Hit a Free Throw With These NBA Finals Basketball Activities!
The Classroom

Hit a Free Throw With These NBA Finals Basketball Activities!

Newsela Editorial
May 23, 2024

Every June, NBA fans are on the edge of their seats or glued to their TVs watching the playoffs and waiting to see which team gets to claim the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. If your students are excited about the NBA finals or basketball season in general, use this as an opportunity to include that content in the ELA and science lessons you’re already teaching:

Make an easy lay-up with engaging ELA basketball content and activities

What do your students know about basketball and the NBA? Help them build background knowledge on the sport and its playoff run using Newsela ELA:

Is athletic competition inherently good?

During the NBA finals, athletes (and their fans) can get extra competitive. But is that devotion to the game and desire for winning the championship good for their mental health? Use this lesson as a debate topic for your students. To help them form their opinions and strengthen their arguments, share articles on topics like:

  • The reaction to LeBron James breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record in 2023.

  • How youth basketball is becoming an ultra-competitive sport for some elementary and middle school students thanks to the popularity of travel sports teams.

  • An opinion piece on how the pressure to become a winner may lead athletes to engage in unethical behavior, like cheating.

Lebron James on and off the court

Even students who aren’t NBA fans likely know the name LeBron James. He’s one of the greatest players ever to join the league and does a tremendous amount of work off the court to help others in need, including retired NBA players. Use this text set to help students learn more about some of his activism within the league:

  • Read the article about how LeBron James argued for more money in the 2016 collective bargaining agreement to provide aid for retired NBA players.

  • Add a student poll to your assignment to pulse-check what students know about the topic before they read or to use as an exit ticket to check their comprehension following the lesson.

  • Extend the lesson by having students brainstorm ways to help students and teachers in their school community. Then have them write a proposal to the administration or the school board to argue their point of view.

Basketball novel studies

Use our novel studies to help students build background on basketball and other important topics as they read stories like:

NBA players focus on mental health on and off the court

Most athletes will tell you that the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical aspect. Use the NBA Finals as a catalyst for an SEL lesson on why mental health matters:

  • Before reading, see what students know about mental health by asking a question like, How does mental health affect an individual’s life?

  • Have students read an article about former Cleveland Cavaliers and current Miami Heat player Kevin Love and his struggle with anxiety on and off the court.

  • Use the reading skills quiz embedded in the article to see how they apply the skills of connecting people, events, and ideas; and word meaning and choice.

Box out in-class boredom with basketball-themed STEM lessons

STEM and sports are connected, even more than your students may realize. Use Newsela Science to help students explore how topics like statistics and geometry can impact the game of basketball:

The Science of Basketball

From neuroscience to stats and other disciplines in between, math and science play a big part in making basketball competitive and exciting to watch. Use the content and activities in this text set to explore the ways STEM affects the game:

  • Look at neuroscience research that shows how basketball players who vary their practice routines may get better at skills like throwing foul shots.

  • Have students compare who’s a better basketball player, Michael Jordan or LeBron James, based on their player statistics.

  • Explore how NBA teams use technology like the SportVU camera system to capture more in-game data than ever before—and how it affects their play and practice routines.

STEM is a slam dunk in professional sports

Continue your students’ exploration of STEM in sports by sharing news articles that dig into how science, technology, engineering, and math affect the game:

  • Learn about the mathematical analysis that simulates how to shoot the perfect free throw every time.

  • Discover the economic impact professional sports teams and star athletes can have on their city and franchise by looking at a case study of LeBron James’ time playing in Cleveland and Miami.

  • Go behind the scenes of the NBA draft lottery and learn about the odds behind a team receiving the first pick.

Hit a three-pointer with Newsela’s library of content and activities

Make the crowd (your students) go wild by sharing this and other great high-interest content, engaging activities, and relevant assessments during every lesson, not just during the NBA Finals. Not a Newsela customer yet? With your Newsela Lite subscription, you can claim a free trial to access Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, and Newsela Science!

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