What is Basketball IQ, Exactly?

Basketball is an involved sport with many moving parts. As such, though people may know or understand one aspect, there may be another part of the game they’re not as familiar with.

Basketball IQ is a term referring to how well a player reads the game. It is one of the trickiest, and hardest to define, aspects of any basketball player. While scores and stats are easy to see on a sheet, understanding how well one adapts to and reads the game can be a bit trickier.

Here, I will look at basketball IQ from a practical standpoint. This article won’t just analyze the logistics of what makes a smart basketball player, it will also break down how such skills can be learned and adapted over time. 

What Does IQ Mean in Basketball?

Basketball IQ, in the most general sense, is how well a player can see and adapt to a game. That means finding the right pass at the right time, sliding into the correct position, or recognizing a play as it happens.

Those with high IQ are able to create opportunities those with a low IQ often miss. That can include flashy plays like hitting the open man or finding a seam in the defense, but it means smaller things like knowing the rules or moving off the ball as well.

How is Basketball IQ Measured?

Unlike a regular IQ, which has a set score based on cognitive abilities, you can’t specifically measure basketball intelligence in any tangible way. It simply gets determined or scored based on how well someone plays the game.

For instance, if a player is always under the basket to grab a rebound or somehow always manages to find the open man, they are said to have a high IQ. That holds up regardless of how skilled they are in other areas.

You don’t have to be Lebron James to have a high basketball IQ. You just have to be able to see the court.

How Can You Test Basketball IQ?

As it’s so nebulous, you cannot officially test for basketball IQ. There are some online tests here and there, but there’s no official way to measure how well someone understands the game of basketball. The only real way to know if someone has a high IQ is to see them in action.

Can Basketball IQ Be Taught?

That being said, players can learn better basketball IQ over time. It’s definitely tricky, especially because it’s not mechanical like post up moves or shooting form, but it’s a skill that can be taught under the right conditions.

How to Improve Basketball IQ

Though it might sound simple, the easiest way to improve your IQ is to play the game. The more time you spend on the court working with other people, the better you will be at reacting to plays. Being taught is effective, but nothing quite measures up to first hand experience.

Remember, IQ is not something you necessarily want to be conscious of during a game. If you need to think about where someone might be or take time to map out a pass, the opportunity will have already passed you by. That’s why going through the motions is so effective.

Another great way to improve your IQ is to watch a lot of basketball. Seeing your game tape, or even going over tape of other players, will teach you a lot about breaking down plays. It’s important to study those with a high basketball IQ as well.

Who Has the Highest Basketball IQ in the NBA?

While it’s ultimately a subjective stat, it’s hard to argue that anyone in the league has a higher basketball IQ than Chris Paul. The shifty point guard has made his entire living around knowing the game at an extremely deep level.

Where some other players like Lebron James also have a high IQ, they can get by on their athleticism alone. Chris Paul has never been the fastest, tallest, or strongest. He’s simply somebody who always knows how to make the right play at the right time.

Who Has the Lowest Basketball IQ in the NBA?

It’s impossible to know who has the lowest basketball IQ in the NBA. However, Collin Sexton is certainly a top case. He has decent stats, but his game is constantly plagued by gaffs, errors, or boneheaded plays. He forces up shots and misses easy assists as well.


This section tackles some of the largest questions about basketball IQ.

Is Basketball IQ the Same as IQ?

In short, no. Though they both pertain to some sort of intelligence, you don’t need a high IQ to have a high basketball IQ. One refers to general intelligence, the other refers to how well you can see the court.

Is Basketball IQ Genetic or Learned?

A little bit of both. While you can be taught how to improve your IQ, some players are simply better at reading a play or defense in the same way some can jump or shoot.

Does Shaq Have a High IQ?

Though he’s known as a lovable oaf, Shaq does have an above average IQ. He comes in at 101, which is much higher than most people would expect.

Are there any Books About Basketball IQ?

While there are no popular books solely dedicated to basketball IQ, there are more than a few out there that can improve the way you see the game. How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius and Stuff Good Players Should Know are excellent towards that end.

Final Words

Though some people can define basketball IQ or see it in certain players, they still may not be able to expand on every aspect.

Most basketball skills are easy to measure or quantity. IQ is not. It never shows up as a stat, doesn’t get recorded, and is easily overlooked by most casual fans. Even so, it’s one of the best traits a player can have. 

IQ is innate in some ways, but it can be learned or expanded upon too. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t see the court as well as some other players. Simply watch what they do and try to learn from their plays.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *