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Introduction:

This is mainly for the white guy (like myself) who has always looked over to the guys playing basketball and wondered, “Why don’t I ever play with those guys?” Then he remembers the last attempt, where his shot accidentally paralyzed a spectator who was innocently standing against the wall.

Disclaimer:

If you played basketball organized pretty much anywhere for any extended period of time, please disregard this node, as most things here you will find redundant and utterly absurd. This node is to give the average “Joe Schmo”, like myself, some of the unwritten rules the game (as I have learned to play it) holds.

Rules of the Game:

Offense:

Eight is great: The first team to score eight points in eight minutes or less gets to face the next five people on the list. Simple as that. If you get stuck with a crappy player, tough luck. Play around him if you can. If you can’t spot the crappy player, guess what, you're it!!!

This game goes by ones and ones: Don’t make the mistake of counting three (or even two) points if a guy has his feet behind the three point line. He could shoot from the other end of the court, or beneath the basket. The bucket will still count just one point. Why is this? My best guess is motivation. Encourage the guard to look for the man inside to score and/or drive to the hole to get the (semi)easy bucket.

Don’t take the shot every time you’re passed the ball: I promise you, these guys have been playing longer and harder than you will have ever played in your life. Most of them have been dribble-driving since they were in diapers. No kidding, I met this one kid who has gotten a new basketball from his mother for every birthday he has had since he was FIVE. And not the crappy WAL-MART brand ball either. I’m talking official size and weight Spalding basketballs.

This one probably should have been first: YOU ARE NOT ALL THAT! You will see these guys pull off some sick tricks. If you want to try while NOT playing a game of street ball, that’s ok. Don’t try and show off during a game. It will just earn you a turnover as well as the disgust of your fellow teammates.

Pick and Roll: One of the easiest things to learn in basketball. Run up to the opponent defending your teammate with the ball. Stand straight up and allow your teammate to dribble around you. This creates an open area so that you teammate can actually get a shot off without a defender in his face. If the opposing team calls out your pick and/or once your teammate has dribbled past, roll towards the direction your teammate just CAME FROM!!! Sometimes the momentum of the game drives two of your opponents to the ball handler, leaving you WIDE OPEN for the outside shot or a drive to the bucket.

Defense:

Play Defense: Easy to say, yet so hard to do. Most of the time you’ll be playing a basic man-to-man defense. You’ll probably end up guarding someone (for the most part) equal in body mass and/or type. Remember to stick your man. If your man is at the top of the key, you should be at the top of the key, trying to make sure he cannot get the ball (i.e. blocking his teammates passing lane to him). If your man is down low, keep your hands up! If your opponent tries to shoot, get a hand in his face. This does not mean put your hand ON his face. Just try to block enough of his field of vision so that he cannot make the basket.

Don’t be afraid to switch off the screen: If you see that you teammate is about to be picked off, do not be afraid to come off your man and put a hand in the ball handler’s face. Don’t come clear across court to do this, but if your defender is setting the pick, it works best if you switch up on the screen. Stay with your new man for the remainder of the possession and/or until your teammate decides to switch back.

Not every foul is a foul: If you could have easily made the bucket and did not because you’re just too lazy to finish, don’t call a foul. As a matter of fact, I would suggest not calling a foul for the first week or two that you play. Get an idea of what is considered a foul at your court of choice. And another thing, you do not get to shoot a free throw for being fouled. All that will really happen is that your team will get the ball back at the top of the key. So it’s in your BEST interest to finish (i.e. score) your shot if you get to drive.

Defense should be played on the balls of you feet: Don’t get caught flat-footed. Always be ready to change direction at a moment's notice (and most of the time you won’t get half that much notice).

Under-commitment is the key: Do not commit yourself to going one way or the other. Make the ball handler do that for you. Why? The second you commit to going left, your opponent will cross you over and go right past you. I promise it frustrates more guys on the court to not be able to get a clean shot off. That’s what I like to call, “Getting into the Shooter’s Head” (although I think that’s what everyone else calls it as well).

Other Tips:

If you make a mistake, shake it off and MOVE ON: Don’t dwell on the past. Learn what you did wrong, and how you can fix it. Don’t make the same mistake, and just keep on.

Play your game: Don’t let others dictate what you do. Do what you feel comfortable with AND are good at during the game. If you’ve never dunked before, don’t try it now. I know that I set a REALLY mean pick. So, instead of shooting, I’m more of the pick and pass player. I set picks, and pass to my open teammates. I take the occasional shot every now and then, but for the most part I stay true to what I am good at.

Positive Attitude: If you foul someone hard, don’t just walk away like you did nothing. Be man(or woman) enough to go over, apologize for the foul, help the person up (if applicable), and play on. Don’t get into little fights about who last touched the ball when it was out of bounds. Shoot for it and move on. That reminds me…

Do or Die Time: If a call is disputed, someone amidst the action will make a Do-or-Die shot. If the person makes the shot, his ball. If the other person makes the shot, your ball. That easy.

Tied like a knot: If the game ends in a tie, one player from each team will alternate shooting three-pointers until the one team has the advantage (i.e. one team make, the other misses, or visa versa).

Conclusion:

As I said before, this is just my estimation of the game from what I have learned in my VERY short time (~9 months) playing. I’m sure there are other variations and I would be overjoyed to read about them as well. Please take what I have written about the game I have grown to love with a grain of salt. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself. It takes years for these guys to learn to play as well as they do. I try to go to the gym at least twice a week to keep my game “up to par.” If anything, just stick with it. You will notice a change in your play. Definitely not right away, but you will notice.

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