10 Best John Wooden Quotes

Famed UCLA college basketball coach John Wooden believed that it was more important to impart wisdom instead of harsh critique —so choosing the ten best John Wooden quotes is not an easy task. Throughout his momentous career John Wooden was the first to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as not only a coach, but as a player also. And during his successful coaching run, winning 10 NCAA National Championships, John Wooden left his players, and the rest of us, many powerful quotes to live by—here are ten of the best.

  1. "Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful." This John Wooden quote is especially important to college basketball players, because many of them are suddenly given the world at their feet – with lucrative NBA contracts and prosperous endorsements. The way that John Wooden reinforces the idea of being thankful for their ability, and to not buy into outside hype, is a lesson to remember for the rest of us as well. 
  2. "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." The point that John Wooden appears to be making is that it is very important to be able to improvise. It is excellent to plan ahead for a desired outcome, but if it doesn't pan out the way we expected we have to find a way to succeed regardless. 
  3. "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." There can certainly be a big difference between who we really are, and who others assume that we are. The best way to keep our priorities straight, according to John Wooden, is to develop our moral character, and let our reputation stem from that, instead of vice-versa. 
  4. "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." John Wooden's knowledge of "knowledge" is quite accurate. No matter how much we think we already know, there will always be another lesson worth learning. 
  5. "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." Being a selfless team player is not only important on the basketball court, but in everyday life. John Wooden understands the cliche "it is better to give than to receive", and that you shouldn't help others just to get something in return. Doing what is right should be enough of a reward. 
  6. "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team." This is one John Wooden quote that all athletes should memorize, have hanging on their locker room door, or tattooed on their forearm if necessary. If a player doesn't understand the importance of teamwork, then they should quit and start playing golf.
  7. "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" What is the point of wasting your time to do a sloppy job? If a lazy effort is done with the intention of rushing through to save time, then more time will be eaten up by having to correct it later. 
  8. "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." John Wooden realizes that trial and error is more important than avoiding trial because of a fear of error. Mistakes that keep being repeated are the real problem. 
  9. "Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts." Having the courage to face changes when they catch us off guard is a true survival tactic in basketball. The starting five players are not going to be on the court for the entire game. So there is always a chance that an underdog player may rise to the occasion and help pull his team back into the lead. 
  10. "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." John Wooden sums up courage with these thirteen words. This quote helps reassure anyone that doubt is their true enemy. 
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