Leadership. What, exactly, makes a good leader on and off the court? Yes, one should have charisma and the ability to inspire. You've got to be able to call a team meeting and set a good example. But a great leader must also be willing to give constructive feedback, and say unpleasant things, even if the person hearing it is a more senior or better player.
It takes a special talent to be able to take charge of one's teammates. Friendships are on the line as well as making one vulnerable, thereby risking ridicule and hostility. If a leader sees something that displeased him, he lets his teammates know. See something, say something.
Tell me before a game which team is going to play with more energy, and I don't have to ask which one has more physical talent, better runners and jumpers. Chances are, the team with more energy is going to win.
Focus and Concentration. Physical energy is one thing. Mental energy is quite another. Of course they are linked, but only to a point -- it's harder to focus and concentrate when you're fatigued -- but they are two separate abilities. Being an effective player requires the mental ability and conditioning to read game situations, see plays develop, recall the scouting report or a coach's tip (assuming the player has listened to the coach or taken the time to learn) and make instantaneous decisions. Physical quickness is a wonderful asset, but if a player can think and react quickly, he will get to his desired spot before his opponent does.
Think about the number of times you have seen a team lose a tournament or playoff game because of a careless mental error on a late possession. Such mistakes are less likely to occur early in the game when the legs are fresh and the mind is clear. It takes a talented player to keep his mind sharp even when his legs are dead. Recent games between the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets, as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers, came down to last-second plays which decided the playoff series outcome.
Conditioning. Yes, this can be developed. If you work hard in the weight room, on the court and on the track, you are going to be in better shape. But some athletes have a physiological makeup that prevents them from getting tired the way others do. Much of this is due to biological and environmental factors.
Many basketball players put in the time to get into better condition, yet when a game enters its final minutes, some guys are tired, and others are not. The difference isn't always how hard they work. Some players are simply more talented. But some players are more resilient and find something inside to meet the challenge and push themselves from within.
Footwork. This may not seem like an intangible, and maybe it isn't, but it is something that many players (and some coaches) ignore. The ability to react in a fraction of a second, move your feet, and apply your weight without losing balance is another rare and overlooked talent. Footwork takes work and practice. Footwork is what made Hakeem Olajuwon great and many other centers, not so much.
Well, there they are; the intangibles. Can you think of others? I would love to hear about them? What else is there to impact and influence? What intangibles do you consider as a player, coach or manager?