How to Get Picked for Pickup Hoops

Take our advice, and join the game without making a fool of yourself.

Feb 15, 2012
Outside Magazine
Pick-up basketball

Don't be the last one to get picked for the team    Photo: Douglas Whitfield/Flickr

Basketball at the park may do just fine without refs, but that doesn't mean there are no rules. While playing at 200 courts across the country, and sizing up many more, for his book Hoops Nation, Chris Ballard compiled some nearly universal guidelines for interlopers hoping to fit in:

(1) Look the part by wearing basketball shoes and shorts, but don't announce that you're a POSEUR by rolling up in an NBA jersey.
Figure out who has next game—or, if there's a line, who's last—by asking who's got next or last. If there's no room for you on the squads in line, call your spot at the end. Use your waiting time to STUDY the house rules: Going to 11 or 15? By ones or ones and twos? Win by two or straight up?
Start STRONG. Lead with a crazy shot and you won't touch the ball again.
(4) Call fouls loudly and immediately, but be SELECTIVE: The fastest way to devalue your stock is a "soft" call.
(5) If you've got an open shot within range, take it—after all, you're here to PLAY, right?