There's a paradox behind playing pickup basketball. You have to take it seriously if you’re a competitive person, or you’ll get frustrated and have that lingering taste of defeat in your mouth for the rest of the day. Which is stupid, because it's just pickup basketball.
But you can’t take it too seriously. Then you look like a douche and everyone secretly hates you. They talk about you behind your back and play 2K without you.
See? Paradoxical. Gotta find that middle ground. And since the NBA season officially in the books and pickup basketball is the only source of hoops we’ll be getting until October (minus summer league), a refresher course is probably in order. Have fun, get buckets. Just try to limit the amount of time you spend acting like the following characters.
1. Would-Be GMs
I’ll explain this one with an anecdote.
There’s a short, reasonably-talented guy who plays at the same gym as I. Long hair, decent beard, voice kind of like Woodie Harrelson. Plays well with his back to the basket for a little guy. One of those players who isn’t going to carry any sort of team, but if he’s the third best player you’ll probably win.
He also fancies himself something of a general manager. If he’s at the court first, looking for his starting five, he’d better respect your game, or you’re not playing with him and you’ll have to wait longer to run. He’ll go so far as to make up a friend coming to play with him while trying to recruit the best-looking players he can find (mostly Black guys). I’ve moved a bit over the years and have played on quite a few courts. I find it funny and I understand that some people may not, but white people at white gyms love playing with Black people.
He politics his way into a great starting five, wins a lot of games and smugly grins at the people that he passed up. Pat Riley, Jr.
Don’t be that guy! You’re so much better.
2. What's-The-Score Guy
“Who’s up, bro?”
“What’s the count?”
“WHAT’S THE SCORE, BRO? I CAN’T COUNT LIKE AN ADULT.”
Once is fine. Twice is tolerable. Three times, you get an eye roll. The fourth time, you have bigger fish to fry than a game of full court.
There are times when traveling is the main reason you scored a point or made it down the court in a fast break. Call those. Call those every time.
But if Player A passes Player B the ball and Player B shuffles his feet a second before dribbling, don’t be a douche and call that. We all do it.
4. The Shooting Big
THIS ISN’T EUROPE AND YOU’RE THE BIGGEST GUY ON THE COURT BY 60 POUNDS. LEAVE YOUR JUMP SHOT ON THE SIDELINE AND EAT IN THE PAINT.
Playing with your friends is cool. But every once in a while, you come across a situation where nine people are ready to go, with one person on the sidelines refusing to play because his friend isn’t there. Because their pick and roll game is that good or something.
Playing with strangers isn't that bad. Promise.
6. Unnecessarily Fancy Pass Guy
Maybe I’m just bitter because any behind the back pass I’d attempt has an 83% chance of flying out of bounds, but getting cute with passes always seems unnecessary, especially when there are safer alternatives. Which there always are.
You have to be a special talent to do this and not get an eye roll.
7. The Ladies' Man
Another anecdote. A kid that I played with a lot in college had a habit of:
A. Getting into fights with half the people on the court, then collapsing into full-on “FUCK YOU,” chuck-the-ball-from-anywhere-on-the-court mode. He thought he was Kobe, and if he didn’t have a good jump shot, people would call him out a lot more.
B. Making a scene out of hollering at whatever girl walked by.
It didn’t help that his face looked like Lurch from the Addams Family, but this behavior was always obnoxious. You couldn’t imagine a world in which this paid any dividends, and it happened enough where people would get mad at the stoppage in play.
Spit your game. Whatever. Just not on everybody else’s time.
8. Signature Move Guy
If you’re even considering a Dream Shake, you’d better be very f*cking good. Otherwise you just look corny. Like our friend, Marcin Gortat, here.
9. Great Defenders
I’m tall, somewhat lumbering, and far from fast, so my complaint against guys who defend every play like their spot on an NBA roster depends on is really just me complaining. Making me actually work to get a bucket? What's wrong with you?
YOU’RE WASTING OUR TIME. STOP IT.