Basketball (1978 video game)

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1978 Atari Basketball video game Box Art.jpg
Developer(s) Atari
Publisher(s) Atari
Designer(s) Chris Downend
Alan Miller
Platform(s) Atari 2600 (original)
Atari 8-bit family
Release date(s) 1978
Genre(s) Basketball
Mode(s) Single-player, Two-player

Basketball is an Atari 2600 game loosely based on the sport of the same name. The game features a simple game of one-on-one basketball playable by one or two players, one of the few early Atari 2600 to have a true single player feature with an AI-controlled opponent. Basketball was released for the Atari 8-bit family in 1979 with improved graphics.


Screenshot of Basketball

At the start of the game, both players are at the center of the court. A jump ball is thrown between them to begin play. The player in the offensive position (i.e. in possession of the ball) always faces a basket representing the assigned shooting target, and defensive players always faces the opponent. Each player can move in eight directions with the joystick; the player with the ball constantly dribbles it. The defensive player may steal the ball when it leaves the opponent's hands (either in mid-dribble or mid-shot).

After either player scores, the shooter is reset to the center of the court and becomes the defensive player (defending the opponent) while the former defender is set under the basket to inbound the ball and take an offensive chance. The player with the highest score after four minutes is the winner.

The game features two difficulty levels using the Difficulty Switch on the Atari 2600. In "B" position, the player can move from goal to goal much more quickly than the "A" position.[1]


The game was well received by critics, gaining praise in Video magazine's "Arcade Alley" review column. Reviewers described it as "that rare game that plays well solitaire or with a human opponent", and noted that "the game definitely captures the flavor of basketball". The "fan's eye perspective" was singled out for particular praise, and the game as a whole was found to "offer[] the most exciting four minutes of one-on-one hoop action [the reviewers had] seen so far."[2]:43

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1980 comedy film Airplane!, flight controllers are seen playing this game rather than watching the monitor.


  1. ^ "Atari 2600 Manuals (HTML) - Basketball (Atari)". Atari Age. 
  2. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Laney, Frank T. II (Summer 1979). "Arcade Alley: Atari Video Computer System". Video magazine. Reese Communications. 2 (3): 42, 43, and 66. ISSN 0147-8907. 

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