Galloway: Unwritten Rules of Pickup Basketball Etiquette, Part 2 | Notice

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Columnist Noah Galloway concludes his two-part series on the unspoken rules of basketball.




Editor’s Note: This is the second play in a two-part series on the unwritten rules of basketball.

6. Play the right basketball game

Don’t try to be cool and make the difficult pass with the risk of it being a Top Ten SportsCenter. Always play the right game of basketball. If someone cuts to the hoop or opens in a corner, hit them with the pass. The Boy Scouts are not there to watch your basketball game and the purses are not dependent on your stats. If you are someone who always sets people up for great shots, you will probably be rewarded. When you get open, they’ll hit you because you put the ball to them in the places they like. I have played in games where everyone was playing one-on-one and it was so frustrating. Without saying anything, I just started to be very aware of making the perfect basketball every time, and over the course of games all of my teammates started doing the same, and we were still hitting the open man. It was beautiful; it was the way basketball should be played.

7. Don’t over-celebrate

It’s just weird. You don’t play in the NBA Finals, and you definitely don’t need to pump fists after creating a hard drive and scoring. I played with this guy who did just that. He had these mini celebrations after scoring and it scared me a bit. It was almost like he was thinking about his moment all week while waiting to shine and dominate this pickup game. Of course, if you hit the winner of the game and clench your fist or smile slightly, that’s perfectly fine. It’s so much cooler if you casually hit a 3 and act like you’re doing it all the time.

8. Defense, respect the game

Don’t swap someone’s arms while they’re dribbling, and don’t slide in their path after knocking you out of the dribble. Above all, do not take loads. Offensive players will look like cowards if they call these fouls, so don’t. If someone really beats you up, take your hat off and move on. Do not clog them so as not to look bad. Again, respect the game.

9. Clothing

Do not wear full uniforms or shirts. Just show up with a basic shirt and shorts. Do not wear sweatbands and sweatbands. I played with someone who played pickup with two shooting sleeves, and he even wore calf sleeves! Another rule of thumb is to make sure you are wearing clothes and to avoid going shirtless. No one wants to protect the sweaty guy from the post whose slimy body rubs against yours.

10. Missing moves you normally do

People don’t want to play basketball with the guy who always says how good he was in high school. Nobody cares. If you have a day off when playing basketball with guys you haven’t played with, it’s perfectly well. Plus, people who have played basketball know how good you are even if you miss every shot. Everyone knows what a good jump shot looks like, and if you play basketball with a high IQ and have a good dribble, people know you missed your shots today. Believe me, this has happened to all of us. One day you look like you can’t jump into the water from a boat and the next day you look like Steph Curry.

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