If you’re like me then you like playing basketball. The workout, the dynamics and the competition are all things that make casual basketball enjoyable for pretty much everyone. The beauty of basketball, more specifically “pick-up” basketball”, is the fact that it really is low maintenance.

Unlike pretty much every other sport except for maybe, like, ultimate Frisbee, you don’t need oodles of equipment to play. No need for clubs that are next to impossible to transport or worse yet, protective pads that make even someone with the body type of Gollum feel like the Michelin man. Do you have shorts, a t-shirt and shoes that aren’t Sperrys? Perfect. You can now actively participate in pick-up basketball.

But here lies the issue with pick-up basketball. Something in that dingy court air makes a player with even the littlest bit of talent feel like they are Jordan in the playoffs. Multiply this by every player in the gym and you quickly find yourself in a pick-up game that is being taken as seriously as the NBA Finals.

If you are a talented basketball player and enjoy high intensity hoops regardless of how neurotic people get then stop reading now because this article doesn’t apply to you. This is an article how-to guide for those with minimal basketball talent but still want to shoot around.

Okay, first things first. You need to know what type of people you are going to be encountering. The more you know about your competition, the better off you are at having a good time and not wanting to throw the ball at one of their heads. The main issue here is that, just like in the movie Space Jam, even the most seemingly harmless people can turn into monstars on the court. The casual nature of pick-up basketball gives people the idea that there are no rules or that they can make up their own. This mixed with the fact that everyone wants to be Steph Curry makes for a very intense and uneasy basketball experience.

You will undoubtedly encounter three types of beasts at pick-up basketball.

1 – The guy who thinks everything is a foul.

2 – The guy who thinks he can shoot from anywhere/go it alone

And the worst of them all

3- The guy who gets incredibly mad at every little thing that doesn’t go his/his team’s way

Often times there will be players that have all three of these qualities wrapped into one big wannabe Iverson which can ultimately ruin your day but here is how to finesse your way through this mess.

Dressing the part is huge. I’m not saying go out and buy a Bryant jersey with the matching sleeves and headbands but definitely don’t wear a soccer jersey or something stupid like that. You will get clowned either way. Wear something incredibly neutral that says “Hey, I’m semi athletic and know the fundamentals of basketball but I don’t think I’m God’s gift to YMCA pick-up”. This also applies to shoes. If you’ve never played a high level of basketball in your life, don’t wear shoes that have the color scheme of a highlighter orgy.

If you aren’t dressing like a customizable player on NBA Jam and #knowyourself enough not to go for any ridiculous trick shots then all you need to worry about are the players around you. If you are getting constantly hounded by the guy who thinks you are playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy all you need to do is nod, give a thumbs up and even sprinkle in a question. Asking a super basic question to the guy who thinks he’s all that will calm him down and show him that you are trying. The worst is to freak out at this chump because odds are, he will throw a mid-court freak out.

Never call your own foul – even if the people on the next court can hear the blatant slap on your wrist. For starters, if you aren’t that good/familiar with basketball then odds are you don’t know what a foul is and what isn’t. Also, you never want to even slightly turn into the guy who calls a foul at every bounce of the ball.


Oh! One last thing. Always run back on defense.