Unwritten Rules of Pick up Basketball | Do you Know These?


The unwritten rules of pickup basketball are very well known to most basketball players, maybe not to new players who are taking their talents to the court for the very first time.

The unwritten rules of pick up basketball, what are they? The unwritten rules of pickup basketball are well known to those who play the game but are not always universal to every player in every park, gym, and basketball court. Some rules are the same everywhere you play such as the winner stays and calling next game.

No matter what rules are placed in pickup basketball there will always seem to be a hefty amount of arguing on every court. Basketball is that type of sport the rules can change and it would inhibit all-new set arguments it wouldn’t matter.

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Unwritten Rules of Pickup Basketball

Here are some unwritten rules in basketball that may help you if your new to the game or just starting to play pickup. If your a vet at this game see if these unwritten rules listed below compare to the court you frequently play at.

Points By 1s and 2s 

There are not too many places that play basketball with a basket being worth 2 points and a three-pointer being worth 3. Most of the time you are playing 1s and 2s. One point for anything inside the three-point line and 2 points for everything outside it. If the court doesn’t have a 3 point line then everything is worth one.

Game Point 

The game point will vary at each court, win by one or two. Usually if there are a lot of people waiting to play then its win by one.

Games can go up to any amount 7,9, 11 and 15 its usually an odd number when counting baskets by ones and twos.

If playing by 2s and 3s per basket, games are much higher 15 or 21.

If it is win by one, here is the scenario, you are down by one and and need 2 points to win. The score is 10 to 9 and your team has the ball, the game goes up to 11. The best approach in my opinion is unless you get a wide-open layup go for the three-ball. Here’s why, the obvious reason is if you make it you win. The not so obvious is that if you go for the one point and tie you are going to need to get a stop and score again. The percentages of that are much greater than going for a 3 ball to try and win. Good penetration and kick out works enough to get a teammate open for the dagger.

Winner Stays

If you win you stay on the court and you continue to play, as long as you don’t lose, you continue to play. If you lose you are done playing and are off the court waiting behind everyone else that was watching you play in the game.

Calling Next

This can be really frustrating on a court full of people, everyone is calling next and nobody knows who has it. Now after asking almost every individual if they have next, you have to make sure where you are in the next line and maintain that position. Usually, this will mean knowing who is ahead of you, when the player and his team is on the court you know your next.

But that isn’t enough, even if your next 5 games from now, after every game you must voice you have next after so and so after every game so no one cuts in front and steals your next.


In the game of basketball, the fouls are never ever right, not even half the time it seems especially as a player when your on the receiving end of what you believe to be a foul. It is something that becomes so controversial that it stops the game causes arguments, and even fights happen because of it.

In pick up, basketball foul calls are the responsibility of either the defense to call the fouls when they foul a player or the offense calls their own foul. Many times its offense calling the foul and that’s where most of the arguments stem from.

The problems with fouls will b a disagreement of what the supposed foul call is, the degree of the foul if it was very weak in the eyes of the defender or really hard which can also lead to fights are again another hard foul as soon that player who made the hard foul has the ball.

The best approach for less argumentive calls in the game of basketball is to let the defense call the fouls from my experience. But most court rules are the offense calls it, just no weak foul calls is the unwritten rule. Does everyone follow it, nope.

Shoot For It

The easy approach to a disagreement on a foul call is simple, Just shoot for it, but many players are smart enough if a disagreement happens just tell the player who can barely shoot as it is to shoot for it. If you can’t agree on a call instead of arguing for 20 minutes then shoot for the ball because the ball don’t lie.


Rules Never Used in Pickup Basketball

No offensive Foul calls

Under no circumstances should you be drawing a charge that is a dangerous move and can injure yourself and the player who had the ball. Offensive fouls are not called because no one would agree on the call, this will definitely lead to arguments. The times I saw players call an offensive call they were laughed at and worn at. Bottom line don’t call them or forever be embarrassed.

No Backcourt

Again this will depend on the court you play on, some courts don’t even have a centerline so there are no backcourts. With the centerline often times backcourt isn’t called fewer rules less arguing.

No 24 second shot clock

This is obvious, I’m willing to bet on game point players take a solid minute to even put up a good shot, I always like to yell out SHOT CLOCK VIOLATION to add more pressure to shoot, does it work? No…

No 3 in the Key

Another rule that isn’t used and sucks if you come across a player whos 7 feet in your pickup game parked down low in the key waiting for an entry pass just to turn and dunk. Good luck, as the player whos guarding him, I would whisper in his ear your 7 feet tall is this all you can do, you been parked so long you might get a ticket. Really nothing you can do about it.

Moving Screens

Moving screens are allowed within reason, not much you can do about that if you are on the receiving end of a screen and it’s moving a lot, you could tell the guy stop moving. If he doesn’t its the good old fashion elbow next time. All kidding aside, players will set a moving screen and roll into at the same time which is illegal but not enough to call a foul cause you can’t there are no offensive fouls. Deal with it…

Minor Infractions

Often times you get minor infractions like travels and carry the ball, as long as they are not obvious they don’t get called all that much. But due let them now haphazardly that they traveled, but not a big deal. It really irks players they will start defending themselves.

And 1

An And 1 in an organized basketball game means the player was fouled and while shooting and made the basket. An And 1 in a pickup game is not the same. Players will yell out and one even if they weren’t fouled. It’s like yelling KOBE!!! when you shoot a shot. Don’t be offended by it….

If You Already Played and Lost You Cant Play Next Game

This happened a lot when I was growing up, usually, it was the younger guys who weren’t very good that would pick the best players on the court to be on their team. Some of which were already playing in the game and when they lost they would play again.

Nobody like this especially a crowded guy of guys waiting to play, the unwritten rule is if you played and lost you need to get in line like everyone else, being the best basketball player in the gym doesn’t make a difference. If he was so good why is he sitting?


Game Ball

The game ball used in pickup basketball is usually the best basketball in the gym or on that court, you have to sacrifice your ball if someone catches that you have a good ball, good luck shooting on the side hoops with your own ball if that’s what you came for. You are not going to say no to 10 people waiting to start the game wanting to use your ball. Not only that you better say yes if you are going to be playing next on the same court.

Basketballs make the world of difference in a pickup game, before the game starts how many times do 2 or 3 guys check the ball by feeling it and bouncing it before checking the ball in to get the game to start. Enough said.





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