INTRO: Basketball is not an easy game to play well. It takes a long time to develop ambidextrous dribbling, passing & shooting skills that can hold up with & against real ballers. Beyond that, skills without-the-ball are elite, and enable the baller to help his team win, even when his “teammates” aren’t sharing the ball. It is very rare to find five players with ability, playing together and sharing the work needed to win. The ones who understand and do the work consistently are the ballers. The rest are basketball wanna-be’s & bums.
Here’s some basic basketball theory. If everyone is sharing the ball equally on offense, you will have the ball 20% of the time you are on the floor. This is ideal, but rarely occurs anywhere– even in the NBA. But the other half of the game is defense, which means you have the ball only 10% of your minutes played– in the best of circumstances.
Even the worst pick-up game ballhogs are without the ball for two-thirds of the game. As a player, what are they doing during this majority of the game to help their team win? Most guys who strut onto the court don’t even think about this stuff, yet it is the essence of winning basketball. Those are the basketball bums.
The truth is most guys walk onto the court in a full-blown ego trip. They think they’re a superstar, and nothing can refute that narrative in their head. So when reality bites, and their bad play inevitably starts to show up as a losing score, these basketball bums turn into bitches.
For example: the basketball bum make a bad pass, so he blames a teammate they don’t like for not being there to catch it. On defense, bums let their man blow-by for a clear path to the basket & easy lay-up. The next time this happens, the baller anticipates & slides over to cut that off, but the penetrator kicks to your man left open for an easy 3– which he nails.
The bum tries to blame you for leaving the shooter open, so the baller replies, “Play some ‘D’ and quit letting your man blow-by for easy lay-ups, and I’ll stick with my man.” That handles the bum for the moment, but he’ll be back soon enough with more trash, unless the baller gets some help. If it’s all bums, then it’s hopeless after a game or two, and best to walk away, even mid-game.
Ballers don’t let the bums drag them down. If you’re done with their nonsense before the game is over, just look for someone waiting to play and call them in to take your spot. Since these bums never gave any effort, no need to explain anything nor apologize to them– just leave quietly. This is where patience meets experience, saving you harsh words that bruise tender egos. Ballers don’t pander to that, nor do they leave the court with any personal negativity.
You really have to know the game to handle trash-talking in hoops, because there is a whole lot of stupidity on most courts. This article is about pick-up basketball, either in a gym or outdoors, because that’s the level most people play. I don’t need to tell the pros this stuff, because they already know, it’s just that I’m a better writer.
The first thing to notice is that the game of basketball moves quickly, and it’s the players who responds first & most appropriately that always win the trash-talking battle. That’s the baller in a game filled with bums.
In pick-up/playground basketball, the shooting percentages tend to equalize on both sides, and are low– due to too many bad shoots taken by bad shooters. As in real basketball, it’s the team that rebounds, limits turnovers, and gets the most easy baskets which wins. In most pick-up games which I’ve witnessed and/or participated, there are at least 7-8 bums on the court. This makes the game a lot more work for the ballers, and it’s the main reason why I don’t run much anymore.
Bums won’t pass the ball to a baller, because he will score easily– where the bums can’t. Dicks immediately shrink, and then there’s issues… Every bum bitches about not getting the ball enough. The worst ones are the “big guys,” who won’t defend in the paint– nor rebound. They want to play point guard & shoot 3’s all day. When they don’t get enough of that, these bums become completely toxic, and that “team” basically can’t beat anybody.
You must control your defensive boards, or you have no chance to win, and that’s up to the big guys. Too many tall kids want to play like Steph Curry or James Harden. A lot of bum teams seemingly have 3-4 point guards– at least. Much of the hardcourt pick-up action can’t even rightfully be called basketball, as it’s mostly guys playing with themselves & their buddies.
Bums break down on defense, then blame others to deflect their lack of effort, basketball intelligence & skills. On a real court, with real ballers, these bums are given a swift kick in the ass about stupid turnovers, bad shots, and not defending/rebounding. If they don’t turn it around, they get sent off the court by the big guy, and replaced with someone waiting to play who is willing to do the job. I’ve been one of those guys picked to replace a bum by a real baller on a real court, and it feels great to be chosen.
In the game of basketball, one guy can break down an entire defense on every possession, if the opposition is smart & can play. If this isn’t accounted for, it really sucks for the other four guys, and it isn’t fair to those who are giving an honest effort. Running up & down the court is a lot of work, and no one likes their efforts to be wasted.
Baller rule: Kick the bums off the court, mid-game if needed. In real basketball, no bums & bitches are allowed. That goes for the girls & women too. You know what I mean.
Big guys have to play big, and everyone should try to play above their size. This means “little guys” have low-post skills & can finish around the basket, and everybody rebounds on both ends as needed. Big guys have to control the paint & rebound, otherwise they are basketball bums.
Little guys have to pressure the ball to prevent penetration and easy low-post feeds, while keeping their man in front of them and not giving up easy 3’s. If you can force steals, and limit the turnovers, then congratulations [!] you are a winning basketball player, even though you are out-sized.
It’s a big man’s game, and size rules in basketball. The cliché goes: you can’t teach 7’0″. The fact is the closer you are to the goal, the better you can attack & defend it. Little guys can influence the action without-the-ball even when they are being frozen out, by running (when necessary) to create movement within the offense.
Another elite without-the-ball skill is spacing. Move to the side of the floor opposite the ball, and stay there. This will at least draw your man away from the basket, and create needed space for others to drive. How long you want to do this without receiving a pass is up to you. Keep making yourself available on that side and when you’ve had enough, quit the game as instructed above.
I see all kinds of games where all 10 players are on the same side of the court, or everyone is standing behind the 3-point line. Bums take their turns jacking up bad shots from downtown, and it’s one low-percentage give-away possession after another. Proper spacing, intelligent movement & effective screening are non-existent in a game filled with bums. Good players rarely get the ball here, and have nowhere to go when they do, as “teammates” are literally obstacles.
Baller notes on ’21’ Twenty-one is often a scam pick-up game, and this is how it works. A group of guys who know each other, call you over to play 21. The game’s objective is to get exactly 21 points before anyone else, in a half-court setting. This can be a fun version of basketball when everyone is playing equally. But in the common scenario I’ve presumed, it turns into an unwinnable game of one-against-the-rest. The outsider has to fight for every rebound & score, against a gang of buddies taking turns letting each other get easy shots. Since you can’t defend everybody, you just wear yourself out when you try.
It’s Mission Impossible to win, so focus on improving your skills instead. If you’re going to play this bastardized version of ’21’, my best advice is to get straight on the rules with everybody before you start. Everything from scoring, to takes-backs for steals & airballs, etc. The ones who want to cheat are those who are confused about the rules, and hamper discussing them.
I’ve played against chumps who declare they can win ’21’ on 22. The rule of ’21’ has always been if you land on 20 points, you go back to 15 or whatever lower score you agree on. That’s because the next bucket get you to 22. It’s like blackjack when you bust. The basketball version of ’21’ was developed & widely-played long before the advent of the 3-point shot. Today, that means if you have 19 points and then make a 3-pointer, you drop back to 15. As a rules side note, the dumb shooter still gets his free throws (today @ 3-point line), because he did make the shot. Only chumps think they win on weak stuff like that, because ballers aren’t defending a 3-point attempt in that situation.
Basketball is a beautiful game when played right. In my life I can recall only a handful of times where everything was right with my game & teammates. But when it happens it is magical in its effortlessness & efficacy. When the work load is shared by 5 ballers, no one gets tired & worn out. Everyone is working in synergy to shut down the opponent, no easy looks & no second shots.
Transition to offense begins with boxing-out and securing the rebound, which is immediately outletted to a good ball-handler & pushed up-court for a fast break opportunity. Everyone gets their looks, and the rule is to finish– no excuses.
Very few see the work that goes into making it appear so easy when done right, and even fewer are willing to do that work to become a baller. What I’ve described here is what it takes. Players as true teammates energize each other at this level, allowing elite maintenance with little fatigue & maximum fun.
In pick-up ball, an organized team of ballers can steamroll every opponent for hours on end because of this. The few times I’ve been a part of such an experience are what makes the game an addicting elation. This is where creativity & skill blend, and the game of basketball become as much an art form as a sport.