20 Thought Provoking John Wooden Quotes

John Wooden was a basketball legend on the court and as a coach. If you know the history of the game, you understand the profound affect that Wooden had on all levels of basketball. As a high school player, he helped his team win three state championships and he was named as an All American basketball player three times while attending Purdue University. His performance as a pro player earned him a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Wooden coached high school basketball for 11 years and walked away with a record of 218–42 before coaching at the college level. The basketball program at UCLA was unheard of and in poor condition until John Wooden arrived. He had the opportunity to coach for Purdue, but his loyalty to the then coach, Mel Taube, and character lead him elsewhere. In just one year, Coach Wooden transformed the UCLA players into Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division champions, who one the title 10 times in 12 years.

Through all of his success, Wooden is most known for his integrity, faithfulness to his wife, Nelly, and strong commitment as a Christian. It’s easy to see how his faith helped guide his decisions throughout his career, even when he would have preferred to make different choices, such as leaving California to coach at Purdue before his contract was up. Wooden was a widow for 25 years after losing Nelly in 1985 to cancer. Every month he visited her crypt at the mausoleum and wrote her a love letter. He is quoted as saying, “Nell and I were sweethearts for almost 60 years and married for 53 years until I lost her in 1985. I’ve never gotten used to the loss.”

"The Truth": Ephesians 4:2-3 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Of his faith, Wooden said, “I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior.”

"The Truth": Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

One of the profound pieces of knowledge we are blessed through Wooden is called the Pyramid of Success. It highlights characteristics integral to being successful, which he used while coaching.

Here are 20 thought provoking John Wooden quotes, many from the Pyramid of Success.

20. Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

19. A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

18. Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

17. Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.

16. If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.

15. Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you.

14. If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

13. You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

12. Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.

11. You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.

10. It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

9. What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.

8. Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.

7. Discipline yourself, and others won't need to.

6. The most important thing in the world is family and love.

5. We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or anything else.

4. Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life.

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.

2. All of life is peaks and valleys. Don't let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.

1. Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

John Wooden talks about his Pyramid of Success

While reading these quotes I hope you get the same sense of John Wooden that I do. I imagine a beautiful person on the inside who was filled with Christ and lead by God to the earthly successes he achieved. He was able to positively influence hundreds, if not thousands of basketball players on all levels. Let these quotes sink in and you will realize how true they are. Wooden’s life may seem perfect, but no one’s life is and he attributed the influence his father had early in his younger years. Whether or not you are successful in the eyes of those around you, you can achieve greatness in the lives of your children and young people who look up to you by leading by example of character.

"The Truth": Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”