Jason’s Ten Tips for Pick Up Basketball

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Introduce Yourself

Seems simple, but you would be surprised. You’re playing basketball with mostly strangers, take the 2 seconds to let everybody know your name before you start the game. It’s so simple and makes such a big difference in the experience. This way you can actually communicate during the game!

Get Over Yourself

I’m sure you were an amazing player in your day and you coulda, woulda, shoulda be in the NBA… Well you’re not in the NBA you’re at this playground playing with a bunch of people who just want a little run after work. If you join a league you can get a better idea of who you are playing with/against, but when you come to a park for pickup you will get a lot of players at varying skill and fitness levels. If you are much better then the competition that is good for you, go out and play your game and prove it, but nothing is worse than the asshole who’s isolating the ball and misses every time and thinks he’s the best player that’s ever come around. We don’t need to hear the Basketball version of the Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”, come out and try to have fun and play the game the way you know if it should be played.

Keep Your Shirt On!!!

When you’re grown and you get out to play you will sweat a lot, but whatever happens keep your shirt on! If you know you are going to sweat through your shirt go ahead and bring extra shirts and towels. Nobody wants to have to guard the shirtless asshole who then proceeds to try and post up each time.

Try to Space the Court

With people of varying Basketball IQ’s that can provide a challenge, but then take it as your responsibility to help set up some spacing. With this that includes cutting on offense, setting off ball screens, trying to flash to the space in the high post (that is always there!!!) and making sure the lane is not clogged. Everybody thinks they’re a point guard, some people want to just stand at the 3 point line but you spacing the court properly puts you in a better place to get the ball.

Talk on Defense

Communication is key on defense! If the other team is on the fast break let them know if you’re going to pick up the ball handler, if somebody is setting a pick let your teammate know “left, right”, if you’re getting beat by who you’re guarding you can say “help”. Also if you are guarding a player who is significantly better, taller, faster and another player on your team can probably match them up better, let them know you want to switch assignements. Staying active with your communication also sets you to call for the outlet when play heads the other direction.

Know Your And1’s

It’s not a foul every time somebody touches you. Calling every ticky tack foul slows down the game and makes everybody hate you. If you get an And1 you also don’t need to go off flexing, get back on defense! Most of the time people are not intentionally trying to foul you, they are just trying to play defense the only way they know how(which based on their basketball IQ may be poorly). A lot of the time the defender will know they have fouled you and they will admit it, there is also no instant replay so don’t waste time arguing. If somebody is doing things that are trying to hurt/injure players that is when you can speak up to clear up the situation before somebody does get seriously hurt.

Shoot your Shot

Know your limitations, but remember it is okay to shoot the ball! You aren’t Steph or Dame so don’t go off firing shots from half-court. If you aren’t a great three point shooter that’s totally fine, try to find some good mid range shots. If you have the ball and are completely open within your range it’s okay to put up a shot, you aren’t going to get benched! You may not shoot a good percentage during your run and that is okay, heck 50% is considered good in the NBA.

Don’t try to Coach

Nobody is listening to you! Somebody isn’t going to learn all the technical ins and outs of the game game during 1 pickup game with you. We aren’t going to learn your high school teams playbook in the 5 minute water break.Play your game and yes it is frustrating when people don’t know the “right” things to be doing, but unless they specifically ask you for advice don’t try to coach them.


Don’t be a dick! I will be transparent if I’m playing on your team I will miss shots, the person I’m guarding will score and I may turn the ball over and trust me I wish I was a better player! People are going to make mistakes and losing games suck, but if you’re going to be an asshole about that you’re most likely an asshole in life. You can make great friends through pick up games particularly if you go to the same park/gym. The majority of the population aren’t comfortable on a basketball court and though they might like the game have no clue how to play it properly, but that doesn’t make them a shitty person. We go through enough in our personal lives and Basketball be a fun activity so don’t go ruin somebody’s day. The main reason I don’t go out play often is because I can’t handle it on top of my existing anxiety. This was something that I loved, but I’m out of practice, out of shape and the feeling of people judging and hating me for actions in a game with 0 stakes is something I usually chose to avoid.

Say Good Game

Whether it was a good game or not just say it. Give the people 5 or a fist bump and whatever happened in the game before get over it! Create the atmosphere you want to see by being a nice person win or lose. Have FUN you should feel better after you played!

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