I’ve thought about this question for a couple days now and read some of the other posts on the most important skill in basketball. There are certainly a large amount of situational and positional skills that are very important to the game and being successful. I tried to focus my search on a skill or an ability that I’ve seen in our most successful players and one that we stress or strive to get out of our younger developing players.
I chose the skill of attentiveness or focus, a level of concentration. There are different aspects to this skill. I would start with the ability to “see” the game unfold. Everyone in the game looks, but very few players train themselves to focus their eyes. Situational and positional attributes and abilities are something that varies, (i.e. shooting ability, size, quickness, etc), and not everyone has those same abilities. Everyone can, however, develop the ability to focus on seeing what’s happening on the court, see the open man, see where to take the ball, see the guy being defended, see the guy that’s about to be open. This also means seeing where your strengths as an individual or as a team can take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses or vice versa, by seeing how and where an opponent is trying to take advantage of your individual or team weaknesses.
The other aspect of this concentration is the ability to listen. Most if not all people and players hear, but the key is to concentrate and listen to what you are hearing. The ability to listen to what you’re being told, what’s being said, what is expected of you in your role as part of the team, what your teammates are saying during game-play is tremendously important. Not only does this skill allow you to be “coachable” but also makes you a better teammate and leader that can take what others are saying and appropriately and quickly adapt a game plan to be more effective
A basketball player who learns to see and to listen has improved tremendously without doing a single thing involving physical skills. Once learned, seeing and listening are valuable traits for anyone doing anything and often create the ability to overcome a lacking in physical skills, simply by having a greater focus and concentration on the game. This is often described in many other ways by coaches, analysts, and fans alike but it is simply an ability, a skill, of being alert, focused, and/or concentrating on the game itself, what needs to be done, and how it can be accomplished most effectively and efficiently.