10 Games To Improve Basketball Skills With



If you are tired of the season grind or you don’t have enough players for a 5 on 5 game, some of these games will help you with basketball skills while having fun. How would you like to improve your basketball skills without even realizing it?

Here are 10 games to improve your basketball skills. These basketball games are a good way to get around the same old traditional drills that players do day in and day out in practice. Using some of these games is a great way to improve fundamental skills, you will also notice that you are putting a lot more effort and energy in your game.

These basketball games can range from 2 players to a whole team for a coach to use in practice. If you are not a coach and like the game, explain to your coach how to play it and he just might use it in practice. With these games, there are many variations to try so you won’t get bored.

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1 – ON – 1

One on one is a very important game for every player wanting to get better at basketball. One on One forces you to play defense, it forces you to think what your opponent likes to do on offense and stop him from doing it.

One on one will let you know right away what else you need to work on, for example, if you are a player who likes to shoot (like myself)and the defender knows that. You are going to have to find a way to get to the hole. So you are going to have to mix things up in your game so he/she is not constantly making it difficult for you to shoot.

One on one is a great game if you understand the rules of the game and you want to get better as a young player, to me, it is a must. This is one thing I wish I would have done more as a young player, but I was always afraid to lose in one on one games. Don’t be like me, it will give a good gauge as to what you need improvement on. I highly encourage you to play a lot of one on one basketball games in your life right now.

Play players that you think will challenge you and play players that can beat you. The benefits to one on one basketball is an excellent way to improve fundamentals, here are some benefits.


Benefits To Playing One on One Basketball Games

  • Improves your defense
  • Increases IQ
  • Improves aggression
  • Improves your contact layups
  • Improves game situation shots
  • Improves one on moves
  • Improves competitive edge
  • Shows weaknesses that you need to improve
  • It helps you read the defense when making an offensive move.

How To Play 1 on 1 w/variations

There are many forms of one on one play, I will go over the rules of one on one which most of us know already, but also the variations in which you may have never thought about. This could be fun for you playing with other players all while improving your skill set. Let’s get started.


Player’s Needed: 2

Equipment: A basketball and hoop.

Rules To One On One

  • You and another player decide what score to play up to. (7 or 11 points – all baskets worth 1 point)
  • Decide who gets the ball and start the game at the top of the three-point line.
  • The player who scores first keeps the ball and checks it again at the top of the three-point line.
  • If you rebound a missed shot by the opposing player you must clear the ball at the three-point line. No need to clear the ball on your own missed shot.
  • All boundaries on a regular court apply.
  • Defense calls fouls.

Options Of One on One

  • You may switch possession on each score instead of keeping the ball.
  • You may switch possession on each missed shot, giving you a must make or turnover.
  • You can decide if you want to play with the three-point line and any shot made behind the line is worth 3 points.
  • Win by two points or just straight.

Variations Of One on One


Lay-ups Only – The object of the game is to only shoot and make layups. If another player is caught shooting a jump shot then it’s the other player’s ball.

Improvement – This is going to help you work on contact layups and finishing strong at the basket. Not only do you have to finish strong but you will have to be equally good at layups with both hands or your opponent will easily read you. If you’re not good with the weak hand there’s no better time than now to improve.


Floaters only – If your not sure what a floater is, it’s an in-between shot, think of to far for a layup but too close for a jump shot. This shot is usually done down the lane in traffic over taller players or good shot blockers.

Improvement – Works on the setup and the footwork, you may find you need to be a little creative. You will discover what works best for you, one-foot floaters or two feet. You will find out quickly you need a soft touch when shooting these shots.


3 Dribble Max – You are only allowed to take three dribbles to score, during a half-court game that is more than enough. Perfect amount of dribbles to set up a move and get a shot off.

Improvement – Selective of how to dribble and score, Read the defense and react. Works on quick explosive movements with every dribble it becomes obvious to the defender what the player is about to do.


2 Dribble Max – You are only allowed to take two dribbles max. This is enough to get to the basket and or set up a quick crossover for a shot.

Improvement – Works on exploding to the basket, works on power basketball moves to create a shot. the use of jab steps and pump fakes become important and utilizing to fake the defender.


1 Dribble Max – Much more difficult to do anything, you may possibly get to the basket but shot a floater. Pump fakes and jab steps are important.

Improvement – Pivoting jab steps and pump fakes are used to fake the defender, One dribble pullups are a must.


3 Pointers Only – You are only allowed to shoot 3 pointers, more for the advanced players. Allowed as many dribbles as necessary.

Improvement – Works on Step backs, hand in the face while shooting, pump fakes and hesitation dribbles are a must.


3 Pointers and Layups Only – Playing with the three-point shot and layups only anything shot on the three-point line is a turnover.

Improvement – Pump fakes, jab steps, shooting with a hand on the face, and reading the defense to either shot or go to the hole.


One on One Full Court – Like the title says your playing one on one full court, all rules apply up above you just get your own hoop to defend on a court that feels like your guarding the ocean. If you feel like it is too big then cut the cour down the middle and play on one half of it.

Improvement – You will improve endurance and learn how to cut off the player on defense if you side by side with him. If you do this long enough you are going to be tired and shooting shots will become very difficult but this will make you mentally tough.


I created a fun game that adds all the variations of one on one above you can actually make up your own game if you would like with your own variations. Basically the way it works is every point is a different variation as you can see below.

1st Point –  Layup

2nd Point –  Floater

3rd Point – 3 Dribble max

4th Point – 2 Dribble max

5th Point – 1 Dribble max

6th Point three-pointer as many dribbles necessary

7th Point Using the full court play one on one for the 7th point.


This isn’t going to be easy to play as your opponent will know what point you are on and adjust, but that’s ok considering if you can score on him even though he knows what you may do, then think what you can do when you play someone who has no idea. It’s really good practice as you may not make the shot right away and will have to give a couple more efforts to hit the shot at whichever point you are on.



The last variation to one on one is cutthroat. This involves more than 2 players and there are a couple of ways to play it. I will explain the basic way and its variations. Cutthroat like one on one is played the same but the player that scores will stay on and the person that was scored on switches off with the next player waiting to play.


Players Needed: 3+

Equipment Needed: Basketball Hoop and Basketball.

Rules to Cutthroat:

  • Decide a score you will play to if it is 7 points, then the first player to score 7 points wins the game. You may use a 1 point system for all shots made or you can implement 2 points also for all 3 pointers made.
  • Decide amongst players who goes first, this can also be decided by shooting shots from the free-throw line and three-point line, or a classic game of rock, paper, scissors will work also.
  • The rules of the game are the same as one on one if a player scores he stays on while the player that was scored on switches off with the player that is waiting to switch.
  • Make sure you keep the order of rotation the same until the game ends.

Variations to cutthroat

  • You may choose to play one shot make or miss you rotate regardless of the outcome in player order.
  • You may choose one shot and its the defense ball if you don’t make it, which means rebounding is pointless.

Areas of Improvement

  • Similar to One on One you will see all aspects of one one one game improve.


Ultimate Basketball

This is a game that I always use after a dynamic warmup in practice. It gets the players running and sets the tone in practice as I implement the team that loses must run man makers etc. So you can understand that players want to win. You will also notice that teams that are down a lot of points will just give up. Which you can double the amount of running. The idea is to get the practice at high-intensity and in-game situations mimicking a real basketball game.

Like Ultimate Frisbee, the idea is to work on passing and spacing on the floor. There is no dribbling involved so your going to be forced to get into good passing lanes and cutting to the ball when necessary. The basketball court is not needed, the way to score is to get the ball into the endzone in which this area can be beyond the baseline.

Players Needed: 6+

Equipment Needed: Basketball Court and Ball.

Rules To Ultimate Basketball:

  • Games are up to 5, decide on teams, use different colored shirts if needed.
  • There is no dribbling allowed or it is a turnover.
  • No traveling or a turnover.
  • Can’t hold onto the ball for more than 5 seconds or a turnover.
  • Designate an area out of bounds where the baseline is five feet out towards the wall and the width of the court. Think of a football endzone and use cones if necessary.
  • To score players must have both feet in the zone in order to score a point. No traveling or moving of the feet to gain an advantage in the scoring zone.
  • After a score, the team leaves the ball where it is and just like basketball the ball is inbounded by the other team who will attempt to score on their scoring zone.
  • Use the sidelines as out of bounds.


Variations To Ultimate Basketball

  • Make use of basketball hoops as you see fit,  if you are happy that during the games the players are not making many mistakes include the basketball hoops and have them play this way with shooting on the nets.

Implement Conditions 

  • Must make a pass fake before passing the ball, if not turn over other teams ball.
  • Must pump fake before making a pass, if not turnover.
  • Must make a bounce pass or weak hand pass in the scoring area.

These conditions will help them improve these skills that they struggle within a game scenario. They will also tend to forget making those passes which will remind them and make the player think about the right play to make.

Areas Of Improvements: Works on pivoting, pass fakes, moving without the ball. Creating space when having the ball and protecting the ball to make a pass because the defense knows you can not dribble they should be in your face.


2 on 2

2 on 2 basketball is a must to play and develop many skills that transition very well in a real game of 5 on 5 basketball. From having a big man on a guard by using the size mismatch to scoring off the pick and roll these are areas in which a player must be familiar and comfortable with as this is seen many times during a league game. Reading and reacting to these situations are important to further improve and grow as a player.

Players Needed: 4

Equipment: Basketball and Hoop

Rules to 2 on 2:

  • Decide teams, play up to 11 points
  • Pass off check, and clear the ball three-point line after rebounding a missed shot by opposing team.
  • Defense calls fouls.

Areas Of Improvements: On a pick and roll on defense you have to communicate with your teammate and call out the screens before they happen and either switch or fight through it. Communication is vital in basketball on defense. The pick and roll on offense may be easy to set up but hard to master. practice reading the defense and figuring out when to drive shoot or pass can be tricky, 2 on 2 is a great way to gain that experience and understand the two-man game.


5 on 1 Defensive Drill

The 5 on 1 defensive drill was a drill I would use to see among the players who was not just a good defender but a great defender that would work hard, hustle and played with heart when his body was telling him/her to stop but ignored it and continued anyway.

The more players you have in this drill the harder it is I recommend 6 max, but you can go more if you feel the need. The object of the game is for the defense to stop all players from scoring.

Players Needed: 4+

Equipment Needed: Basketball and Hoop

Rules to 5 on 1:

  • Decide who starts in the middle first.
  • The remaining players spread out on the three-point line.
  • The defensive player has the ball and passes it to any of the players on the three-point line who are offensive players trying to score on him/her.
  • The defensive player after passing the ball to the player on the line of his choice must close out on the offense and play defense trying to stop the player from scoring.
  • If the offensive player scores, he may grab the ball as quickly as possible and pass to a player of his choice. If the defender stops the basket from being score he may pass the ball to whomever he wants.
  • The defense continues to play defense on the offense and go through each player on the three-point line until all players have gone one time through.
  • When done the defender switches with a player on offense and restarts a new game.


  • You can keep score by counting stopped possesions not missed open shots.

This is an advanced drill and may make you extremely tired, your legs are going to feel like jello while your body is going to tell you to stop. Dig deep and play hard till the last player.

This drill is excellent for scouting defensive talent even in individuals who may not be the best at basketball but know how to play defense. I have coached a few players that their game was soccer and they were excellent at defense in basketball and would guard the best player on the opposing team.


Pressure Shooting Game

The idea is to line up at the three-point line or free-throw line and shoot. The first person to get the ball in the hoop has now applied pressure to the player directly behind them, the player next in line must make the shot or he/she is out of the game. If the player makes it than the next player is under pressure. If the ball does not go in the basket than there is no pressure until the ball goes in.


Players: 5+

Equipment Needed: A Basketball and Hoop

Rules To Pressure:

  • Get the players to line up at the free-throw line with one ball.
  • If a player makes a free-throw the player directly behind them is under pressure and must make the free-throw to stay in the game.
  • If the next player makes the basket, the pressure will be on the player directly behind him/her.
  • If a player misses a shot after there was a made basket, then that player is kicked out of the game.
  • There is no pressure if there was no shot made, only when a shot is made, the pressure and your life in the game may be at risk.
  • The game continues until there is one player left.


  • You can use two baskets and the players that get kicked out can start a new game, and have the winners of each basket faceoff.
  • You may use the three-point line instead of the free-throw line for advanced players.


American 21 (One on One on One)

This is a classic streetball game played with three or more players. There are no fouls, and it can be difficult to score as you are playing against two defenders or more depending on how many players there are. American 21 will challenge your creativity on offense and force you to be aggressive to score.

Players Needed: 3+

Equipment Needed: Basketball And Hoop

Rules To American 21: 

  • Decide who gets the ball first by shooting for it or Rock, Paper, Scissors. The player with the ball is on offense the two players without the ball are on defense. (You are playing 1 on 2)
  • Points are worth 2 when the ball is live, when shooting free-throws baskets are worth one only.
  • Player tries to score and if the ball is rebounded by a different player other than the shooter then he/she must clear the ball at the three-point line. If the shooter rebounds his own miss he does not have to clear the ball.
  • When a player makes a basket he/she nows shoots at the free-throw line. If the player makes the basket he attempts another free-throw, If he makes it again he may shoot up to 3 free throws as long as he doesn’t miss. If he makes all 3 then he is live and attempts to score against the defense. If he mises any shots from the free-throw line the ball is live and available to rebound and clear.
  • The game is up to 21 and there are no fouls.


  • You can play with as many players as you would like but it may get crowded and more difficult to score.
  • You can play up to any amount 7,9,11,15, etc.
  • You can also play the tip in rule, where you tip in a missed shot and not only do you get 2 points but the player that missed the shot gets one or two points deducted from their score.

Areas Of Improvement: 

Become more aware of the defense and how you attack, must develop creative and think outside the box to score. You will get used to double teams and be more comfortable in game situations. Playing one on one will feel a lot easier and fun. You will be forced to become more aggressive in order to score.


Sharks And Minnows

Sharks and Minnows is a classic child’s game but can be challenging to youth basketball players when adding a basketball to the mix. The object of the game is to be the last minnow standing by avoiding any shark from tagging you. The minnows run baseline to baseline to avoid getting tagged.

Players Needed: A Basketball Team

Equipment Needed: Every Player with a Ball and Court Space

Rules to Shark And Minnows:

  • Each player gets a ball and lines up at the baseline of the basketball court.
  • Decide which player will be a shark and tell the player to stand in the middle of the court without a ball.
  • When ready the shark can say GO! Minnows will try to run to the other side of the court to the opposite baseline without getting tagged or losing their ball.
  • If you lose your ball and can no longer dribble it or get tagged by a shark you are now part of the sharks and will try to catch the minnows.
  • The game is over when all minnows are caught, the last minnow or player standing wins and starts off the new game is the shark.


  • You may switch sharks after each tag.
  • You can include a tag and your out and the player that was tag sits out to the side and waits for the game to be done.
  • You can have a shark without the ball who tags or who touches or steals the ball.

Areas Of Improvement:

The game teaches kids fundamental skills of how to protect the ball and push the ball out in front of them while dribbling and sprinting at the same time. They also learn the importance of spatial awareness by dribbling around other players and controlling the ball in high-pressure situations.

Dribble Knockout

The object of the game is to knock the ball from your opponent out of the playing area and become the last player alive with their dribble.

Players Needed: A Basketball Team

Equipment Needed: Basketball for every player and a marked area such as the three-point line, free-throw line etc.

Rules To Knockout Dribble:

  • Designate an area that will be the inbounds such as the baseline and the three-point line. Players may not go beyond these lines or else they are out of the game.
  • Each player must maintain their dribble if they lose the ball and it stays inbound they may pick up their dribble.
  • As the players dribble their ball they are can knock the balls out of other player’s hands as long as their ball doesn’t go out of bounds.
  • As players are being knocked out of the game, that will create a large area for the remaining players to play in making it difficult to steal or knock out the balls. Reduce the size of the inbounds area by telling the players to stay in the key area as stepping out of the key is now out of bounds. Usually, five players or less is sufficient for the reduced playing area, use your judgment.
  • The last player remaining is the winner.


  • May use only the weak hand to dribble the entire game.

Areas Of Improvement:

Players will instinctively protect the ball with their body and non-dribble hand. It helps players improve their weak hand and practice dribble moves on players trying to knock or steal their ball.



If you are a player who is struggling to make free-throws in generally, an excellent game to improve your free throws without even realizing it is the game of 21. As a kid I can remember playing this game a million times, to this day I feel like I am a pretty good free-throw shooter even though I do not practice them much now or even during the high school basketball season.

Imagine you were at the free-throw line with no time left on the clock in regulation, the score is 82-80 for the other team. You were fouled at the three-point line right before the clock expired, it is now up to you to make 2 out of 3 to tie or all 3 to win the game.

This has happened to me in my playing career twice. One of the times I had chucked the ball from half-court and got the foul. Both times I had won the game for my team knocking down all three shots both times.

Players Needed: 2

Equipment Needed: Basketball And Hoop And Marked Line

Rules To 21:

  • Decide who shoots the ball first.
  • The player with the ball shoots from the free-throw line first. The very first shot at the free-throw line if made is worth one point, all other shots from the free-throw line are now worth 2 points.
  • All rebounds from the free-throw shot are now considered one point no matter where on the court you rebound.
  • You must shoot the shot from where you rebounded the ball, you may not move closer to score.
  • After a made basket worth one point, you now shoot from the free-throw line. You continue to shoot from the free-throw line until you miss it.
  • The first player to have 21 points is the winner.
  • If a player reaches 20 points and is standing at the free-throw, the player who lines up to shoot he/she must miss the basket on purpose. It Needs to hit the rim, if it doesn’t hit the rim then it is considered an airball. If the player accidentally makes the basket at 2o points, they will start back at 11 points.
  • Any shot that is taken that does not hit the rim is considered an airball, this will result in the opposing player to shoot where ever he chooses for the one point.

Variations Of 21

  • Players may choose to break the ice. Breaking the ice means that the players must make a free-throw before entering the game and adding to their score.
  • The first free-throw for both players is worth one point on a make. After this first made basket, the free-throws are now worth two points.
  • If one player makes the free-throw but the other one doesn’t, the player rebounds the shot like normal and attempts to make the basket for one point.
  • Weak hand shots for all shot attempts.
  • Weak hand shots for just one point shots.
  • Weak hand shots for jus layups and 5 feet around the basket.

Areas Of Improvement:

Working on form and being aware of why you missed at the line, with some added pressure will help stimulate game-like scenarios. Use the same free-throw routine until it becomes second nature. Improvements will come with time and the number of shots you put up.


I hope you enjoyed the article and realize that while playing these types of basketball games you won’t even realize that you are improving your fundamentals. These ideas and variations will hopefully give you a break from doing boring shooting and dribbling drills for at least a couple of days. If you are interested I also wrote 12 Games A Kid Can Play With A Basketball Click the link, it’s not just for kids.



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