One of the best things in life… is basketball. Intramural, adult leagues, or even just pickup. Probably half the people I know right now, I met playing basketball.
Including the author of this guest post, Sam Ransohoff.
Sam and I met playing basketball, and went on to co-author Whether Fit-Shaming or Fat-Shaming, It Still Needs to STOP on Fitness Reloaded. We had so much fun, we decided to keep at it!
Without further ado... here's 10 Things You Do At Pickup That I Make Fun of You For.
Playing pickup at the local school or gym is a fun way to get some cardio in while making new friends and acquaintances -- but, like J.R. Smith’s shooting, it can be stupid (which, by the way, is not an "ableist slur") and inconsistent.
It’s normally fun... but every now and then, you meet someone who makes the otherwise-casual game way too intense, or they hog the ball like they’re a 7-time all-star and you’re a rookie.
Let’s “unpack” some of the most-despised pickup tropes. (Sorry, Eva, to use the word unpack. I know you hate it.)
1. The guy who is way too big and slow to be a guard.
We’ve all met him. He’s around 6’3” and 250 pounds, but imagines he has handles like Kyrie Irving and shoots 3’s from 26 feet. Why's he trying to show off his handles, even though he's one of the biggest people on the court? Go down low and stay there! I’ll pass the ball to you -- I promise!
2. The guy who uses your ball likes it’s his.
You finally invest $60 on a nice leather Wilson ball so you'll always have a ball that’s actually -- you know, a sphere. You bring it to the court, set it down so you can lace up, and some guy takes your ball and starts shooting.
Do you normally go into public spaces and grab stuff with other people’s names and numbers on them and start using them? No, I didn’t think so.
Obviously, if you’re shooting around and someone gets your rebound, it’s fair game. But if I make the shot, you better make sure I get my change.
3. The “And-1” (when the shot didn’t go in) guy.
“And-1” means that you were fouled, and you made the shot -- not that you were fouled. But almost every game, you’ve got at least one Carlos Boozer, running around shouting “AND-11111!!!!”, even though he didn’t make the shot.
Boozer definitely deserved this parody.
4. The late whistle guy.
Then there's the guy who calls a foul three seconds after the shot has fallen off the rim.... you either know it was a foul when you shot it or not. It didn’t become a foul after you missed and felt shame.
Moral of the story is: Don’t swallow your whistle until it benefits you the most. Call your damn foul as soon as it happens!
5. The guy who wears player’s jerseys (or just tons of gear) to pick-up.
I get it! You play better when you imagine yourself emulating your favorite player... but if I’m going to wear a $100 dollar shirt to play pickup basketball, it better increase my true shooting percentage by at least 15%.
Obviously, some items make playing easier and more comfortable. Whether it’s tights under your shorts, or knee pads to cushion your pointy parts from the hardwood, some gear is a small cost for a big benefit...
But when some guy is fully kitted out, in everything from headbands and elbow sleeves, to the socks matching the shoes and matching the shorts to the jersey… I gotta wonder. I’ve even seen guys come in the gym with the warm-up track jackets and breakaway pants that NBA players use.
So yes. I will spend $130 on a great pair of basketball shoes -- currently, the D’rose 7’s that came out in a limited colorway for the company SneakersnStuff (SNS). They were on sale from $180, and the color and patterning were what made me infatuated.
Now, I love these shoes because they have Adidas’s full-length boost in the midsole, a super grippy wavy pattern on the sole, and an excellent plastic molded heel cup to keep your foot in place. They don’t crimp my feet, AT ALL. Walking around, they feel like casual sneakers -- but after playing in them, I can say that they have TONS of support in the ankle and heel.
I haven’t rolled my ankle once, like I used to in my old Hyperdunks of years past…..
Now, enough of me waxing poetically about my shoes...
Let’s get back to complaining.
6. The guy who doesn’t get back on defense.
When I go to "Morning Hoops" (which, I’ll admit, is not often), everybody plays hard during the entire game. Most notably (compared to the evening fools), everyone gets back on defense. This is in part because, if you show up for anything at 6:30am, you’re not there to half-ass it. You’re there because you’re passionate about the activity and are willing to fit it into your life, even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn.
Now, these guys and girls are great to play with -- but if you waltz back on defense, you can expect a stern talking to.
I can’t speak for everyone -- but if you didn’t get back on D, I’m not gonna pass it to you on the open break. You don’t deserve to cherry pick because you’re lazy.
7. The guy who is both lazy and a show off.
Pass the ball to this guy on offense, and you already know the possession is dead. There is no way this ISO possession doesn’t end up in a shot, no matter how many people crash in on help defense. This guy could be triple teamed from out of bounds, 35 feet from the basket... and still see a good shot to take. This guy calls ISO’s for himself even when his last three shots haven’t hit rim and two teammates are wide open:
It’s almost as if the missed shots are not saved to his long term memory! As some NBA stars say, all the greats have short memories. (This is actually really good advice!)
8. “Shoot for it! Everyone say how many points they have!”
This guy is always making the one counterpoint to what is otherwise a generally agreed upon fact in pickup. Offense calls their own fouls, and everyone counts the score together after made baskets.
Yet if you call a foul on the drive, this guy will ask you to shoot a three to determine if your call is legit. Like, what?
Since when is that how you determine if someone got fouled?
A foul is a foul is a foul, and it should be debated within the context of the rules. It’s not something that gets “won” or “lost” with a post hoc made or missed basket. If there is some genuine disagreement over the rules, I’d rather have someone try to explain their version so we can see who's right, than be told to “make a shot to prove my point.”
If you're gonna pull a Rasheed Wallace ("Ball don't lie!"), may this be your fate:
As if this weren't bad enough, this guy will also tell people to count how many points they’ve scored if he doubts the legitimacy of your team's total score. I'm barely able to recall such information. Sure, I know if I did well or if my shots all missed the rim, but it’s sort of weird to force people to count out their totals to confirm their score.
I always counter with, "Then your team should count their points, too."
9. The guy who thinks girls can’t play with them.
As Eva wrote in Why Women Rarely Play Ball Sports After High School - And Why That Matters, very few women continue to play team sports in adulthood -- but those who do freaking bring it.
When I see a woman show up at the basketball courts, I know she's going to be a force. I want to play with her.
Yet some (most?) guys will automatically assume that the girl is useless on the court and pay her little mind when passing or driving to the hoop. I know one specific 6’ female hooper who will get at least one steal per game -- she rips it straight out of a guy's hands because he thinks he can drive past her. (This girl also has a blog dedicated to playfulness, travel, and other great content.)
What impresses me most about these girls is that they don’t get discouraged about guys doubting their talent. And I certainly don’t want that overly cocky guy who’s doubting her on my team!
10. The guy who’s not having fun.
Hey, man. It's not AAU!
It's pickup. The point is to have fun. You are engaging in this sport recreationally, and it should never be so frustrating or painful that it makes you enraged. If the game is making you angry, simply leave and come back another day.
Consider this story from last week.
I was pretty sore from a few days of lifting weights and rock climbing:
but decided to go shoot some hoops on a crowded Saturday morning.
My teammates were decent, but not amazing enough for me to defer to them on every offensive possession. I made my first two baskets, but missed my next three -- badly. As in, my four-foot floater didn’t even look at the rim. After that third shot, one of my teammates shouted out, very loudly, “Don’t pass to him no more."
So... I was supposed to come back on offense but just stand around and create space, and only touch the ball if I fought for a rebound?
I looked at him, asked “Why the f*** should I play with you, then?” and walked off the court. There was no reason for me to feel disrespected and ignored for the rest of the game, so I took my pride and my shoes and left the court and went and bought a burrito (which was SUPER good).
My way of having fun?
DO Let your teammates know what they did well. All it takes is an appreciative “WOOOP,” or maybe try a motivational, “Let’s go!!!!” If you are the kind of person who doesn’t want to draw attention to yourself loudly, you can simply point at your teammate when they make a good play, or, if they are in arms reach, give them a dap. They will get the message even if you don’t say a word.
DO Get your ass back on defense. And offense. Basically, just run with your team like they are your actual, you know, TEAM, and put the good of each other over yourself. If you don’t run back for any part of a fast break, you either leave your man open, or you let your man double team the ball because you are a non-factor on the wrong side of the court.
My point is, don’t play when it's not going your way, or if your teammates are really not fun to be around. This game is amazing, and teaches life lessons about moral, effort, consistency, mental fortitude, and trust. Don’t let it beat you down or make you love the game any less if you have a bad experience. Remember that your pickup teammates are an ever changing rotation of guys and girls that you will likely never play with in the same combination again.
See you on the court!
(Back to Eva)
Awesome post, Sam! I agree with (almost) everything, and I'm so jealous of how much you love your shoes. I bought the Nike Hyperrevs recently, and I mostly like them... but every time I put them on, it's like having a baby (but in reverse).
I love that something we both love has sparked so much inspiration and creativity for both of us. I even wrote a song recently called "Respect the Call" -- it's about friendship, forgiveness, and basketball. I loved writing it, but when I performed it in a songwriting contest recently, the judges hated it -- even though the version I played them had a sweet whistle solo.
Oh well. Enjoy!
Another guy whose love of basketball inspired creativity is Shea Serrano, whose Grantland article, The NBA Fan's Guide to Talking Trash at Pickup, had me on the floor. He's got a book coming out in October, and I've already preordered. If you like to laugh, check out Basketball (And Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, and Illustrated.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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