Streetball or street basketball is a variation of the sport of basketball typically played on outdoor courts, featuring significantly less formal structure and enforcement of the game's rules. As such, its format is more conducive to allowing players to publicly showcase their own individual skills.
Some cities in the United States have organized streetball programs, operated similarly to midnight basketball programs. Many cities also host their own weekend-long streetball tournaments, with Hoop-It-Up and the Houston Rockets' Blacktop Battle being two of the most popular. Since the mid-2000s, streetball has seen an increase in media exposure through television shows such as ESPN's "Street basketball" and "City Slam", as well as traveling exhibitions such as the AND1 Mixtape Tour, YPA, and Ball4Real.
Rules and features
Streetball rules vary widely from court to court.
Players typically divide into teams (choose sides) by alternating choices.
No referees are employed, so 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!", and play will be stopped, with the ball awarded to the fouled player's team (free throws are not awarded in streetball).
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, and the fouled player's team gets the ball back. 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.
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. Generally the team captains alternate their choices, but different courts have differing rules in regards to player selection. Many games play up to 7, 11, 15, or 21 points with baskets counting for 1 and 2 (if beyond the 3 point arc) points
Players often play 'win by 2' which, as in tennis, means that the team has to win by a margin of at least 2 points. 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, ("7 by 2's, 9 straight") which would mean scores of 7-5, 8-6, or 9-7 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 5 on 5 full court can be found.
Another common variation to the rules 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.
Sometimes in a half-court game, a "winner's ball" or "make it, take it" rule is used. This means that if a team scores, it gets the ball again on offense; one team could end up never getting the ball on offense if the other team scores 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.
Another possible 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 or Varsity, Roughhouse, 33, 50 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
- the last person with a shot attempt should be the first person to step out on defense
- 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 11, 13 or 15 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. This is referred to as "playing with tips"
- 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 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.