Ten Pickup Hoops Pet Peeves

Prison Rules eh?

A Daily Babble Production

Playing pickup basketball is a lot of fun.  So is list-making.  In the interest of giving you a day off from stats, we're combining the two aforementioned pastimes today with a compilation of the 10 most annoying types of characters infiltrating courts in parks and gyms all over.  Feel free to share your own anecdotes or add more to the list below.

(Note: Ladies, I know many of you play ball, too, so I assure you that my references to our subjects with male pronouns grow purely from my preference for simplicity in these sentences rather than a lack of consideration for your participation as well.  All thoughts here are applicable to both sexes.)

The Guy (Or Gal) Who Thinks It's Impossible To Foul a Jump Shooter

This is a charter member of the school of thought that proclaims that real men only call fouls when they've been knocked to the floor in the paint.  Anyone who shoots from the outside is probably a weakling in the first place and gets whatever he has coming to him.  Never mind the fact that whacking a guy's arm while he is shooting (including on a follow-through) is a definitively illegal way to alter the course of his shot at any level of play.

I'm not talking about slight contact on the way up.  Of course that sort of thing is going to go on in a pickup game, and I could do without the shooter who calls a foul any time someone gets near enough to breathe on him.  But I can't stand the guy who just swings at his man every time and then makes a point of sighing mightily or complaining when a call is made.

Pertinent anecdote: I play ball with Columbia Missourian reporter Bill Powell, who shoots the ball effectively from the outside.  Unfortunately, we ran into one of these cretins during a game a couple of weeks ago.  He not only managed to knock Bill's right arm every time down the floor, but when Bill had the audacity to make a call, he informed him, "There are no refs here, buddy.  You can't make those types of calls."

Funny, I always thought that the lack of referees made players more responsible for policing themselves.  Dopey me.  I'll have to remember to call my own the next time I'm involved in an organized game.

The Guy Who Thinks Having Next Makes Him An Official

This goes back to the self-policing issue mentioned above.  Unless asked to intervene, let those involved in the game sort out their issues.  There is little more irritating on a non-organized game than a third party waving off baskets with walks and out of bounds calls from the sideline.  If the players can keep operations moving smoothly without help, the last thing they need is some outside clown complicating matters.  When there is a dispute that they can't settle and they appeal to the sideline, by all means, help out.  But until that point, what you saw means nothing.

A corollary to this is the issue of guys on the court who make calls for plays that don't involve them.  We're all big boys (or girls) here.  There is no need to call fouls for teammates.

The Guy Who Doesn't Like Being Boxed Out

Often born after 1985, often brought up on the kind streets of American suburbia.  In some regards, he's the opposite extreme of the macho man who thinks it's impossible to foul jump shooters.  This fellow never learned basketball is a contact sport, so it shocks his system when his man finds him on his hip, turns hard and plants his rear end into him to make a sound rebounding play. 

When this happens repeatedly, our subject gets flustered as he realizes that he will not in fact have an unimpeded path to the basketball off the glass.  In many cases, this individual begins hyperventilating and scurries around the court trying to find ways to "get back" at the meanie who hit him.  Ends up committing silly fouls.

The Guy Who Doesn't Call Out Screens On Defense

Best-case scenario, this is a way to give up unnecessarily easy buckets to the opponents.  Worst-case, it's also a great way to get a teammate's neck snapped.  Back in high school, my coach once said, "Your teachers say they can't get all of you to shut up in class, but none of you will say a word on defense.  I don't get it."  Me neither.

The Guy Who Extends His Arms On Screens

I'm past the point of asking people to set legal screens in pickup games.  It just isn't going to happen with any regularity.  People move their feet and don't get set correctly, and I'm probably as guilty as anyone else in this regard.  But two practices that need to go are the concepts of running right up to the defender and literally leaning on him as well as extending one's arms into the defender on contact.  This isn't football.  No reason for that.

The Hop-Step Abuser

Picks up his dribble at the three point line, takes two steps toward the lane, jump-stops inside the elbow, jump-stops again to the block, lays the ball in and screams "Hop-step!" in your face as you open your mouth to call a travel.  Then says you don't know the rules.

Not only do I witness this about once a month at the gym, but I also saw at least two varsity players do this to referees during my high school years.  Both received technicals.  As they should have.

The Guy Who Camps Out In the Paint

Courtesy, people, it's about courtesy.  Just because no one is whistling three seconds doesn't mean there isn't something of a code about how the game is played.  Just like you don't submarine someone when they're shooting, you don't stand in the lane for hours on end.  This isn't about people who occasionally sit in the key for five seconds.  This is the guy who spends the entirety of every offensive possession standing in what would be the restricted area on an NBA court.  At least try moving from block to block every now and then, please.

The Guy Who Doesn't Get Back On Defense

Easy to figure out that you're playing with him after being the one in several two-on-one, three-on-one and perhaps even four-on-one fast break situations.  Unlikely to do much boxing out, talking or switching on screens and getting to 50-50 balls in the rare occasion that he does get back.  Great.

The Guy Who Thinks Messing Up Is Hilarious

Confession: I openly admit that I'm at the complete other end of the spectrum on this.  Every time on the floor is Game 7, every loose ball a battle to the death.  I'll always err on the side of the too-hard foul to break up an odd-man rush, even in a blowout (though I'll make the call for you and be the first over to give you a hand up).  I need to remember sometimes that not everyone is as winning-obsessed as I am (odd given that I make up for a lack of size with a lack of speed, don't shoot the ball all that accurately or do anything else especially well on the court, but that's another story for another time).

I'm not asking anyone to spend the rest of their day moping because of the way a pickup game turned out.  But I've got no tolerance for the guy who gets out on a one-on-none break, pulls up at the foul line and flings the ball underhanded off the bottom of the rim, then cackles as it caroms out of bounds (this actually happened to me last year, and I can't print what I articulated to him postgame).  Or the guy who tries to throw an alley-oop to his four-and-a-half foot buddy whose vertical almost allows him to grab the bottom of the net.  Stay away from me, please.

The Guy Who Talks Smack When He Gets Beat

We could probably devote an entire day to debating the classiness of trash talking on the basketball court in general, both in organized and pickup ball.  In fact, it's come up on several occasions with the Celtics of the past two seasons.  What seems generally accepted is the idea that to the winners go the spoils.  If you don't want people in your ear, beat them next time.

But what makes no sense is the guy who keeps running his mouth after getting his head handed to him on the court.  Defeats the whole concept of the spoils system and makes the person in question look like an absolute moron.  I'm not much for advocating overt violence on or off the basketball court, but it's hard for me to fault anyone who decides to introduce this guy to the hardwood on his next take to the rim or to go through rather than around him on his next screen.

Honorable mentions: The Guy Who Thinks His Off Arm Can Legally Be Used As a Weapon When He Has the Ball, The Guy You've Never Met Before Who Thinks His Job Is To Coach You and The Guy Who Argues Every Call

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