A really good game of pickup basketball is hard to come by. On Saturday mornings I like to go to a court near my apartment and play if I’m not violently hungover. It’s 5 on 5 up to 11 points and winner stays while the people who arrive late are forced to form teams.
There are, on any given Saturday, two or three guys who have the athletic ability to dunk a basketball. These are generally guys who played a little college ball and play the duration of the games in the post because they’re bigger, stronger, and taller than everyone else.
Then you have the middle-of-the-road guys like myself. I was never a great high school basketball player but I can hold my own on the court. I’m not the strongest or the fastest. I’ve got a decent handle, weirdly long arms that I never quite grew into, and a jump shot that is reliable within ten feet of the hoop. Intermediate level is where I fit in, and it’s where most people would be plopped into that show up to play.
What you want to look for in a good pickup basketball teammate is a guy who is well rounded. He didn’t concentrate on any one particular sport and isn’t under the impression that he’s a great player.
A good pickup teammate can dribble. He can set a pick. He can create his own shot. He doesn’t need to be Michael Jordan. A solid pickup player has the fundamentals down and is more of a Tony Kukoc type guy. Jason Terry. Derek Fisher. Nothing more, nothing less. But that’s not why I’m writing this column.
I’m writing this because there are always a few guys who show up to play pickup basketball on Saturday mornings across the country that simply don’t belong. Outside of intramural games in college or postgrad life, these guys have never played organized ball in their lives.
They make careless turnovers. They shoot wildly inappropriate three point shots that James Harden would probably think twice about shooting. They are, in short, what CrossFit nation categorizes as NARPs, or Non-Athletic Regular Person (which is ironic because CrossFit people are actually included in this short list of people who you definitely do not want to invite or have play on your pickup basketball team). Make sure that none of the following are playing on your team on Saturdays.
Former Hockey Players
I have a lot of respect for hockey players. NHL hockey has the best trash talk of any professional sport, hands down. NHL playoffs are heart attack inducing, frenetic fun. But not many guys make it to the NHL. The guys I don’t really care for are the people who played high school hockey, play in a beer league now, and think they’re fucking Phil Kessel. Those guys suck.
The guys that played h.s. hockey are generally referred to as “benders” by guys who were too good to play high school hockey. They have bad ankles, can’t skate backwards very well, and have no hands.
Unfortunately for me and many others who enjoy playing pickup ball, there’s usually a couple former high school hockey guys who think they can hang. They can’t. I don’t know what it is about hockey players, but they’re generally VERY unathletic when you get them off of their ice skates. They run like ducks and their shooting form is atrocious. Why they insist on showing up to my pickup basketball games and ruining my chances of winning are beyond me. They’re bad at basketball though and you definitely don’t want any of them on your squad if you can help it.
No, I’m not talking about the guy who hits the gym three or four times a week to just stay in shape. That’s basically everyone after college if they care about their beach bod. I’m talking about the guys who do shit loads of supplements, work out every single day, and do meal prep on Sundays that usually just consists of a veggie and a chicken breast for every day of the week.
Sometimes they’ll be CrossFit people (who are actually their own breed of douchebag) but most of the time they’re just guys who never played a sport and act like they’re good athletes because they can lift weights.They think they can ball. They act like they can ball and worst of all, they tell you that they can ball.
These are the guys who wear tank tops to the bar to show off their traps. His name is usually something like Brock and this guy sucks at basketball. He can hardly lift the ball over his head because his overly muscular neck prevents him from doing so and everytime he misses a shot he says something along the lines of “My bad, bro, I just did arms before I came here and my shots all fucked up.” No it’s not, Brock. You’re just bad.
Former Soccer Players
Where to begin with the soccer guys. I guess the nice thing about having a soccer guy on your basketball team is that you know they’ll be able to run the length of the court without getting winded. Those guys have great endurance. Outside of that, they’re pretty much worthless.
Because they’ve spent their formative years dodging contact soccer guys won’t go for rebounds. They aren’t willing to hustle for a ball headed towards the out of bounds line. Simply put? They don’t have the wherewithal to play basketball.
They’re good for at least four or five airballs from the three point line and a few missed layups when they inevitably decide to cherry pick on a few possessions. These guys don’t suck because they’re un-athletic, they suck because they’re ignorant. They don’t know any better. It’s actually kind of cute if it weren’t so sad, but in any case, soccer players can kick rocks. I don’t want you on my team because it’s basically like playing one man down.
Your buddy from the office who says he can play
This guy has good intentions when he tells you that he wants to come with you to play basketball in a few days time. He’s funny, he talks sports with you in an intelligent manner at the water cooler, and seems to have his head on straight. But this is all a ploy to get that coveted invite to Saturday morning basketball.
This guy spent high school running cross country or playing hackey sack in the parking lot during class. He told you he could play because he probably just moved to town and is lonely. While it’s nice to invite this guy along, you’re not going to be doing your team any favors by letting this guy get P.T.
Much like the soccer guy, he simply doesn’t know how bad he is. He’ll pull up for a contested fifteen footer and think “Eh, I’ll make it next time.” But he doesn’t make it next time. His shooting percentage for a game to 11 will be precisely 0 and the rest of your team is going to blame you if you guys lose for inviting this guy. Just don’t do it.
Keep your invitations to guys who have a track record of playing a little basketball, and if you can’t do that than I would suggest taking a weightlifter. They’re the least shitty of the people mentioned and at the very least they’ll be a body down low. .
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