


NBA Players that started basketball late?


Joel Embid

Joel Embid of the Philadelphia 76ers only started playing basketball when he was 15 years old. He was invited to a basketball camp because he was 7 feet tall. At the camp, he showed so much potential that it was apparent he needed to move to America to get some exposure and experience. Embid would model his game around Hakeem Olajuwon, although it wasn’t until a year later after already being in the U.S. that his career started to take off. Scouts would realize his potential, and after only playing basketball for a couple of years he joined the Kansas City Jayhawks. After only playing one year he would be drafted and make the NBA.

Dennis Rodman

Although he played high school basketball, he was terrible and didn’t get much playing time. He was only 5 foot 6 and had a growth spurt right after high school where he grew over a foot tall. Rodman was actually kicked out of his house living with friends’ house and spending a lot of time at the recreation center playing basketball, pinball, and working out. He would soon be discovered by a junior college coach while he was playing basketball at the rec center and would play juco basketball. He played for just over 3 years before making the NBA. For more on his story click the video.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Loved to play soccer and handball from in his home country Nigeria. He took up basketball and led his team to a national championship. His coach convinced him to go to America to play basketball and pursue the NBA. He became the best college player in the league and was drafted first overall in the NBA Draft in 1984 by the Houston Rockets. After only 5 years he was already in the NBA making history, winning two titles and numerous awards and accomplishments.

Mark Eaton

Mark Eaton’s story is an amazing one, Eaton stands at 7’4 inches tall and was discovered at a mechanic shop while he was working on a car when he was 22 years old. That car he was working on belonged to an assistant coach at Cypress Junior college. He would be recruite and played one year for Cypress averaging 14 points a game. He then went to UCLA but barely played any minutes. Averaging 1 point and 2 rebounds a game in his limited role. Eaton would get guidance and a little bit of luck on his side.

Wilt Chamberlain who frequent the UCLA facility saw that Eaton was frustrated during practices. Wilt talked to Eaton and told him to focus on blocking shots, rebounding, and getting the guards the ball on the outlet pass quickly. Not only did he take that advice, but he was also drafted in the 4th round of the NBA draft by the Utah Jazz in 1982 due to his size.

Eaton’s numbers were remarkable for his career considering he started to play basketball at 22 years old. What was he doing all this time? He loved to play water polo. Imagine how good he could have become if he started playing basketball much earlier in life.

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