One On One Basketball Rules | Different Ways To Play

King’s court, cut-throat, ones, there are a lot of names, ways and variations to play one on one. One on one is not just a basketball game but it’s also a battle of bragging rights.

One On One Basketball Rules and Variations are not all played the same way across every court. From counting by ones or twos, to foul calls, to one-shot only, and everything in between. The benefits of playing one on one are many and it is a must of you want to improve your game as there is a direct correlation to playing one one one and five on five…

I will go through the different variations to the game and the many reasons you should be playing more ones. Some of the ways to play you may already know and some you never thought of before. Also discussed are the common rules to the game of one on one.

If you are interested in checking out the best basketball equipment and accessories then you can find them by Clicking Here! The link will take you to

One On One Basketball Rules | Different Ways To Play

Benefits of playing one on one?

Growing up I was a shooter and focused a lot of my practice time on putting up a lot of shots. Shooting 500 shots a day while playing a ton of pick up basketball at the hot spot in my city, the good old YMCA. I spent many hours playing and hanging out there with friends and meeting new people.

One thing is for certain, I don’t regret my time spent those summers playing basketball and trying to get better, it was fun. And when things are fun it’s much easier to do. I do remember one thing during my days playing basketball I was always timid playing one on one with the better players because I was scared to lose, this was a BIG MISTAKE. I had the privilege of being good friends with the best player in the city, and he could beat anyone he played with ease. Looking back, this was a wasted opportunity for me.

The many benefits of playing one on one seem to be endless, lets go through a couple:

Jab Step & Pivot

Learning to jab step is a crucial part of being able to score in basketball, a good jab step will have the defense guessing what your going to do with the basketball. The jab step is a fundamental skill that always needs to be worked on, your reading the defense and reacting to what they give you on bases on their body position and their tendencies.

If you jab step, they move or jump back, you shoot.

If you jab step, they don’t move you blow by them.

If you jab step right and fake with the ball as you are going to dribble at the same time. You then go the opposite way if they bite.


I was a terrible defender growing up, that was until I would play my good friend who was the best player in the city. The few times I did play him one on one or I was against him in a pickup game I guarded him. I learned pretty quickly how to become a good defender, I knew what he wanted to do and how he wanted to score but it was still tough stopping him. Guarding anyone else after having to play defense on my friend felt really easy, and I enjoyed playing defense and prided on being a good defender thanks to him.

When playing one on one it’s just you all by yourself guarding the player in front of you with no one to slide over and to help. It really exposes your weaknesses on defense. When you are playing in a 5 on 5 game, you may not try as hard on defense sometimes because the player we are guarding isn’t very good or we save it all for the offense because we have help on D, we don’t have to worry.

Not the case when playing one on one, unless your playing someone who is not very good, in order for you to win you need to D up.

Learn to do contact layups

Do you want to be good at layups in traffic or make more layups with contact, play a lot more one on one. During a one on one game your going to find that anytime you are able to shoot a layup, your defender is going to contest the shot and there will be contact. Even when you beat your opponent he is still on your hip. Playing ones is going to help you work on contact layups and help you score more in traffic.

Shooting with a hand in your face

So you put a lot of shots your working on your game and your getting better, but you are having difficulty making shots with a hand in your face. I know you know where I am going with this and yes, many of the shots you shot in ones are going to be contested and are perfect on working at getting those ice-cold veins. The variations I am going to show you will help you even further with mimicking a hand in your face when shooting while playing ones.


There aren’t a whole lot of rules, defense can call fouls or offense if there is a disagreement you can shoot for the ball. You can play keeps which means after a score you keep the ball or you may switch possessions on a score.

You can play with prison rules which there are no fouls which I don’t recommend, but also there are no out of bounds.

When you get a rebound you must clear the ball at the three-point line or mark, a foul results in a check ball at the top of the three-point line.

Keeping Track of Score

I am not going to spend a ton of time talking about the score because I am sure you know how to count. Basically most players play with a point system of ones and twos. Ones inside the three-point line and twos outside it. You can also play all ones. The games generally can go up to 7, 9, or 11 points, it entirely up to what you and your opponent decide. If your playing by twos and threes your games may go up to 11, 15, or 21.

Determine who gets the ball, you can play it as Do or Die, which means the person shooting makes it, it’s their ball or if they miss it, it’s their opponent’s ball.

Game-Point can be won by one or two baskets. Win by two or straight. Make sure you decide how the score is kept and what it’s up to before the game starts.

One on One variations

With all the variations to the game of one on one hopefully, I am getting you to think outside the box, no I didn’t invent all these one on one type games except for the last three, well maybe I didn’t. But it is really good to employ one of these variations after playing pick or when you’re bored from the same old same old.

One on One

Straight up one on one, score counted by ones and twos, win by one or two, hope that’s not confusing.

No Rebounding

Basically you are taking one-shot you make you keep the ball, you miss you do not rebound, your opponent gets the ball and checks it up. If you are on offense and the ball is stolen, blocked or poked out of bounds it’s your opponent’s ball. You can add this type of play to any of the variations below.

One Dribble Max

You are only allowed to take one dribble.

Two Dribble Max

You are only allowed to take two dribbles.

Three Dribble Max

You are only allowed to take three dribbles.

Unlimited dribble

Pretty self-explanatory, dribble as many times as you need.

One on One on One

You can play this version with as many players as you like, each player keeps track of their own score. It is a simple rotation between players so decide the order.

Player A, Player B, and Player C are all playing. Player A vs B is first with Player A making the basket. Player A has one point. Player B subs out, then its Player C turn. Player A is still on offense, and Player C is on defense, they play until someone scores. The player that scores stay on while the player that was scored on comes off.

Another variation is one shot only no rebound and its a simple rotation make or miss. You can still keep track of scores the same way.

3 Moves – One on One

Here is a version of one on one I made up, So its like going into your bag of tricks or moves in this case and picking the right one for the moment.

The game goes up to 3 points, you have three moves and must use each move once to score 3 points. 3 moves = 3 points, you can’t use the same move twice.

So I tell my opponent my 3 moves so he has an idea of what I may do but doesn’t know when ill use the moves in what order. So I tell them Im going to use a step back, crossover into jump shot and one dribble pull up.

The idea is I have to score with these 3 moves once each. Your third point will be the toughest as he knows what move you have left so I would use some strategy and save the step back for last as its hardest to guard.

Speed One On One

If you have watch FIBA 3 on 3 they play basketball without checking the ball unless its a foul. The way they play if you are not familiar with the game is whenever the offense scores, the ball is live as soon as it goes through the hoop. It is only live to the defense in which they grab the ball after entering the hoop from under the basket. They must clear the ball, this speeds up the half-court game.

You can play like this when your playing ones, you score, your opponent immediately grabs the ball from the made basket that is under the hoop and can dribble it out quickly to clear it and now try to score

This is a great way to keep the pace of the game going, it is really tiring but a great way to keep everyone on their toes, give it a try.


No Step

Here is another game I made up one day with a friend while we were bored its called no step because you are not allowed to dribble. you literally have to inch your way to the basket to get a good shot.

The rules are no dribbling, you get the ball at the top of the three-point line, if you shoot and  if you airball your opponent gets to dribble.

You literally have a guy in your face as if you just killed your dribble and your trying to score, get ready to do a 100 pump fakes. I like to throw the ball off the backboard to try and get closer to the rim or, shoot quickly expect a miss and rebound. Also I like to get my opponent to jump and ill throw the ball off them inching my way closer to the rim.

This game is going to teach you te be super aggressive to create space to shoot.

So in any of these variations of one on one games you can add no rebounds, turnover on possession of missed shots to any of them. Modify the game to your liking and you don’t have to play keeps if you don’t want to, decide on the rules prior to the game starting hope that helps.


Related Readings:


Recent Posts