The Fruits of Sodom and Gomorrah
I've been playing pick up basketball for the better part of five decades. When I first started playing I was an idealist. Basketball is a team sport, I thought, and I want to be a valuable player in the spirit of team basketball. So I looked for the open man, orchestrated the give and go, set picks for my teammates, played solid defense, and gave up my body for charging calls in the name of "taking one for the team."
I was selfless, egoless, and totally bruised and beaten. My teammates were exploiting my selfless play with open layups, three point field goals and easy mid-range jumpers. But I wasn't having any fun. No one saw me as an offensive threat. If I was open in the corner, no one thought about dishing me the rock. I was an under appreciated Mother Theresa. I was the sacrificial Jesus while my teammates were enjoying the fruits of Sodom and Gomorrah.
So I observed the players that were having the most fun and this is what I discovered:
Traditionally in basketball, defense is very important--it's what wins games. But in pick up basketball, defense expends too much energy. It tires you out while you have nothing left to give on the offensive end.
I eventually learned that to properly enjoy pick up basketball you have to play Matador Defense. This defensive concept comes from bullfighting, where the matador acts like he's going to fight the bull but tricks him. He waves his red cape and the bull stupidly goes right through it and is made to look like a fool or a dumb animal in this case.
In basketball, I learned that if I act like I'm playing defense that's enough. Just let the offensive player run right by you and hope that he misses the easy lay up. This way you don't have to chase him around the court and get winded. Just fake it.
Flipping the Bird
Whoever recommended taking one for the team didn't know what he was talking about. Being selfish or narcissistic is much better. When you're selfish you don't worry about your teammates getting the ball or whether they're involved or if they're happy or not. You just worry about how how many shots you take and how many points you score.
You're goal is simple. Put the damn ball up from anywhere on the court without regards to anyone else. If it goes in--do a little dance that draws attention to yourself. Puff up your chest, point fingers and flip the bird. Taunt the hell out of your defender whenever you do anything that resembles a good play.
If the ball doesn't go in, blame it on the defender fouling you or that the referee was in the way even though in pick up games there are no referees.
The Ball is Chi
The basketball is valuable. It is God. It is spherical like the sun and it is just as powerful. It inspires male virility. It signifies the essential cosmic energy that we all have within.
When you finally get the rock or the pill don't let it go. Even if you're teammates are open or time's running out on the shot clock, don't pass the ball. Hold it with both hands close to your heart like you're holding onto your first born.
Take your time. Dibble the ball around defenders. Make them dizzy with your skill set.
Even if you are double or triple teamed, launch the ball anyway.
Even if you are out of bounds, shoot the ball. Even if you are in back of the backboard with two cheerleaders dangling from your arms and a hotdog stuck in your mouth, shoot the ball.
The clock is ticking. The buzzer goes off. Throw up a desperation hook shot, even if your teammates pulled your shirt up over your head in anger and you can't see the basket.
Never give up the rock. The ball is like you're personal Chi. It gives you energy and magical powers. It is the life force of the universe, the spinach of Popeye, the greed of Trump. Once it's gone, it may never come back to you.
Treat your Teammates like Complete Strangers
You can't make everyone happy, so why try is the mantra of a good pick up basketball player.
You're playing for yourself. It's ME and only ME. The other players don't exist. You don't even know their names.
In order to be sufficiently selfish to play pick up basketball, you have to block out the rest of the team and just focus on yourself, the ball, and the orange cylinder that stands ten-feet high. Forget about the desperate voices, the screams for inclusion.
"Yo! Pass it a-hole!"
"Quit hogging the ball!"
Your teammates will threaten and curse you out--but you have to stay focussed. You can't be distracted by all the people who want to take the ball from you. Focus on why you're there in the first place: YOU. If your teammates are wide open and waving their hands in the air, that is their problem. Not yours. Treat your teammates like they are complete strangers from an undesirable foreign country that you never intend to visit.
Selfish NBA Player Poll
The Art of Cherry Picking
When I refer to cherry picking I am not referring to plucking ripe cherries from a tree for personal consumption. A Cherry Picker is referred to as a lazy basketball player who waits at his team's basket for an easy two points while the rest of his team is playing defense and fighting for a rebound at the opposition's end of the floor.
Cherry picking is really an art form. You have to be discreet, secretly sneaking to the other end of the floor while patiently waiting for a teammate to get a rebound and hopefully sees you standing all alone under the basket. If he heaves it to you, it's an easy two points.
Just pray that you haven't alienated your teammates too much during the game and they have enough goodwill left to toss you the ball. If not, make the best of a lonely situation by checking messages on your iPhone.
Go for the Groin
If you haven't touched the ball in awhile and your trigger finger is getting antsy, you want to go after the ball like a man searching for crack. It's not about the team or playing defense, it's about you. You want to get the ball back into your hands so you can dribble it between your legs and behind your back. Here are some good ways to steal the ball.
- sneaking up behind a dribbler who has no clue you are stradling him from behind
- distract the dribbler by saying something inappropriate about his mother or his wife
- trip the dribbler or punch him in his groin
- ask if you can check the ball and not give it back
- lunge head first into the belly of the dribbler, knocking him into the basketball stanchion
Stealing the ball is not easy or even pleasant, but it's a good way to have more alone time with it.
To be a great pick up basketball player you have to TALK $#!T.
When you pop a three from the right corner, you have to celebrate by making your defender feel like a total loser.
When you drive past the big, slow guy for a reverse layup you have to get in his face and taunt him unmercifully or until he starts to cry.
You have to point your finger up to the sky and thank God for making you so handsome and giving you such amazing skills.
You have to pound your chest, grab your crotch and give you're opponent the nasty choke sign with your hands clutching your throat.
The object is to make you feel good and the other person feel lousy, so start talking $#!T.
When to Wear the Fake Mustache
Of course, there's a downside to any pleasurable endeavor and there's certainly one to hogging the ball. By now you've alienated your teammates so much that they may never want to see you again, let alone choose you for the next pick up basketball game.
When this occurs there are several ways to go, all of which are underhanded and highly questionable. 1) You can be the guy who chooses the players on the team (after a successful bribe) where your peers have no choice but to play with you. 2) Promise that you won't hog the ball, but keep you fingers crossed so you can lie without going to Hell. 3) Come to the gym with a disguise--a fake mustache or a shaved head. And if all else fails, say your name is Garth from Switzerland and you have two beautiful blond sisters who are very naive and overly affectionate. Make a promise with them that If they let you play, you would introduce them to the team after the game and you'll pick them up the next morning.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2016 Mark Tulin
John Janssen from Huntington Beach on May 13, 2016:
I hope I am the first and last person to read this article. If anyone reads this and gets all the way down here, do NOT do anything that he said to do. This is all wrong, everyone will hate you, and God will not have mercy on your soul.