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Pick up basketball etiquette

Jan Chipchase mentioned the specific etiquette of a skateboard park he visited in San Diego, and it made me think of a conversation I was having recently about the rules of etiquette at basketball courts.

I learned basketball court etiquette when I was in college, playing with people from the dorms and the neighborhood around the school on an outdoor court on campus.

The first and most basic rule is that winners stay. I can’t remember how many points we played to, although I think it was 11, but regardless, the winning team stayed on the court to be challenged by the next group of people who were waiting. You get dibs on leading the team to challenge the winner by saying, “I got next” before anybody else did. The person who “has next” recruits the challengers from the group of people who are also waiting — taking someone from the losing team if there are more than enough people waiting is bad manners. That’s how basketball courts are run everywhere.

In half court games, the additional rule is “make it take it”. In real basketball, the ball changes possession after a team scores, but in pickup half court games, when you score you get the ball back. That keeps games moving quickly so that more players can rotate in.

When there aren’t enough people to play a game, people tend to shoot around while they wait for more people to show up. There’s etiquette for that, too. First of all, it doesn’t matter if you brought a ball, in a shoot around situation everybody gets to play. Getting a rebound entitles you to take a shot. If you make your shot, the person who fields the ball passes it to you. That’s called “change”. If someone else tries to keep the ball after you make a basket, you say, “Gimme my change,” and they are supposed to pass the ball back to you so you can shoot again.

There are a lot of other rules, too, and judging from a street game I was watching the other day, the rules are pretty much the same as they’ve ever been.

What’s interesting to me is that every community or subculture has its own etiquette, whether it’s a message board for fans of a TV show, the regular crowd at a popular restaurant, or an IRC channel. I’m always a little surprised by people who don’t take the time to pick up these rules of etiquette before jumping into a new situation.

1 Comment

  1. there are also variations that can be important — for example, regular racquetball partners might be “trash-talkers,” or they might be more “self-dope-smackers” who compliment each other for a good shot. my partner and I once let a guy join us for cut-throat (a 3-person variant) who continued to solo trash-talk in the face of mounting evidence that we weren’t joining in, and it made us tired of him fast…

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