Just how many calories does basketball help you burn, and how does it contribute to weight loss? Well, one pound of body weight equates to roughly 3,500 calories. In order to lose that much weight at a safe rate (no more than one or two pounds a week), you must burn or abstain from at least 500 calories per day—and it’s no secret that basketball is one of the most physically-demanding ways you can go about doing just that. Here’s a breakdown of exactly how playing basketball affects the average 170-pound male.
Full-court basketball: 442 calories per game, or 635 per 45 minutes
Let’s start with a bit of context. Not even the most elite of NBA players can count on a full 48 minutes of court time, but if you were playing full-court basketball at the local YMCA with no substitutions or breaks, you can easily stand to burn off more than your daily quota at a whopping 677 calories eliminated. New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers plays a median average of 18.3 minutes per game according to SportVU data. The average Joe doing the same amount of running, jumping, dribbling and shooting burns just over 442 calories in one bout, which is nothing to scoff at.
Running: 171 calories per game, or 405 calories per 45 minutes
According to information drawn from SportVU, the NBA player who ran the median distance traveled per game this year is Quincy Pondexter of the Memphis Grizzlies. He ran an average of 1.3 miles per game at a pace of 4.2 miles per hour—in other words, he ran a total of 18.6 minutes at a very slow jog (given his height). That not only puts the myth that ballers run an average of five miles a game to bed, it also means that the average guy of regular height playing as long as an NBA player does could stand to lose almost 200 calories from the running alone.
Shooting baskets: 127 calories per game, or 260 calories per 45 minutes
Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors holds the median number of shot attempts in the NBA, according to SportVU data, and he plays an average of 21.9 minutes per game. If you were casually shooting baskets for the same amount of time at the park (including retrieving the ball), you would have burned more than a fifth of your daily 500-calorie target. To boost that number to over half your target, spend a lazy Sunday afternoon shooting in the driveway for 45 minutes.
Dribbling: 124 calories per game, or 232 calories per 15 minutes
Nemanja Nedovic is in possession of the ball 0.9 minutes per game on average, the median for the league. The average guy dribbling just as long would burn only around 15 calories. However, John Wall, who possess the league record in possessions, will burn roughly 124 calories in the 7.8 minutes he has it. Remove bench time from the equation by dribbling on your way to the park 15 minutes away, which can help you burn more than 200 calories each way, provided you do so at a light jog.
Passing: 3 calories per game, or 96 calories per 15 minutes
Toronto Raptors forward guard John Salmons holds the NBA median for average number of passes per game, according to SportVU. Although making 19.7 passes isn’t a particularly effective way to dock those calories for anyone (it only burns 3 calories), it’s nonetheless a part of the game. To get measurable results from the movement, you should find a partner to join you for a fifteen-minute passing drill.
Jumping: 2.5 calories per game, or 156 calories per 15 minutes
Jump shots account for a small percentage of a basketball player’s time on the court, with even Golden State’s Klay Thompson only averaging 7.6 attempts per game—and he has the most in the NBA, according to SportVU. The jumping movement results in negligible caloric loss, but can be extended over a continuous fifteen-minute plyometrics drill to produce notable results.