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Streetballers at the Venice Beach basketball courts, California, USA.

Streetball is a very popular game worldwide,[citation needed] and some cities in the United States have organized streetball programs, such as midnight basketball. Many cities also host their own weekend-long streetball tournaments. Hoop-It-Up and the Houston Rockets' Blacktop Battle are two of the most popular. In recent years, streetball has seen an increase in media exposure through television shows such as ESPN's "Streetball" and "City Slam", as well as traveling exhibitions such as the AND1 Mixtape Tour and Ball4Real.


Rules and features

Kids playing streetball in Paris, France, in winter

While the rules of Streetball are generally completely non-existent, Streetball places a higher emphasis on taking it to the paint and cramming it home. Often the attacker will perform numerous flashy moves while attempting to dribble or "drive" to the basket, including crossovers, jab steps, and other fake-out tricks. Streetball often features spectacular dunks and alley oops, impressive ball handling, and trash talking. In most versions of streetball carrying, traveling, or double dribble is an accepted part of game and is encouraged to make it less challenging for offensive players to score and more showy for the crowds.

Rules vary widely from court to court. Almost invariably a "call your own foul" rule is in effect, and a player who believes he has been fouled, simply needs to call out "Foul!" or "Ball!", and play will be stopped, with the ball awarded to the fouled player's team. A common misconception is that saying "And 1" is synonymous with calling "foul." It is not. The phrase is commonly employed as a form of trash talk. For example, when a player knows they are going to make a shot and they think they are getting fouled as they are shooting will say "And 1", to let their defender know, "You can't even stop me even when you foul me." In reality, and as the rules that follow indicate, there is no such thing as a traditional "And 1" in Streetball.

When a player calls a foul while taking a shot, and makes that shot, the basket does not count. The fouled player's team gets the ball back, hence calling "ball" when a foul occurs. This rule is designed to have players call as few fouls as possible ensuring speedier game play and shorter waiting times for the next game. Also, the rule helps to ensure that nobody gets hurt. As a player can not foul-out in Streetball and since the duration of the game is dictated by the score, teams will often employ the intentional foul as a last resort on defense. If defensive players had to concern themselves with fouling the offensive player hard enough so that there was no chance they could make a shot it would certainly lead to unnecessary injury and probably a couple extra fights on the court. It goes without saying, calling fouls in Streetball is disfavored. The etiquette of what rightly constitutes a foul, as well as the permissible amount of protestation against such a call, are the products of individual groups, and of the seriousness of a particular game. Another common variation to the contest is the "skunk" rule. This merely means that if a player reaches a certain point without the other player scoring, the game is over. The skunk rule limit can vary, but is often used at the score 7 to 0.

A common feature to Streetball is the 'pick up game'. To participate in most streetball games around the world one simply goes to an outdoor court where people are playing, indicates a wish to participate, and once all the players who were at the court before you have played you will get to pick your team out of the players available and play a game. Many games play up to 7, 11, 15 or 21 points with all baskets counting as one point (sometimes shots beyond the 3 point arc count as 2 points). Player play 'win by 2' which, as in tennis, means that the team has to win by a margin of at least 2 points. For example if you were playin to 50 you would have to win by 2. In a pickup game this is common. Sometimes a local "dead end" limit applies; for instance a game may be played to 7, win by 2, with a 9 point dead end, or to 50 win by 2 with a 55 point dead end. which would mean scores of 7-5, 8-6, 9-7, or 9-8, would all be final; while with scores of 7-6 or 8-7, play would continue. The most common streetball game is 3 on 3 played half court though often 5 on 5 full court can be found.

Sometimes in a half-court game, a "make it, take it" rule is followed. This means that if a team scores, they get the ball again on offense. So one team could end up never getting the ball on offense if the "winners" score on every possession. Full court basketball is not played with these rules. But in most instances, the winning team gets to choose which basketball and usually which direction (which basket) they get to use.

An unusual streetball feature is having an "MC" call the game. The MC is on the court during the game and is often very close to the players (but makes an effort to not interfere with the game) and uses a microphone to provide game commentary for the fans.


A popular variation of street basketball is 21, also known as Hustle, American, St. Mary's, a V, Roughhouse, or Crunch. 21 is played most often with 3-5 players on a half court, typically when not enough players have arrived at the playground to "run 3's" (play 3-on-3). However it is possible to play "21" with only two players, or more than 5. Further, in some forms, players can freely enter the game after it has begun, starting at zero points or being "spotted" the same number as the player with the lowest score. "21" is an "every player for himself" game, with highly variable rules. The rules of "21" are usually agreed by the players at the beginning of the game.

The typical rules of "21" are:

  • one player "breaks" to begin the game by shooting from 3 point range. Sometimes players agree that the "break" must not be a successful shot, in order to give every player an equal chance at rebounding to gain the 1st possession of the game
  • the normal foul rule is in effect
  • baskets are scored as 2's and 3's (as opposed to 1's and 2's like Streetball)
  • after a successful shot, the shooter can take up to three 1-point free-throws, but as soon as he misses, the ball may be rebounded by anyone; conversely, if he makes all three free throw shots, he then gets to keep the ball and "check up" or start play again at the top of the arc
  • after any change of possession, the ball should be cleared past the 3 point line (or at times just out of the key)
  • in order to win, a player must make exactly 21 points; if he goes over then he restarts back at either 15, 13 or 11 points, depending on the rules in use
  • whoever wins the game starts with the ball at the beginning of the next game
  • only serious fouls are called (commonly referred to as "No blood, No foul")
  • other typical basketball rules, such as out-of-bounds are also frequently ignored in the game "21"; this is to avoid confusion on possession of the ball

Common additional rules include:

  • a player can attempt a 5-pointer in lieu of attempting three free-throws
  • if a missed shot is "tipped in" to the basket by another player without their feet touching the ground, then the shooter's score reverts to zero (or thirteen if their score was over thirteen); this rule may not apply on free-throws
  • if a player who has 13 points misses their next shot, regardless of whether it is a free-throw, then their points revert to zero. This is referred to as "poison points"
  • whoever wins the game must shoot a three-pointer in order to start with the ball at the beginning of the next game; if he makes it, he gets the three points, but doesn't have to take free-throws, and starts with the ball
  • players with less than 13 points at the end of a game keep their points into the next game (a sort of handicap system for when there is a wide variation in skill amongst the players)

"21" is considered a very challenging game, especially because the offensive player must possibly go up against several defenders at the same time. For this reason, it is exceedingly difficult to "drive to the hole" and make lay-ups in "21." Therefore, and also because of the emphasis on free-throws, "21" is very much a shooter's game, and because a successful shot means you keep the ball, it is possible for there to be come-backs when a player recovers from a large deficit by not missing any shots (this can also result in failure when they miss their final free-throw at 20 points and revert back to 13 or 15 etc.).

"21" is popular because it allows an odd number of people to play, unlike regular basketball or other variants.

Another less common streetball variant, often referred to as "Boston," results in essentially a one-on-one (or sometimes two-on-two) tournament between any number of players. Each match is played following normal one-on-one rules, including violations (such as fouls and out-of-bounds) to just one point. The winner remains on the court and gets to take the ball out while the loser returns to the end of the line of players waiting to step on the court. The first player to win a set number of matches (usually 7 or 11) wins the game.

Major organized streetball crews

Streetball is often generalized as a "pick-up game", where players may or may not know one another, and is for the most part recreational. But recent years has seen the rise of organized streetball crews, such as AND1. With AND1 setting the precedent, many crews train as a team specifically for streetball and often play in exhibitions. Some crews present slickly produced videos and DVDs for sale or available online displaying highlights, dunks, and tricks. Streetball teams like Ruff Ryders, Terror Squad, and others which compete in summer leagues, such as EBC, tend to play a more "serious" game with less tricks, as the games are not exhibitions.

Famous streetballers

Streetball in popular media

External links

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