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8 Things We Hate About Pick Up Basketball | With Solutions


I love playing pickup basketball but I hate many of the issues that come with the game. With no real rules, structure, or officiating,  it can cause a series of problems on the court every time your playing at a park or gym. From who’s got next, the score, and terrible foul calls, many of these issues can be avoided.

Let’s take a look at the problems we see at every court we play basketball at, I will show you some solutions to these problems so you can get to playing quicker instead of wasting your time. But be forewarned I may have a solution to a problem but many may not want to adhere to the remedy.

As humans nobody likes to be wrong, it just our nature, we like to be right and enjoy instant gratification. That gratification on the basketball court is winning. Winning is everything on the court that’s why we play, the second reason we play is for the love of the game. Did I mix that up?

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  Problem #1 – Who’s Got Next

Don’t you love it when you hit the courts and there are 40 people waiting to play and you have no idea who’s got next when you arrive? The arguments start because nobody knows who’s got next and claim you already played. While every time the best player on the court loses he is picked up by the team next to play that saved him a spot in hopes that he loses while taking another player spot.

Solution 1: Arrive at the courts early, so you can get in the first game. This will do a couple of things, you could win a couple of games before the crowd gets there. You will have an advantage as your team is already warmed up and has played together. Being warmed up is a bonus against the team that has next and hasn’t played yet while being cold. Usually, after winning a couple of games and then losing your team may want to stick together as you while knowing out to play and win together.

Solution 2:  Bring a squad with you to run, so that you don’t have to worry about who has next and people trying to cheat your next spot. There is strength in numbers,  you can potentially secure a position in the waiting line in front of people because you already have a squad. Plus bringing guys you know how to play with and are good, your more likely to win and stay on the court longer. The other advantage is terrible foul calls when you have a squad that person now has to deal with 4 of your friends if it gets into a disagreement or argument.

 Solution 3; If you are an excellent player it won’t be difficult to get on a team. If the reverse is true it will be harder, you can ask around who has Next, and if they need one, great. But if you are denied constantly let that be motivation for you to work on your game it happens to us all.  If you’re calling Next, you need to know the order and which position you are in, you also must maintain your next position by calling next after every game is done and knowing the order.


 Problem #2 – Nobody Knows The Score

 I feel like this happens all the time almost every game, the play stops and we have to add up baskets. Jamal had a layup, Mike has a three or two, I don’t know, nobody knows. 

A way to keep track of score yourself is to say it the score out loud in this case when it’s 3 to 2 instead say the number thirty-two. Always saying the lead point number first, so in the case of 3 to 2 don’t’ say twenty-three but thirty-two this is less confusing and easier. 

It won’t be hard to convert the score like this, if you’re fairly honest keeping track of the scores is important and gives everyone an equal playing field,  so no one cheats it happens more than you think. Sometimes players will know the score and know its not the right score but it benefits their team. Keep track of the score and call it out loud, so everyone can hear you. Believe it or not, you will still have players say you are wrong, and you tell them I have been calling out every point. Ahh, Pickup basketball…

 Problem #3 Waiting Too Long To Get Next 

Sometimes waiting for Next feels like a barbershop on a Saturday morning. There can be three teams waiting before you, or one game will take 45 minutes and no one can hit a game-winning shot or basket. Everyone is fouling on the game point because they don’t want to lose.

The worst thing you can do is nothing while waiting for the game to end. You need to be warmed up before entering the game. My next question for you is? How many shots do you think you put up a day when playing pickup basketball? It is not a lot I bet, If you go to the courts and play 5 days a week for 2 hours and all your doing is warming up and playing pick up games you are probably not even putting up 100 shots in a given two-hour time frame. unless your that guy who shoots 20 shots in a pickup game.  I bet you’re asking yourself why do I suck at shooting.

Where am I going with this you ask? Hit the side hoops when you are waiting between games and work on shots you will be taking during the game. Put up some shots in volume, don’t waste your time watching the game. If you ever wonder why your shot isn’t getting any better but you play every day it’s because of shooting volume ask yourself how many shots am I really putting up. Count and estimate how many you have taken, I bet you will be surprised, how little shots you take. Without putting in volume, your shot will never get better without volume.


Problem #4 – Arguing And Fighting For Calls

I used to play basketball at the YMCA downtown with people from all walks of life. I met so many people playing basketball I’m grateful for it. But wow, the amount of arguing that went on during a Friday afternoon was so bad that I think it equaled the amount of basketball that was actually being played. 

The Solution,  there aren’t many to combat egos. The problem is during a basketball game the emotions can get the best of us, the nicest guys off the court will be the meanest on the court. Some options are to have defense calls fouls but that can get ugly. If not that, shoot for the ball because the ball doesn’t lie, some players will still argue and say no. Your other option is to have someone that everyone can trust and isn’t biased whos in the gym make the call. This could be a veteran, a teacher, or a worker at the gym.

Fighting sometimes hard fouls can lead to fights. If a fight breaks out and you are able to break it up, do it with help. Don’t put yourself at risk, hopefully others will also try to separate them. You traveled all that way to the court or gym to play some ball and the last thing you need is the gym or court to be shut down because of a fight. Don’t side with anyone and if you can do something about, do so.

 Let’s be honest these are just suggestions, people are human beings sometimes people do not want to be wrong especially in front of a crowd. Who knows whats going on in their personal life, that’s why most of us play basketball to get away from real life for a few hours and not think about what’s waiting for us at home or work. Every gym and court has its own set of rules that people play by, most people follow them, usually.

Problem #5 – Playing Against Stacked Teams

So your up against a stacked team you know the kind with all college players on it. The best approach to playing against a team like this is to score as quickly as possible. If you want to stand a chance this means quick shots down the court and as fast as you can get the ball down there, fast-break every opportunity to catch them off-guard. The longer the game goes on the more likely they are going to get in a rhythm and start winning. 

Quick shots are key, do not let them set up on defense and hopefully, your team can make a few three balls quickly. If it’s obvious there best player is having their way, foul before he scores hoping to have them turn over the ball or miss a shot on the next play.


Problem # 6 – Game Point Win By One or Two

The game point, winning by one or two will depend on the court you play at. But usually, if you have a lot of people waiting you’re going up to 7, 9, or 11 straight. It speeds up the game or does it. Sometimes the game point is nothing but a foul contest every time anyone even remotely has a look at the basket its a foul on purpose.

Winning by one and down by two with the ball, I strongly believe if you play with three-pointers and you are down by one and your team only needs one basket and a three can win it for you your team should go for the 3. So for example, if the game is up to 11 and my team has 9 and the other team has 11, I am going for a three worth 2 points to win the game. The best way to do this is to penetrate and kick out to a 3-point shooter. If you tie it with a layup or shot you will have to get a stop on defense which means you will have to score two times total to win as opposed to one time with the three, which is worse percentage-wise.


Problem # 7 – Playing With Selfish Teammates

 This is one thing I overall hate the most playing pickup basketball with strangers, you have teammates who don’t pass the ball when you’re wide open. Basketball players, in general, are not the brightest, many players will ice their own teammates when a player just made three baskets in a row. Sometimes players don’t do this on purpose they just don’t understand to feed the fire. 

Solution One: Don’t play on their team. 

Solution Two: Inbound them the ball after a score, hopefully, there are less likely to dribble up the ball and shoot than to make the first pass. If this man doesn’t care and he thinks he’s Kobe in the clutch you bring up the ball instead and make the first pass to someone else. Don’t worry about him not getting the ball, he will find a way they always do. When they do have the ball and the defense is doubling him, you are going to have to be in his view and YELL for the ball to get his attention.

Solution 3: You can also tell him to pass the ball and you will give it right back when you’re open. They will oblige and you can shoot after getting it a few times down the court. Another approach, unfortunately, is to do not expect to get the ball from this player and get ready to dive for a rebound. Again the best approach is to bring your own squad.

Problem #8 – Players who do not Play Defense

Everything already mentioned in this article is all bad and annoying when it comes to pickup basketball, but this may be the worse out of them all. A player whos saves all the energy on offense and is shooting too much and plays little to no defense. 

Solution: Be very vocal on defense and talk to your teammates, what this does is you call out the player in front of your team as the play is happening. You will find when players talk on defense they try harder and also help more, this will give a player the hint to try and participate more on defense. 

You can also tell the player he has help and where to force his defender to help D. Still not working emphasize one stop at a time. If that doesn’t work pair him up with the worse offensive player. Still not working, because he thinks he can guard the best player on the team, you pair up with the worst offensive player on the opposing team and help him. I know just don’t be on his team.


How to Avoid All these Issues or at least most of them

The way to avoid most of these issues is to get a permit and run your own gym for pickup basketball games, inviting who you want and dictate the rules you want, all problems are solved, sort of. You make the last call though.  When you don’t have enough for 5 on 5 because only eight or nine players show up to the gym and you want to run full court you can play in a way that there are no fast breaks.

 What that means is you’re not allowed to pass the ball over center from backcourt to frontcourt to a player until you cross center, then you may pass. You may pass in the backcourt just not from backcourt to frontcourt. Pretty much long passes are not allowed what this does is slows down the game so you can play for a longer time as not everyone is going to run up and down the court constantly with only 8 players, but who knows some do.  Teams will generally play better defense and have more energy to play longer.


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