Galloway: Unwritten rules of pickup basketball etiquette, part two


Columnist Noah Galloway wraps up his two-part series on the unspoken rules of pickup basketball. 

Noah Galloway

Editor’s note: This is the second piece in a two-part series about the unwritten rules of basketball. 

6. Make the right basketball play

Don’t try to be cool and make the tough pass with the off chance it might be a SportsCenter Top Ten. Always make the right basketball play. If someone is cutting to the hoop or open in the corner, hit him/her with the pass. Scouts aren’t here to see your pickup basketball game, and scholarships aren’t riding on your statistics. If you are someone who is always setting people up for really good shots, you will likely get rewarded. When you become open, they will hit you because you’ve gotten them the ball in the spots they like. I’ve played in games where everyone was going one-on-one, and it was so frustrating. Without saying anything, I just started being extra cognizant of making the perfect basketball play every single time, and over the course of the games, all my teammates began doing the same thing, and we would always hit the open man. It was beautiful; it was the way basketball should be played.

7. Don’t excessively celebrate

This is just straight up weird. You’re not playing in the NBA Finals, and you certainly don’t need to pump your fists after you make a hard drive and score. I played with this one guy who did exactly that. He’d have these mini celebrations after scoring and it kind of creeped me out. It was almost like he was thinking about his moment all week long waiting to shine and dominate this pickup game. Sure, if you hit the game winner and clench your fist or smile slightly it’s perfectly fine. It’s so much cooler if you casually hit a 3 and act like you do it all the time.

8. Defense, respect the game

Don’t swap someone’s arms as they are dribbling and slide into their path after they’ve beat you off the dribble. Most importantly, do not draw charges. Offensive players will look like cowards if they call these fouls, so just don’t do them. If someone beats you off the dribble with a good move, tip your hat and move on. Don’t foul them so you don’t look bad. Again, respect the game.

9. Apparel

Don’t be wearing full uniforms or jerseys. Just show up with a basic shirt and shorts. Do not wear headbands and sweatbands. I’ve played with someone who actually played pickup with two shooting sleeves, and he even wore calf sleeves! Another rule of thumb is to make sure you actually wear apparel and avoid going shirtless. No one wants to guard the sweaty guy in the post whose slimy body rubs up against yours.

10. Missing shots you normally make

People don’t want to play basketball with the guy who’s always talking about how good he was in high school. No one cares. If you have an off-day when you play basketball with guys you haven’t played with, it’s perfectly fine. Also, people who have played basketball before know if you’re good even if you miss every shot. Everyone knows what a good jump shot looks like, and if you make high IQ basketball plays and have a solid dribble, people know you just happened to be missing your shots today. Trust me, it has happened to all of us. One day you look like you can’t hit the water jumping out of a boat and the next day you look like Steph Curry.